Rye bread tends to have a darker color and stronger, earthier taste than regular white and wheat bread, which is one reason why many people enjoy it.
In addition, it has been linked to several potential health benefits, including better blood sugar control and improved heart and digestive health.
This article reviews the nutritional content and health benefits of rye bread.
Rye bread is typically made with a combination of rye flour and rye grains (Secale cereale).
It comes in several forms, depending on the combination used, including:
- Light rye bread. This variety is made from only white rye flour, which comes from ground rye grain endosperm — the starchy core of the rye grain.
- Dark rye bread. This type is made from ground whole rye grains. Sometimes, dark rye flour is created from white rye flour that is colored with cocoa powder, instant coffee, or molasses.
- Marbled rye bread. This version is made from light and dark rye dough rolled together. Sometimes, the dark rye dough is made from light rye dough that is colored with cocoa powder, instant coffee, or molasses.
- Pumpernickel bread. This bread is made from coarsely ground whole rye grains.
In the United States, commercially made light and dark rye breads tend to be made in combination with wheat flour.
Compared with regular white and whole wheat bread, rye bread tends to be denser and darker and has a stronger, sour yet earthy taste.
Rye flour contains less gluten than wheat flour, which is why the bread is denser and doesn’t rise as high as regular wheat-based breads.
However, given that it still contains gluten, it’s unsuitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Rye breads are made with a combination of rye flour and grains, depending on the type of bread. They’re denser, darker, and have a stronger taste than regular white and wheat breads.
Rye bread is high in fiber and has an impressive nutrient profile.
That said, the exact composition depends on the amount of rye flour used, with darker rye breads containing more rye flour than lighter varieties.
On average, 1 slice (32 grams) of rye bread provides the following nutrients (1):
- Calories: 83
- Protein: 2.7 grams
- Carbs: 15.5 grams
- Fat: 1.1 grams
- Fiber: 1.9 grams
- Selenium: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Thiamine: 11.6% of the DV
- Manganese: 11.5% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 8.2% of the DV
- Niacin: 7.6% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 7.5% of the DV
- Copper: 6.6% of the DV
- Iron: 5% of the DV
- Folate: 8.8% of the DV
Rye bread also contains small amounts of zinc, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and other micronutrients.
Rye bread is high in many nutrients, especially fiber and B vitamins. It may be more filling and affect blood sugar levels to a lesser extent than white or wheat breads.
Eating rye bread may benefit your health in several ways.
May improve heart health
Adding rye bread to your diet may improve several aspects of heart health, as research has linked its intake to lower levels of heart disease risk factors.
For example, an 8-week study in 40 people compared the effects of eating 20% of their daily calories from either rye or wheat bread on blood cholesterol levels.
This effect is likely due to rye bread’s high soluble fiber content, a type of indigestible fiber that forms a gel-like substance in your digestive tract and can help remove cholesterol-rich bile from your blood and body.
Research has shown that regular soluble fiber intake is linked to a 5–10% reduction in both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in as little as 4 weeks (
May aid blood sugar control
Blood sugar control is important for everyone, especially people with type 2 diabetes and those who cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Rye bread has several qualities that can aid blood sugar control (
For starters, it’s high in soluble fiber, which helps slow the digestion and absorption of carbs and sugar through the digestive tract, leading to a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels (
For example, a study in 21 healthy adults found that consuming a rye-based evening meal with supplemental resistant starch helped slow the release of sugar and insulin into the bloodstream. Additionally, it raised the levels of satiety hormones, which kept people full for longer (
However, plain rye did not have a significant effect on blood sugar levels, though it did increase feelings of fullness (
Assist digestive health
Rye bread may help improve your digestive health in several ways.
First, it’s a good source of fiber, which can help keep your bowels regular. Soluble fiber absorbs water, helping stools stay large and soft, making them easier to pass (
In fact, one study in 51 adults with constipation noted that rye bread was more effective than whole wheat bread and laxatives at treating constipation, without adverse effects (
Other studies have shown that rye bread fiber can elevate levels of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate in your bloodstream.
Help you stay fuller for longer
For example, a study in 41 participants found that those who ate whole grain rye bread felt fuller and ate fewer calories later in the day than people who ate refined wheat bread (
Other potential benefits
Aside from those listed above, rye bread offers some additional potential health benefits.
While they are supported by fewer studies and weaker evidence, they include the following:
- May reduce inflammation. A human study linked rye bread intake to lower markers of inflammation, such as interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) (
- May protect against certain cancers. In human and test-tube studies, rye intake has been linked to a reduced risk of several cancers, including prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers (
14, 22, 23, 24).
Rye bread has been linked to many potential health benefits, including weight loss, reduced inflammation, better blood sugar control, and improved heart and digestive health.
Though rye bread is generally healthy, it may have some downsides, including:
- Contains antinutrients. Rye bread, especially the lighter varieties, contain phytic acid, an antinutrient that may hinder the absorption of minerals like iron and zinc from the same meal. Still, antinutrients are not a concern for people following a well-balanced diet (25).
- May cause bloating. Rye is high in fiber and gluten, which may cause bloating in people who are sensitive to these compounds.
- Unsuitable for a gluten-free diet. Rye bread contains gluten, making it unsuitable for people on a gluten-free diet, such as those with celiac disease.
- May be high in added sugar. In some parts of the world, rye breads are high in added sugar to enhance their taste. Added sugar is unhealthy and can add unwanted calories to your diet.
Rye bread has several potential downsides. It’s unsuitable for a gluten-free diet, may cause bloating, may be high in added sugar, and contains antinutrients like phytic acid, which may affect mineral absorption.
Fresh rye bread can be made at home with only a few ingredients.
The following ingredients and ratios are used to make lighter rye bread:
- 1.5 teaspoons of instant dry yeast
- 1.5 cups (375 ml) of warm water
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1.5 cups (200 grams) of rye flour
- 1.5 cups (200 grams) of wholemeal flour
- 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds (optional)
Here is a quick overview of how to make rye bread:
- Combine the yeast, salt, rye flour, wheat flour, and water in a bowl. Rye flour is quite dry, so you can add more water if the dough seems too dry. Knead it until smooth. Note that rye dough is not as springy as wheat dough.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling wrap, and let the dough rise until it doubles in size. This takes 1–2 hours.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a smooth oval loaf. If you would like to add caraway seeds, add them during this step.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased loaf tin, cover with cling wrap, and let it rise until it doubles in size again, which takes another 1–2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Uncover the bread, make a few horizontal incisions with a knife, and then bake it for 30 minutes or until dark. Remove the bread and let it sit on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Rye bread is easy to make at home. Simply follow the steps above and indulge in a fresh slice of homemade rye bread.
Rye bread is a great alternative to regular white and wheat breads.
Though it may cause bloating in sensitive people and some varieties may be loaded with added sugar, it may offer various benefits.
It contains more fiber and nutrients — especially B vitamins — and has been linked to health benefits, such as weight loss, better blood sugar control, and improved heart and digestive health.
What’s more, it’s easy to incorporate into your diet in place of regular white or wheat breads and can easily be made at home.