Taste and Health Benefits of Rye

Dark rye crispbread and a topping
Dark rye crispbread and a topping | Source

An Interesting Grain

Wheat is the most common grain in many North American families while rice is the runner up. There are many other tasty and healthy grains available in stores, however, including rye. Rye is a grain that definitely deserves people's attention. It's very popular in some parts of the world, where it replaces wheat as the primary grain in people's diet. Rye is more flavorful than wheat and has some very interesting health benefits.

Rye is sold as kernels (or berries), flakes and a flour. The most commonly available rye products are rye bread and rye crispbread. Rye bread comes in two basic forms - dark rye and light rye. Dark rye bread is made from the whole grain. It has a dense texture and an assertive taste, which some people love. Light rye bread is made from grains which have had the outer layer of bran removed. It sometimes contains refined wheat as well. Light rye bread has a lighter color and texture and a gentler taste than dark rye bread. Interestingly, researchers have found that even light rye has important health benefits.

Rye growing in a field
Rye growing in a field | Source

Rye and its Uses

Rye is grown extensively in eastern and northern Europe and is a popular grain in these areas. It's also grown in Canada and the United States. Rye tolerates poorer soils than wheat and is also more resistant to drought and frost. The kernels or berries range in color from yellow-brown to green-grey, depending on the variety of rye.

In North America, rye bread and crispbread are found in many food stores. Crispbread is a thin, dry product that resembes a cracker. Like the bread, rye crispbread comes in light and dark varieties.

A special type of dark rye bread is pumpernickel bread. Traditional pumpernickel bread is made from a coarse, whole grain rye flour or meal and rye kernels. It's a sourdough bread that is slowly fermented with a natural yeast culture that is maintained at the bakery. The bread is thought to have originated in Germany.

Pumpernickel bread bought in many stores may not be traditional. It sometimes contains molasses to make it look dark and may contain wheat flour as well as rye. It may also be made with a commercial yeast. Some people prefer the lighter taste of this modified pumpernickel bread. It can still be nutritious, depending on how much rye it contains.

Rye kernels can be boiled in water to make a nourishing breakfast. Flakes are quicker to cook when someone is in a rush in the morning, though. The cooked kernels can also be added to the main course of a meal. They are good in soups, stews, casseroles and stuffing. Kernels can be ground at home to make fresh flour.

Rye is also used to make alcoholic beverages, including beer, whisky and vodka. Both the grain and the green plant are used as food for farm animals.

Health Benefits of Rye

White or refined grains are lighter in color than whole grains because the dark, outer layer of bran has been removed. Researchers know that white wheat is less healthy for us than whole grain wheat. "The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead" is a popular saying amongst people concerned about nutrition. However, the situation is not so simple with respect to rye. White rye has some important health benefits that white wheat or even rye bran lack.

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have made some interesting discoveries with respect to rye and health.

  • The researchers fed people either white rye or a combination of white wheat and rye bran. The people who ate white rye experienced a better blood insulin and blood sugar level than the people fed white wheat and rye bran.
  • The researchers also found that white rye bread or whole grain rye porridge gave people a better feeling of satiety (fullness) than white wheat bread. Rye porridge produced the best effect.
  • Another discovery was that people who ate boiled rye kernels for breakfast not only felt fuller than people who ate white wheat bread but also ate 16% less for lunch in terms of energy intake.
  • Another researcher fed mice either whole grain wheat or whole grain rye for six months. The mice that were fed wheat gained "significantly" more weight than the mice fed rye.

Dark rye bread and marmalade
Dark rye bread and marmalade | Source

A Rye Poll

Do you eat rye (either dark or light)?

  • No, I never eat rye.
  • I eat rye occasionally but not frequently.
  • I eat rye often because it's healthy, but I prefer other grains.
  • I love rye and I eat it often!
See results without voting

Nutrient Content

Whole grain rye contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which each have their own health benefits.

