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All about Rye

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Health Tip – Gluten free

Scientific name – Secale cereale

Health profile

Although rye was a popular cereal at one time, it is rarely found on our plates today. However, rye should have its place in a balanced diet, as it would have various beneficial effects on health. It would act among others against cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Its consumption would also improve intestinal health.

Active ingredients and properties

Compounds that are both harmful and beneficial in cereals…
Cereal grains contain phytochemicals. One of them, phytic acid, has the ability to bind to certain minerals (calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc), which reduces their absorption in the intestine. However, the researchers agree that in a context where there is abundance and dietary diversity and where nutritional deficiency is rather marginal, this effect has little impact on health. The consumption of phytic acid (or phytate) would even be beneficial since it acts as an antioxidant in the body. It would help protect against colon cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Cereal products are of great importance in our diet. One of the dietary recommendations for Health Canada Health Canada is to provide “the most Emphasize cereals, breads, other grain products, vegetables and fruit” 1 . Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating takes this recommendation into account and emphasizes the choice of whole grain or fortified grain products 2 . The American authorities, for their part, recommend that at least half of the cereal products consumed be whole grain 3 .

These recommendations are based on the results of certain epidemiological studies which indicate that the consumption of whole grains is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes , certain cancers , and obesity , 8 . These beneficial effects are thought to be due to the synergy between the many compounds found in whole grain products, such as fiber, antioxidants , vitamins and minerals. Since the majority of these compounds are contained in bran and germ 9 , it is advantageous to consume the least refined cereals possible.

Phytoestrogens . We find in rye plant lignans and isoflavonoids , two types of phytoestrogens which could have preventive effects against certain cancers, such as breast and colon cancers 10 . Low lignan intake may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer 11 . In the United States, the proportion of breast cancer is higher than in Finland. This could be explained, among other things, by a higher consumption of rye among Finnish women 11 . In addition, rye bread has the property of increasing the blood level and urinary excretion of a lignan, enterolactone, in both men and women 12 . Theenterolactone is the main lignan formed after consumption of rye bran 13 . Serum enterolactone is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer 14 .

Sterols . Rye also contains several classes of sterols including sterols combined with ferulic acid (St-Fer). Although St-Iron are the class of the less abundant sterols in the whole grain rye, their presence is important because they are seen as potential antioxidants 15 . Note that sterols are one of the three main classes of lipids. They are lipids with a structure similar to that of cholesterol.

Antioxidants . Antioxidants are compounds that reduce the damage caused by free radicals in the body. These are very reactive molecules which are implicated in the appearance of cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers and other diseases linked to aging.

  • Alkylresorcinols . Alkylresorcinols are phenolic fats (molecules that plants produce to protect themselves against bacteria and fungi) present in large quantities in the outer layer of wheat and rye 16 . They are found in very small quantities in other cereals. Alkylresorcinols may have some bioactive effects. They can be absorbed by humans and be detected intact in plasma and red blood cells, and metabolized in urine 17. Some studies show that there is a link between the consumption of whole grain rye bread and the levels of alkylresorcinols in plasma and red blood cells. This means that the amount of alkylresorcinols present in the body indicates approximately the amount of rye consumed 17 , 18 . This is not specific to rye since alkylresorcinols are also found in wheat. In addition, alkylresorcinols have been reported to be antioxidants and have anti-cancer activities 16 .
  • Phenolic acids . Phenolic acids extracted from rye bran could act synergistically to contribute to the antioxidant effects of rye. The four main phenolic rye bran acids are: the caffeic acid , the sinapinic acid , the ferulic acid and p-coumaric 19. Ferulic acid is the main phenolic acid in rye bran. It is known to have antioxidant potential by preventing the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol). Among the phenolic acids in rye, caffeic acid has the greatest antioxidant power. It is followed by sinapic acid which is also a potential antioxidant. Finally comes the p-coumaric which would have less antioxidant effect 16 , 19,20 than the other three.

Fibers . The average fiber content of rye is approximately 16 g per 100 g of rye. Most of these fibers are made up of arabinoxylans (60%), celluloses (15%) and beta-glucans (9%) 21 . The positive effects of rye fibers are numerous. They could lower cholesterol levels by reducing the absorption of fat and helping the reabsorption of bile acid, a derivative of cholesterol in the liver. Bile acid plays an important role in digestion and absorption of fat. 22 .

In a study of healthy men and women, men who consumed an average of 219 g of rye bread (eight to ten slices per day) had their LDL-cholesterol lowered and their total blood cholesterol reduced by 8% . These reductions depended on the amount of rye bread consumed per day. For women, an average consumption of 163 g of rye bread per day had no effect on their blood cholesterol . 21 These decreases are significant in a context of reduced risk of cardiovascular disease 22 , 23 .

