When shopping for healthy bread, don’t overlook rye amid the stacks of whole-wheat, high-fiber and multi-grain choices. Rye bread is a source of protein and fiber, helps control weight, lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer, improves digestion and helps to stabilize blood glucose levels. Either light or dark, rye bread can also contain caraway seeds, and it's a key ingredient in the Reuben sandwich, along with pastrami or corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing.
Able to grow in poor soil and cold climates, rye is a cereal grain with strong roots in Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. Used in bread and crackers, rye has less elasticity and a denser, chewier texture than its wheat cousins. It also causes a lower postprandial insulin response than does wheat, according to a study published in the June 16, 2009, issue of “Nutrition Journal.” Rye bread is rich in energizing B vitamins, iron, dietary fiber, magnesium, manganese and lignans, which work as antioxidants.
As a whole grain, rye helps to maintain a more even level of blood sugar and insulin. A whole-grain kernel consists of three parts: bran, the protective outer layer; endosperm, inside the seed; and germ, the innermost seed, which contains B vitamins, protein, minerals and healthy fat. Because it’s so difficult to separate the three, rye often remains whole, unlike refined foods such as white bread, where the bran and the germ are stripped away. “Without the bran and germ, about 25 percent of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at last 17 key nutrients,” according to the Whole Grains Council.
After eating refined foods, your blood-glucose level can increase rapidly, which alerts your pancreas to release insulin. Too much insulin may then cause your blood sugar to decrease rapidly, which could catalyze into various health problems including Type 2 diabetes. The less processed rye grains maintain a more even level of blood sugar and insulin for more efficient fat-burning, lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Rye for Breakfast
Eating rye bread for breakfast actually helps improve glucose tolerance throughout the day, according to a study published in the March 2008 issue of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." Your body takes longer to break down rye bread's carbohydrates and absorb sugar in the blood. Due to its high fiber and high satiety, rye bread can cause you to eat less and can help you lose weight, as well.
- Whole Grains Council: Whole Grains 101 - What is a Whole Grain?
- "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Effect of Cereal Test Breakfasts Differing in Glycemic Index and Content of Indigestible Carbohydrates on Daylong Glucose Tolerance in Healthy Subjects"; A.C. Nilsson; March 2008
- "Nutrition Journal"; Effect of Commercial Rye Whole-Meal Bread on Postprandial Blood Glucose and Gastric Emptying in Healthy Subjects; Joanna Hlebowicz; June 16, 2009