Sorry to be the ones to break it to you, but we’ve got bad news: Bread crust isn’t any healthier than the soft and delicious middle piece you may have been avoiding for all of these years. (To make matters worse, no, it won’t make your hair curly — another popular bread crust rumor — either.) In a recent interview with CNN, Wesley Delbridge, RD, confirmed that bread crust’s healthy reputation isn’t exactly all it’s cracked up to be.
“If you ask parents, a large percentage will say the bread crust is healthier … but it’s a pretty common myth,” Delbridge said.
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That doesn’t mean we should give up hope entirely. In 2002, a German study found that bread crusts, when compared to bread crumbs, contain eight times the amount of pronyl-lysine, a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
“They isolated the antioxidant and exposed it to human intestinal cells and found that it increased the activity of enzymes associated with cancer prevention,” Delbridge said in reference to the study.
Millard Reaction in Bread
Even so, that antioxidant alone isn’t enough to combat the wrath of the Millard reaction, the chemical reaction that happens when the bread is baking — aka nonenzymatic browning — that dissociates it from the white square it encases. The Millard reaction does two things: It creates the good cancer-fighting antioxidant we mentioned above, but it simultaneously produces a little cancer-causing compound called acrylamide. Now, before you freak out and purge your house of bread, don’t worry: This doesn’t mean bread crust is going to give you cancer.
“Within the bread crust, there are cancer promoters and cancer fighters” Delbridge said. “It’s like there’s a battle going on. Who is winning the battle? I’m not sure. But anything happening or reacting is completely marginal.”
After reading this back-and-forth article, you’re probably torn between throwing what’s left of your half-eaten sandwich in the trash or deciding to make another one. After all, you’ve been eating bread your entire life, so why stop now? Delbridge recommends alleviating your worries by using the crusts for something else, like feeding the birds.
“At home, I’ll say, ‘Let’s use the crust for something else.’ … And so we take the crust and feed the doves and birds around our house,” he said.
If you’re not too concerned about eating bread crusts, but your kids are still against touching “the brown part,” try using leftover crust pieces for croutons or stuffing. That way, you’re reducing food waste, and your sticky peanut-butter-fingered children will be full and happy with their crustless sandwiches.