Insoluble fiber is located mainly in the bran of a grain. This type of fiber bulks up the stool and speeds its passage through the intestine, preventing constipation. It may also reduce the incidence of colon cancer, although this isn't certain. Many surveys show that people who follow a diet high in insoluble fiber have a lower risk of colon cancer, but some surveys show no link between the two factors. Rye's insoluble fiber is partially degraded by bacteria living in the large intestine, providing compounds which are thought to be beneficial for our health.

Soluble fiber forms a gel when it joins with water in the small intestine. This gel has been shown to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood. It also improves the blood glucose (or blood sugar) level.

Whole grain rye is an excellent source of manganese. It's also a very good source of selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper. Rye contains a significant quantity of iron as well. It's a good source of B vitamins (except for vitamin B12, which isn't present in plants) and contains vitamins K and E, too.

Sprouted grain rye bread
Sprouted grain rye bread | Source

Rye contains gluten and must never be eaten by someone with celiac disease, even if the grain has been sprouted.

Rye and Gluten

Rye does contain gluten and isn't safe for people who have celiac disease. When people with this disease eat or drink a product containing gluten, the villi on the lining of their small intestine are damaged or destroyed. Villi are tiny folds that increase the surface area for nutrient absorption. Without villi the body can't obtain enough nutrients.

Gluten is a protein composite found in modern wheat and its relatives, including spelt, kamut, emmer and einkorn. It's also present in barley, rye and triticale. Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye. The gluten in wheat makes bread dough elastic and gives the bread a light, springy texture. The gluten in rye has a different composition from the gluten in wheat, but it's still dangerous for people who have celiac disease.

Whole Grain Caraway Rye Bread Recipe

Dark Rye or Light Rye?

If you eat rye, do you prefer dark rye or light rye?

  • I've only tried one type of rye, so I can't make a comparison.
  • I don't have a preference - I like both types of rye.
  • I prefer dark rye. The taste of light rye is too mild for me.
  • I prefer light rye. The taste of dark rye is far too intense!
See results without voting

Adding Rye to Your Diet

Rye flakes cook quickly. You may not find these flakes in a supermarket or a regular grocery. I get mine from a health food market. If you want, you can mix the rye flakes with rolled oats in the proportion that suits your taste buds. Adding milk (dairy or non-dairy), fruit and a sweetener - preferably a healthier one than refined sugar - can make a delicious and nutritious porridge for breakfast.

Light rye bread can be bought in many stores. Dark rye bread and pumpernickel bread are often available in delicatessens, health food markets and artisan bakeries. Rye crispbread is widely available and is useful for making healthy snacks.

Rye bread is commonly used to make sandwiches with deli meats like ham and corned beef. This might not be such a good idea, however, since processed meats are thought to be harmful to health if they are eaten too often. Other sandwich fillings go very well with rye bread.

Rye kernels are a great addition to savory meals and are very easy to prepare. They need to cook for forty-five minutes or longer, however. What I do with all my intact grains is to cook them in a big batch and then store the unused portions in the refrigerator. I add the cooked grain to my meals over the next few days. Cooked and refrigerated rye stays in good condition for at least four days. I haven't tried keeping it in the refrigerator for any longer than this.

Rye flakes and rye kernels (or berries)
Rye flakes and rye kernels (or berries) | Source

Rye Flour

Rye flour is a useful ingredient in a kitchen. It's a great addition to baked goods, either on its own or when it's mixed with another flour. All flour should be stored in a cool place. The best flour is made by grinding intact grains at home with a grain mill. Nutrients are lost once intact grains are ground and stored. Hand crank grain mills are cheaper than electric mills and are useful when making small to medium amounts of flour. If a large amount of flour needs to be made an electric grain mill is easier to use.

There may be grain growers in your area that grind their own grain. They can be a good source of recently ground flour if you don't grind your own. You may also find reasonably fresh flour at farmers markets and in health food markets. Of course, rye flour in regular stores is still worth buying even if it hasn't been freshly ground.

