It sounds like a parody of all those dumb folk cures for cancer — “Drink vinegar!” “Eat this plant I found in a swamp!” — but believe it or not, stale bread might help fight colon cancer, and there’s some real, actual science behind it.
Colon cancer is a nasty customer; it’s responsible for 8% of all cancer deaths and 8% of all new cancer cases as well. Worse, your likelihood of getting cancer where the sun doesn’t shine rises as you age, and can also increase depending on what you stuff in your face. So researchers at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have been studying “resistant starch.”
Resistant starch is basically the starch in bread you can’t digest. Or, rather, your body can’t. The helpful bacteria in our colons can not only digest it, they leave behind a host of handy chemicals that keep your colon on an even keel, in both the overall health and, uh, how do we put this, functional sense. The problem is you don’t generally find resistant starch in bread; it’s mostly found in plants and roots like potatoes, rice, and plantains, and the less cooked they are, the more resistant starch there is.
So where does the stale bread come in? The study found that the staler white bread gets, the more resistant starch it has. And it’s believed that the more whole grains a bread has, the higher its resistant starch content is. It’s not a bulletproof cure, but it’s some useful guidance, and a good reminder that stale bread has its uses. It also means we can argue that stuffing and croutons are health food, which is just the icing on the cake.