Another study found that consuming fiber from grains, such as rye, may decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke . 24 Fiber may also help decrease constipation by increasing the frequency and amount of stool that is excreted, decreasing bowel movement (transit time), and making defecation less difficult in healthy men and women . 25 Rye fibers have the property of improving digestion and absorption of carbohydrates in the small intestine and consequently the secretion of insulin by the pancreas 26. Results show that the body’s insulin requirements are lower after consumption of rye bread than after consumption of white bread, which would be beneficial for controlling type 2 diabetes. The differences in fiber content and the structural characteristics between white and rye breads could explain these interesting results 27 , 28 .

Finally, the results of a study show that the consumption of a normal quantity of bread made from whole rye flour in a balanced diet would have favorable effects on intestinal function (increase in volume and frequency of stools and decrease intestinal transit time) and against the risks of colon cancer. The effects of rye bread would be explained by the beneficial action of its fibers on the contents of the colon 29 .

  • Soluble fibers . According to several studies, the consumption of cereal products containing rye grains decreases the glycemic and insulin response 26 , 28,30,31 . Rye has a high content of soluble fiber. Consequently, whole grain rye bread causes a decrease in the glycemic response in diabetics, unlike white bread.

Type 2 diabetes . The results of a recent intervention study carried out in obese people suffering from hypertension or hypercholesterolemia, or having a high blood glucose level, demonstrate that the response of insulin to the ingestion of a diet Rye-based is faster than that associated with the ingestion of an oat-based diet. In this study, 50% of the bread consumed daily by the subjects was either rye-based or oat-based. Rye bread contains derivatives of the amino acid phenylalanine, which could stimulate the rapid secretion of insulin. Consumption of rye bread could therefore improve glucose tolerance in the long term in people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes 30.De addition, a recent study found that people who adhered to a “Nordic” diet including among others, rye bread, had lower risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes 32 .

Other properties

Is rye antioxidant? Data not available.
Is rye acidifying? Data not available.
Does rye have a high glycemic load? Moderately . The glycemic load of 20 g of whole rye grains is approximately 5.

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

Excellent source Manganese . The flour rye is an excellent source of manganese, while the grain is an excellent source for women and a good source for humans, their needs are different. The bread rye is a good source of manganese for women, but is only a source for humans. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

Good source Selenium . The rye bread is a good source of selenium. However, seeds and rye flour are sources. This mineral works with one of the main antioxidant enzymes, thus preventing the formation of free radicals in the body. It also helps to convert thyroid hormones to their active form.

Source Phosphorus . Rye grain, flour and rye bread are sources of phosphorus (see our Phosphorus nutrient overview sheet ). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

Source Magnesium . The grain of rye is a source of magnesium. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

Source Iron . The grain and the rye flour are sources of iron for the man while the rye bread is a source for the man and the woman, their needs being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses).

Source Zinc . The grain of rye is a source of zinc for men and women while the flour and rye bread are sources for women only, their needs being different. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (manufacture), the storage and the release of insulin.

Source Copper . Rye is a source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

Source Vitamin B1 . Rye grain and bread are sources of vitamin B1 for men and women, while rye flour is a source for women only, their needs being different. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

Source Vitamin B2 . Rye bread is a source of vitamin B2 for men and women while grain is a source for women only, their needs being different. This vitamin is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

Source Vitamin B3 . Grain and rye bread are sources of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, this vitamin participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also participates in the DNA formation process , allowing normal growth and development.

Source Pantothenic acid . The grain of rye is a source of pantothenic acid. Also called vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is part of a key coenzyme that allows us to adequately use the energy present in the food we eat. It also participates in several stages of the synthesis of steroid hormones, neurotransmitters and hemoglobin.

Source Folate . Rye bread is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

What is a “portion” of rye worth?
Weight / volume Rye cereal grains, 20 g Medium rye flour, 20 g Rye bread, 34 g (1 slice)
Calories 67 71 88
Protein 3.0g 1.9g 2.9 g
Carbohydrates 14.0 g 15.5g 16.4g
Fat 0.5 g 0.4 g 1.1 g
Dietary fiber 2.7g 2.9 g 2.0 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.


Celiac disease

Celiac disease affects 0.5 to 1% of the world’s population. People who have it have a permanent intolerance to gluten, a protein found in the grain of many grains. This protein is toxic to people with celiac disease and its consumption can cause intestinal symptoms, for example a malabsorption of several nutrients. Treatment for celiac disease is to completely exclude gluten from the diet. Rye contains gluten, which means you should avoid eating it when you have celiac disease.