Slices of dark rye sourdough bread
Slices of dark rye sourdough bread | Source

A Worthy Grain

Rye is a regular part of my diet. I do sometimes eat white rye bread and crispbread and appreciate the health benefits that they may provide. I try to make most of my rye foods whole grain, though, so that I get even more health benefits. I enjoy the hearty taste of whole grain rye, too.

© 2013 Linda Crampton

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Comments 30 comments

bdegiulio profile image

bdegiulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Alicia. Great job explaining all of the benefits of Rye Bread. We eat it occasionally but maybe we should be eating it more often. Very interesting and well written. Voted up, sharing, etc...


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Bill! I appreciate the vote and the share, too.


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

I have always preferred light rye bread to white bread, Alicia, and now I know thanks to your informational hub, I have made the healthier choice. It also tastes much better.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I much prefer light rye bread to white wheat bread, too, drbj. Like you, I think that the rye bread tastes so much nicer! Thanks for the visit.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this. I lobe rye bread. I never thought about the health benefits.


Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 3 years ago

Interesting hub, I love a dark rye myself and think rye bread is sometimes ignored over wheat bread. Rye bread is great for sandwiches and I like it toasted for breakast with some delicious jam.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 3 years ago

I love rye bread, both light and dark. Having said that, I had no idea it was also so healthy.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment, Martin. It's good to know that something we love to eat also has health benefits!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Gypsy48. Yes, I think that many people forget about the rye bread option! Toasted rye bread is delicious. Thanks for the comment.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, breakfastpop. I like both kinds of rye bread, too. I find rye so much tastier than wheat. Thanks for the visit!


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 3 years ago

What a great hub! I heard that rye was good for us but didn't really know what its health benefits were exactly. All this info is very interesting. I occasionally eat rye bread, and that's pretty much it. I'll definitely give rye kernels and flour a try sometime, though!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, Om! I appreciate the visit and the comment. It's certainly worth trying different forms of rye. It's an interesting grain.


Joanne M Olivieri 3 years ago

I eat rye bread on a regular basis basically because I have always liked it. I never really knew about all the health benefits connected to rye. This hub was an eye opener and a fantastic informational hub. Voted Up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the comment and the vote, Joanne. I appreciate them both!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I wish I could eat this. I have a wheat allergy, so I stay gluten free. I eat brown rice bread, but would like something else for a change, other than millet.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Deb. Quinoa, teff and buckwheat are gluten-free, if you'd like to try these. (Buckwheat isn't related to wheat, despite its name.) These could give you some variety if you can find them and if you like them. Thanks for the visit!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Oh, my gosh, I used to adore buckwheat! I can really have it again? I have whole grain quinoa that I make like rice.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Yes, buckwheat is one of the grain alternatives recommended for people with celiac disease. I like quinoa, teff and buckwheat, but teff is expensive, so I don't get it very often. Sorghum and amaranth are also gluten-free.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Interesting and very useful Alicia;a vote up,across and share as always.

Eddy.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, Eddy. I appreciate the vote and the share, too!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

When given a bread choice I've always picked rye over any other type of bread. Never knew that it was a healthier choice. This is good to know.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

very informative post!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, Susan. It is good to know that rye is healthy!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks, unknown spy. I appreciate the comment!


ryanraff profile image

ryanraff 3 years ago

my first article that I read on this website, and it did not disappoint!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, ryanraff. Welcome to HubPages!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I love rye bread, dark is my favorite. I didn't know you could eat rye as a cereal. Voted up.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks, moonlake. I appreciate the visit and the vote.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Rye - A Tasty Grain With Great Health Benefits, brilliant hub and so well approached. Informative, and useful to all readers. You share informative and helpful hubs to all readers.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for such a kind comment, DDE. I appreciate it!

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    Linda Crampton (AliciaC)1,248 Followers
    426 Articles

    Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honours degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.



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