RYE (source: World's Healthiest Foods)

Although wheat products reign supreme on the shelves of supermarkets in the United States, foods made from whole rye are worth looking for, not only for their rich, hearty taste, but for their numerous health benefits. Like most grains, rye is available throughout the year.

Health Benefits

In the U.S., where wheat products are the norm, goods made from rye are rarely given premier shelf space on grocery store shelves and, out of sight, remain out of mind. But foods made from whole rye are worth looking for, not only for their rich, hearty taste, but for the numerous health benefits they supply.

Rye's fiber Promotes Weight Loss
Rye is a very good source of fiber, which is especially important in the United States, since most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. Rye fiber is richly endowed with noncellulose polysaccharides, which have exceptionally high water-binding capacity and quickly give a feeling a fullness and satiety, making rye bread a real help for anyone trying to lose weight. A cup of cream of rye cereal provides 21.6% of the daily value for fiber.

A Better Grain Choice for Persons with Diabetes
Rye bread may be a better choice than wheat bread for persons with diabetes. A study published in the November 2003 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that bread made from wheat triggers a greater insulin response than rye bread does. Finnish researchers at the University of Kupio compared the effects of eating refined wheat bread with endosperm rye bread, traditional rye bread and high fiber rye bread on several markers of blood sugar control including plasma glucose, insulin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP), glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP1), and serum C-peptide in 19 healthy post-menopausal women. (GIP and GLP1 are incretin hormones secreted within the gastrointestinal tract during meals that boost the effects of insulin; c-peptide is a marker of insulin secretion) All of these markers were evaluated in blood samples taken both before and after the women ate each of the breads. Results showed that after the women had eaten any of the rye breads, their insulin, GIP and C-peptide responses were significantly lower than after they ate wheat bread. Among the different rye breads, however, no significant differences were seen in insulin and C-peptide response despite their varying levels of fiber. Researchers felt this lower after-meal insulin response could, therefore, not be attributed only to the fiber content of the rye breads, but was also due to the fact that the starch granules in rye bread form a less porous and mechanically firmer matrix than in wheat bread. This would translate into a much greater particle size being swallowed when rye bread is eaten compared to wheat, which would slow the rate at which the starch could be digested into sugar.(December 31, 2003)

Fiber Fights Colon Cancer, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease
In addition to its usefulness in weight reduction, fiber, like that found in rye, has been shown to be useful for a number of different conditions. One of the most important properties of fiber is its ability to bind to toxins in the colon and then remove them from the body. When it binds to cancer-causing chemicals, fiber helps protect the cells of the colon from damage. This is one reason why a high-fiber diet has been shown to prevent colon cancer. When fiber binds to bile salts in the intestines and removes them from the body, the body is forced to make more bile salts. This is good, because the body must break down cholesterol to make bile. This explains why a good intake of fiber can help to lower high cholesterol levels.

Due to their high-fiber content, whole rye foods can help to prevent high blood sugar levels in diabetic patients, thereby helping with blood sugar control. And adding fiber to the diet has been shown to reduce the uncomfortable diarrhea or constipation experienced by people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rye Can Ease Your Ride Through Menopause While Helping Prevent Breast Cancer
Another situation in which rye may be helpful is menopause. Rye contains a type of lignan that has phytoestrogenic activity. In the body, phytoestrogens act a little like natural estrogens, and although their effect is much much weaker, can help normalize estrogenic activity. For some women, the phytoestrogens in rye are just strong enough to help prevent or reduce uncomfortable symptoms that may accompany menopause, like hot flashes, which are thought to be due to plummeting estrogen levels. On the other hand, when too much estrogen is around, rye's lignans, by occupying estrogen receptors, block out the much more powerful human estrogens, causing a lowering in estrogenic activity, and providing potential protection against breast cancer.

Description

Rye is a cereal grain, known scientifically as Secale cereale, that looks like wheat but is longer and more slender. Rye's color varies from yellowish brown to grayish green. It is generally available in its whole or cracked grain form or as flour or flakes, the latter of which looks similar to old-fashioned oats. Rye has a very hardy, deep, nourishing taste.

Rye is the key ingredient in traditional rye and pumpernickel breads. Since its gluten is less elastic than wheat's, and it holds less gas during the leavening process, breads made with rye flour are more compact and dense. Since it is difficult to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm of rye, rye flour usually retains a large quantity of nutrients, unlike refined wheat flour.

History

Rye is one of the most recently domesticated cereal crops. Unlike some other cereal grains that can be traced back to prehistoric times, rye was not cultivated until around 400 B.C. It was first grown in this manner in Germany. Rye is thought to have originated from a wild species that grew as weeds among wheat and barley fields.

Unfortunately, ever since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, this nutrient-dense grain has not been widely enjoyed. In many countries, rye seems to have been relegated to a food for the poor, and as standards of living rose in varied civilizations, the consumption of rye declined. Yet, in some food cultures, such as those of Scandinavian and Eastern European countries, rye retains a very important position. Hopefully, as more and more people discover rye's nutritional benefits and its unique taste profile, it will assume a more important role in our diets.

Today, the majority of the world's rye comes from the Russian Federation. Poland, China, Canada, and Denmark are among the other countries that also grow rye commercially.

Safety

Rye and the Gluten Grains
Rye is a member of a non-scientifically established grain group traditionally called the "gluten grains." The idea of grouping certain grains together under the label "gluten grains" has come into question in recent years as technology has given food scientists a way to look closer at the composition of grains. Some healthcare practitioners continue to group wheat, oats, barley and rye together under the heading of "gluten grains" and to ask for elimination of the entire group on a wheat-free diet. Other practitioners now treat wheat separately from these other grains, including rye, based on recent research. Wheat is unquestionably a more common source of food reactions than any of the other "gluten grains," including rye.

Although you may initially want to eliminate rye from your meal planning if you are implementing a wheat-free diet, you will want to experiment at some point with re-introduction of this food. You may be able to take advantage of its diverse nutritional benefits without experiencing an adverse reaction. Individuals with wheat-related conditions like celiac sprue or gluten-sensitive enteropathies should consult with their healthcare practitioner before experimenting with any of the "gluten grains," including rye.

Other Safety Issues
Rye is not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and is also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that that amount represents (similar to other information presented in the web site, this DV is calculated for 25-50 year old healthy woman); the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. For more detailed information on World's Healthiest Foods' Food and Recipe Rating System, please visit www.whfoods.com

Rye Cereal, Cream of, Cooked
1.00 cup
108.63 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
dietary fiber 4.32 g 17.3 2.9 good
tryptophan 0.03 g 9.4 1.6 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

© 2002 The George Mateljan Foundation

References

  • Bach Knudsen KE, Serena A, Kjaer AK et al. Rye bread enhances the formation of enterolactone and increases its levels in plasma, urine and feces. J Nutr 2003 May; 133(5):1368-75.

  • Ensminger AH, Esminger, ME, Kondale JE, Robson JRK. Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia. Pegus Press, Clovis, California.

  • Ensminger AH, Ensminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.

  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.

  • Perfetti R, Brown TA, Velikina R, Busselen S. Control of glucose homeostasis by incretin hormones. Diabetes Technol Ther. 1999 Fall;1(3):297-305.

  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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