Rye and FODMAP

For those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rye and its derivatives contain high amounts of fructans, chains of a few units of fructose having a link between each unit which is not digestible in humans. ‘human. They are poorly absorbed in the intestine and are therefore found to be 99% in the colon. Subsequently, the colon bacteria fragment them and there is then excessive fermentation in people with IBS. Rye is therefore to be limited in this case too.


Health Profile Section
Research and writing
  : Stéphanie Gendreau, Dt.P., nutritionist, Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods Institute (INAF), Université Laval
Collaboration  : Hélène Gagnon and Jasmine Coulombe, nutrition students, Université Laval
Scientific review  : Sonia Pomerleau, Dt.P., M.Sc. and Louise Corneau, Dt.P., M.Sc., nutritionists, Institute of Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods (INAF), Université Laval ”
(January 2016)


Rye over time

The term ”  rye  ” appeared in the language in 1350. It comes either from secale Latin which means “what we cut”, or from the old Provencal segle.

The terms “  meslin  ” and “  champart  ” designate, in Europe, mixtures of grains which are sown, harvested and prepared together. They are composed respectively of wheat and rye, and of wheat, rye and barley.

Like barley and wheat, rye comes from the Middle East, but unlike it prefers cold climates. So that its natural habitat is rather in the North of this region as well as in altitude.

The wheat of Allah
In Anatolia, the name “wheat of Allah” is given to rye which spontaneously grows through wheat and barley, because it is believed that Allah intentionally sowed it to compensate for the poor harvests of the bad years and feed her children.

Rye arrived relatively late in agriculture, at least as a crop in itself. Indeed, for a long time, it will be harvested accidentally at the same time as wheat or barley without having been expressly sown, behaving rather like a weed which invaded the fields where these two cereals were cultivated. However, it will be discovered that, in bad years, its yields are clearly better than those of the other two, so that it will take the strip and will eventually become a cereal by right. It happened 3000 to 4000 years before our era, probably in Anatolia, where we started to domesticate it.

However, it will only be appreciated in regions where other cereals grow poorly, due to the lack of rich soil or mild temperatures. This is not the case in the Mediterranean basin, doubly pampered in this regard. The Greeks will therefore despise this cereal which they have no need of. They will be imitated in this by the Romans, who find that it smells bad. They will only tolerate it mixed with spelled and, again, only to feed the poor classes. Nevertheless they will unintentionally spread it outside the Empire, mixed with wheat and barley with which it grows spontaneously. It will be adopted in Scandinavia and Germany, where the climatic conditions and the type of soil favor its establishment.

In the Middle Ages, the need to feed a growing population led to the cultivation of marginal land, not very suitable for wheat and barley, but suitable for rye. It will therefore take on great importance in many European countries, particularly for peasants, who consume it on a daily basis, while wheat is reserved for urban populations. At the end of the XVIII th  century, the consumption throughout Eastern and Northern Europe, and until the twentieth e century, a third of Europeans will put it on the menu. In North America, it was cultivated from the earliest times of colonization, particularly in the Northeast, where wheat and barley suffered from cold temperatures. However, since the Second World War, everywhere in the world, including in the countries where it was traditionally cultivated, it has been steadily declining in favor of wheat and other grains.

Bread is definitely the main food product made from rye. In the countries of Eastern Europe, kvas is made with stale bread, a slightly alcoholic drink with recognized nutritional properties. In the United States, a large part of the grain is used to make whiskey, while in Russia it is made from vodka. In the past, we made an ersatz coffee with roasted beans. It is also cultivated specifically as a host plant for ergot, a fungus from which the active ingredients are extracted, which are widely used in medicine. In addition, in Finland, where it has always played a key role, there is an increasing amount of research on its nutraceutical properties, in particular because of its high fiber content.


VII th century XIX th  century, there were 132 ergotism epidemics in Europe. This disease, formerly called “Feu de Saint-Antoine” or “Mal des Ardents”, results from the consumption of flour prepared with cereal grains, especially rye, infected with ergot. This fungus produces two types of symptoms, necrosis and gangrene of the extremities, which often lead to convulsions and hallucinations causing aberrant behavior. However, it was not until the XVIII th  century before we establish the link between these symptoms and ergotée flour consumption.

In the United States, modern researchers have hypothesized that the episode of “witchcraft” that broke out in Salem in 1632 and which affected a dozen young girls – the famous Salem witches – was in fact due to ergot poisoning. This hypothesis made its way and, by examining the French archives in retrospect, we could see that it was not uncommon for episodes of witchcraft to coincide with epidemics of ergotism. In fact, some claim that witch hunts rarely took place where people did not eat rye, which could explain the extent of the phenomenon in Germany, a large consumer of this cereal.

