Rye is more than a flavorful ingredient in baking; research shows that this humble grain packs a serious nutritional punch. Contributing to cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and management of diabetes, rye is an important addition to the diet. Not only is this grain healthy, but it also has been found to promote weight control and digestive health when consumed as dark rye bread.
Rye is a grass that is a close relative to wheat and barley. It grows in poor soils and cold conditions which makes it an important staple food for Europeans. In fact, Russia and Poland are the world's largest producers of this grain.
Rye is very nutrient dense, supplying high levels of iron, calcium, potassium and zinc as well as vitamin E and a variety of B vitamins. It is also a good source of protein and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps one to feel satisfied longer as it slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates and sugars. Rye contains 'fructans' (a type of fructose) as its main sugar source.
Rye has been shown to reduce heart disease and cancer risk while supporting diabetic health. Since rye is an outstanding source of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber, cardiovascular health is enhanced. This nutritious grain is also magnesium rich which helps control high blood pressure. Another advantage of rye is that it ferments in the gut, producing arabinoxylan, a short chain fatty acid. This in turn supports the immune system by triggering lymphocyte production while balancing blood sugar levels and lowering cholesterol. An article for Green Footsteps states, "Arabinoxylan is thought to act much like beta-glucan from oats. Beta-glucans are responsible for some of the heart-healthy attributes of oats and have a whole bundle of health benefits credited to them."
Rye provides an abundance of lignans, a phytoestrogen that protects breast tissue from the cancer inducing effects of estrogen. Additionally, a study in Finland found that consuming rye bread offers protection against colon cancer. Rye binds to bile acids that may trigger this disease while safely eliminating them from the body. A separate Finnish study also found that consuming high fiber dark rye bread enhances insulin secretion while improving b cell function, which is positive news for diabetics. Moreover, it is a natural cure for constipation and hemorrhoids. For centuries, rye has been used to cleanse the stomach and intestines of impurities and parasites.
Research in Sweden found that rye can help with weight management. Volunteers who consumed rye bread for breakfast felt less hunger throughout the day than those who consumed whole grain wheat bread. Dark rye bread made with rye bran was found to be the most successful in reducing hunger. Researchers are unclear as to why rye suppresses the appetite more than wheat bread since both are excellent sources of fiber. One explanation may be that the fiber in rye bread has an unusually high water binding capacity that expands during digestion and produces a pronounced feeling of fullness.
Take pleasure in the many delicious virtues of whole grain rye and reap the bountiful health supporting benefits.
Sources for this article:
"High-fiber rye bread and insulin secretion and sensitivity in healthy postmenopausal women" Katri S Juntunen, David E Laaksonen, Kaisa S Poutanen, Leo K Niskanen, and Hannu M Mykkanen, February 2003, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 77, No. 2, 385-391.