8 Surprising Benefits of Rye

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most impressive health benefits of rye may include its potential ability to help with weight loss, increase the efficiency of your digestive system, help prevent gallstones, lower your risk of diabetes, lower your blood pressure, protect your cardiovascular health, help prevent various types of cancer, and even lower the chances of developing childhood asthma.

What is Rye?

Rye is one of the most important cereal crops and this type of grass is grown extensively throughout the world. The scientific name of rye is Secale cereale. Agriculturally, it is similar to wheat and barley, so it has many of the same applications. You can find it being used as everything, from animal livestock and the base of whiskey to different types of bread and rolled rye grains. Currently, it is majorly grown in Turkey and neighboring regions. Suffice to say, it was widely cultivated in Roman times, and it was likely grown far earlier than that as well, given how easy it is to grow and how good it is as an agricultural staple. [1] [2]

Even today, the majority of rye is grown in Eastern Europe into Central and Northern Russia, but it is also be grown in North America, China, and South America. In terms of importance in the grass/grain competition, it is one of the top 5 most consumed cereals on the planet.

One of the most dangerous things about relying on rye for your agricultural needs is the high susceptibility it has to ergot, agricultural rot. This could wipe out an entire harvest of rye if it began and spread, which is why some countries choose to grow other grains and grasses that are slightly more resilient. However, the impressive number of health benefits that come with rye consumption make a pretty good argument for adding it to your diet! [3]

Close up of ears of rye and rye grains on a wooden table

Rye grain is used for flour, bread, beer, crispbread, some whiskeys, and some vodkas. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Nutrition Facts

Rye grain
Serving Size :
Water [g]10.6
Energy 338
Energy [kJ]1414
Protein [g]10.34
Total lipid (fat) [g]1.63
Ash [g]1.57
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]75.86
Fiber, total dietary [g]15.1
Sugars, total including NLEA [g]0.98
Sucrose [g]0.71
Glucose (dextrose) [g]0.16
Fructose [g]0.11
Calcium, Ca [mg]24
Iron, Fe [mg]2.63
Magnesium, Mg [mg]110
Phosphorus, P [mg]332
Potassium, K [mg]510
Sodium, Na [mg]2
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.65
Copper, Cu [mg]0.37
Manganese, Mn [mg]2.58
Selenium, Se [µg]13.9
Thiamin [mg]0.32
Riboflavin [mg]0.25
Niacin [mg]4.27
Pantothenic acid [mg]1.46
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.29
Folate, total [µg]38
Folate, food [µg]38
Folate, DFE [µg]38
Choline, total [mg]30.4
Betaine [mg]146.1
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]1
Carotene, beta [µg]7
Vitamin A, IU [IU]11
Lutein + zeaxanthin [µg]210
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.85
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]5.9
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.2
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.19
18:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.21
16:1 [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.19
20:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.77
18:2 [g]0.66
18:3 [g]0.11
Tryptophan [g]0.11
Threonine [g]0.29
Isoleucine [g]0.21
Leucine [g]0.56
Lysine [g]0.29
Methionine [g]0.15
Phenylalanine [g]0.44
Tyrosine [g]0.2
Valine [g]0.32
Arginine [g]0.45
Histidine [g]0.19
Alanine [g]0.41
Aspartic acid [g]0.56
Glutamic acid [g]2.29
Glycine [g]0.42
Proline [g]0.8
Serine [g]0.46
Sources include : USDA [4]

Rye Nutrition Facts

All the health benefits commonly attributed to adding rye to your diet are the result of the nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds that can be found in it. Some of these key components include manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, and phenolic antioxidant compounds. [5]

Health Benefits of Rye

Now, let us look at the health benefits of this all-rounder in detail.

May Aid in Weight Loss

Rye is often considered to be a superior grain to wheat or barley in terms of weight loss efforts. The type of fiber in the rye is somewhat unique as it is extremely binding with water molecules, meaning that it makes you feel full very quickly. The problem with being on a diet is that you are often hungry, so you inevitably give in. However, by removing the feeling of hunger and creating some sense of satiety, the type of fiber found in it can keep you from snacking in between meals or overeating, which are two surefire ways to mess up your weight loss program! [6]

May Prevent Gallstones

Recent research has revealed an important element in rye that can help to lessen the severity of gallstones. This is somewhat connected to fiber’s impact on the digestive process, as explained above because fiber (particularly a mix of soluble and insoluble) can help to reduce the number of bile acids formed, which is the main cause of gallstone development. [7]

May Help Control Diabetes

When it comes to blood sugar, diabetics must always be concerned and watch what they eat and when they eat it. Huge spikes and drops in blood sugar can be dangerous and cause diabetic shock, asphyxiation, and a number of other unpleasant outcomes. Wheat may actually cause more of a spike in the insulin level in the body, as it is made of smaller molecules that are quickly and easily broken down into simple sugar, which causes an increase in insulin. Rye, which is composed of larger molecules, is not broken down as quickly and therefore has less of an effect on blood sugar. [8]

May Improve Digestion

As mentioned briefly in the weight loss section, the impressive composition and density of dietary fiber in rye may make it perfect for someone who is suffering from constipation or other blockages of the bowels. It can reduce excess gas, ease stomach pain and cramping, and prevent more serious conditions like ulcers, gallstones, or even colon cancer. [9]

May Boost Metabolic Performance

Research performed at the University of Kuopio has shown that rye can result in the down-regulating of genes, particularly if they are damaging or harmful, such as those that can cause insulin or other chronic genes. As compared to other grains in the same family, it appears to be the best at optimizing the metabolic performance of our cells, even at the earliest stages of gene development.

May Lower Blood Pressure

As with most grains, rye is known for being heart-healthy. If you are suffering from high blood pressure or atherosclerosis, then adding it to your diet on a regular basis is just as good, if not better for heart health as other cereal grains/grasses. These effects are the result of a number of variables, including fiber, vitamin, and mineral contents. [10]

May Have Anticancer Potential

A 2016 pilot study by the Aarhus University, Slagelse, Denmark found that rye bread contains a compound called benzoxazinoid, which happens to suppress the spread of prostate cancer. However, they say that more evidence is required to actually arrive at a firm conclusion. [11]

The Institute for Preventive Medicine, Nutrition and Cancer from Finland tested the effects of rye and found that the fiber and bioactive compounds, having anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties, in rye bread are able to provide protection against breast cancer. [12]

Cancer Causes Control journal has published a study focussing on the effects of rye on prostate cancer. It found that rye bread consumption during adolescence can help in lowering the risk of prostate cancer. [13]

A peptide called lunasin in the rye is also found to have cancer-preventive properties. Moreover, many other studies have also been able to construct a result suggesting that rye may help lower your risk of colorectal as well as prostate cancer. [14] [15] [16]

May Help Prevent Asthma

Although childhood asthma is often overlooked as a health epidemic that should be cured but isn’t, rye can significantly reduce the chances of developing childhood asthma. Research conducted at a number of schools showed that those children who regularly had grains, like rye, in their diet, were more than 60% less likely to develop childhood asthma than those children who didn’t have grains in their diet.

Word of Caution: Just because it is not wheat does not mean it doesn’t fall under the classification of a “gluten grain”. Although wheat and rye do affect the body in different ways, if you are suffering from Celiac’s disease or believe you may have the condition and are trying to eliminate gluten to test your theory, then rye might not be that much of an improvement. [17]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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