Today, rye is subject to strict controls to ensure that grain intended for humans or farm animals does not contain more than 0.5% ergot.

Culinary uses

To access other recipes, you can go to the kitchen recipe site, which offers, among others, the following recipes: rye bread, rye bread recipes , sourdough rye bread

Choose well

There are more or less refined rye flour, flakes, whole or crushed grains, and various processed products, including bread, rusks, crackers (dry patties) and pasta. The bread is often flavored with caraway, which would have the effect of reducing the problems of flatulence attributable to the fibers, of which the plant is particularly rich.

Pumpernickel bread: most breads sold under this name do not contain rye flour or if they do, it is a highly refined flour. Their coloring is attributable to the molasses or caramel used in their manufacture. Read the ingredient list to make sure you’re dealing with real rye bread.


Whole grains: soak them overnight (2 to 3 parts of water for a part of rye) to reduce cooking time, then boil them for about an hour.

Culinary dishes


Black bread, red label
Who would have thought that black bread, the bread of the poor, would one day benefit from a controlled designation of origin? However, this is the case of rye bread produced in the Valais region (Switzerland) according to rigorous specifications: grains from the region, whole flour, dough subjected to a long fermentation process which gives the bread its cracked appearance. and, finally, cooking in the traditional banal oven. In Germany, bakers have also revived the tradition and make real pumpernickel, the success of which depends on scrupulous respect for the various stages of production.
  • You can make flat breads (chapatis) and porridge , or use them to thicken sauces and soups. Or, partially replace wheat flour in bread preparations, cakes, muffins, etc.
  • We can make pancakes with buckwheat flour and rye flour that we serve with autumn fruits (apples, pears) cooked in butter.
  • Finns traditionally cook fish or meat in a foil made from rye paste. Depending on the season, mushrooms, potatoes, rutabagas, turnips or cabbage are added. We close the foil and bake in the oven. The smoked salmon papillote seasoned with dill is worth a try.
  • The gingerbread , famous throughout Europe and of which there are many variations, is composed, in its simplest form, rye flour, honey, milk, eggs and spices which are at the time of its preparation (anise and coriander seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, orange and lemon zest).
  • Slices of bread au gratin: mix finely grated cheddar cheese with sliced ​​olives and vinaigrette, and season with curry powder. Spread this preparation on the bread and put eight to ten minutes in an oven set to 240 ° C (465 ° F). Serve garnished with small peppers, a hard-boiled egg, lettuce rag, thin slices of carrots, etc.
  • Use stale bread in the French toast or bread pudding recipe. It can also be ground to make breadcrumbs, to be used in gratins, sauces or to coat a fish for grilling.


  • Prepare them like rice, for example in pilaf and risotto, taking into account the differences in cooking time. Or prepare them in the oriental way, by cooking them with grated ginger, onions in oil and tofu. Season with soy sauce just before serving with raw vegetables.
  • Add the crushed grains to the bread preparations, to which they will give crispness. Or use it in a tabbouleh salad, couscous, etc.
  • To vary, mix in the desired proportions, wheat, rye and barley, and cook these grains together.
  • The grains are used in the manufacture of alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, beer, bourbon and certain vodkas.

Flakes: add them to muesli or granola, or cook them like oatmeal.

Pasta: Italian-style with grilled vegetables and, if desired, a few dices of prosciutto.

Sprouted rye: discard grains that are moldy or have an unpleasant smell. Soak the beans for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and put them to germinate. The young shoots will be ready 24 to 36 hours later.


Grains: in an airtight container, cool, dry and protected from light.

Wholemeal flour: in the refrigerator or, if it has to be kept for several months, in the freezer.

Ecology and environment

A perennial rye for cows
Researchers at the Lethbridge Research Center in Manitoba have selected a perennial rye which is an excellent fodder for livestock and which has the advantage over alfalfa, a fodder plant widely used in animal husbandry, to require very few, if any, herbicides. In addition, it makes it possible to lower the costs of livestock feed ration by 10% to 15% without loss of nutritional quality.

Rye is widely used in organic farming. Sown in the fall, it protects the soil against erosion during winter and spring, and promotes water penetration and retention. Buried at the end of spring as a green manure, it provides large amounts of organic matter as well as various nutrients which it extracts from the subsoil and brings back to the surface, making them available for the following crops, which it s is soy, corn, potato or other vegetable crops.

It is also known that it excretes toxic substances for other plants and therefore helps to limit the proliferation of weeds. Sown in the fall and buried in the spring, it can reduce the weed biomass from 60% to 90% in the crop that follows. A researcher from Laval University in Quebec is currently conducting a study on its use for the biological control of weeds in vegetable crops.

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