The Surprising Truth About Bread Crust

It's a truth almost universally accepted that the world can be divided into two types of people: bread crust lovers and bread crust haters. We're not here to take sides. But there's something that you need to know before your next big, bread crust debate.  

It turns out a 2002 study that claimed bread crusts are healthier than the inner crumb because of all the antioxidants is not all it's cracked up to be (via Science Daily). Bread crust haters, you can stop forcing yourself to down the stuff. Permission granted to continue, like you did before the study came out 18 years ago, blissfully cutting your crusts off your bread. Unless you're eating something like Challah, of course, which has a different nutrition profile because it's bathed in eggs (via CNN).

Get ready for some shocking news: Bread crusts aren't necessarily better for you than the bread itself. In fact, they might be worse. 

A case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

Bread crust owes its color, texture, and flavor to something called the Maillard reaction. What is the Maillard reaction, exactly? It's a 20 to 30 step chemical process, and we're not going to bore you with the details. The long and short of it is that, at around 300 degrees, the sugars break down to create the crunchy, flavorful profile that you either love or hate about your bread crust (via The Washington Post). 

Here's where it gets interesting: The Maillard reaction is responsible for producing the cancer-fighting antioxidant, pronyl-lysine. It also produces the carcinogenic and brain-damaging compound, acrylamide (via the European Journal of Cancer Prevention and Berkley Wellness). It's a bit like having Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde battling it out in your morning toast. 

But as dietician nutritionist, Wesley Delbridge, explained to CNN, "Within the bread crust, there are cancer promoters and cancer fighters. 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." And before all of you bread crust lovers go swearing off the stuff completely, it's worth noting that it's the Maillard that gives you a nice finish to your steak, the crunch in your french fries, and the flavors you crave in your beer (via Chemical and Engineering News).