Rye bread is an increasingly popular bread due to its perceived health benefits.
However, what nutritional benefits does it provide?
This article explores rye bread’s nutritional profile, benefits, and potential downsides.
Additionally, we provide a complete nutrient-by-nutrient breakdown to show how rye bread compares to regular wheat bread.
Table of contents
- The nutritional profile of rye bread
- Potential health benefits of rye bread
- How does rye bread compare to white bread nutritionally?
- Considerations and potential downsides
- Including rye bread in the diet
- Final Thoughts
The nutritional profile of rye bread
Before researching the potential benefits of rye bread, let’s first examine its nutritional value.
The following tables show the nutrition facts and complete vitamin and mineral composition of rye bread per 32-gram regular slice.
|Name||Amount||% Daily Value|
Rye bread is primarily a carbohydrate source, providing moderate fiber and protein.
|Vitamin||Amount||% Daily Value|
|Folate, DFE||48.3 mcg||12.1%|
|Vitamin A, RAE||0 mcg||0%|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin)||0.14 mg||11.7%|
|Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)||0.11 mg||8.5%|
|Vitamin B3 (niacin)||1.22 mg||7.6%|
|Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)||0.14 mg||2.8%|
|Vitamin B6||0.02 mg||1.2%|
|Vitamin B12||0 mcg||0%|
|Vitamin C||0.13 mg||0.1%|
|Vitamin D||0 mcg||0%|
|Vitamin E||0.11 mg||0.7%|
|Vitamin K||0.38 mcg||0.3%|
Rye bread provides a good source of B vitamins.
The relatively small amount of vitamin C will depend on if the specific bread uses ascorbic acid (vitamin C) as an additive (3).
|Mineral||Amount||% Daily Value|
Among its mineral content, rye bread provides a good amount of copper, manganese, and selenium.
Potential health benefits of rye bread
Based on findings from scientific research, rye bread may have some potential benefits for human health.
The following sections show an overview of this research.
It may improve digestive health
Studies also show that:
- A high intake of rye bread (240g/day) relieved constipation more than white wheat bread and common laxatives in a randomized controlled trial involving fifty-one adult participants (8).
- In fifty-nine women with self-reported constipation, a randomized controlled trial examined the effect of four dietary interventions. The women were split into four intervention groups: 1) rye bread and lactobacillus-containing yogurt, 2) rye bread, 3) lactobacillus-containing yogurt, and 4) a control group. The results demonstrated the fewest constipation symptoms in the group consuming rye bread and yogurt (9).
- A recent randomized controlled trial found that a higher intake of rye foods led to positive changes in microbiome composition over the 12-week study duration. These changes were also associated with lower C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a marker of inflammation (10).
Blood sugar control: rye bread has a lower glycemic index than white wheat bread
Refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white flour-based products have a high glycemic index. In other words, consuming them can significantly affect blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index predicts how much a specific food will increase blood sugar levels and assigns it a score from 1 to 100. A rating of 100 is the highest score, whereas a score of 1 would mean no noticeable impact on blood sugar (11).
In this regard, here are the glycemic index values for rye bread and white wheat bread:
- Several studies have recorded a glycemic index for rye bread ranging from 45 to 72 (12, 13).
- In contrast, the glycemic index of white bread may be as high as 84. A study involving twenty healthy adults found that white bread’s mean glycemic index value was 81 (14, 15).
Concerning the rye bread values, this variability seen in the glycemic index values will depend on the specific rye bread and its ingredients. For instance, some rye bread also contains wheat flour at percentages such as 25% or 50%. A whole-grain rye-only bread would have a lower glycemic index value than such products.
For people trying to control their blood sugar levels better, these data show that rye bread has a smaller impact than regular white wheat bread.
Rye bread may benefit heart health
Although there is only a small amount of research in the area, several studies show that rye bread may improve some markers of cardiovascular risk.
For example, in a randomized controlled trial, forty adults (18 men, 22 women) consumed either rye or wheat bread as 20% of their daily energy for four weeks. Interestingly, there was a significant decrease in total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol in men but not women only in the rye group (16).
The researchers stated this sex-specific effect was likely driven by the fiber content of rye bread and that the men were consuming more (as their total energy needs were higher) than the women. In this regard, they explained that the absolute fiber intake (grams) has more of a cholesterol-lowering effect than fiber as a percentage of total energy intake.
A further randomized study assigned adults with metabolic syndrome to either a healthy Nordic diet containing rye or a control diet for 18-24 weeks. Blood samples were taken, and lipid (cholesterol) tests were performed. Based on blood biomarkers of intake, increased amounts of rye in the diet were associated with lower LDL-C concentrations (17).
Additionally, a further trial involving sixty-three healthy adults found that adding rye bread to their habitual diet significantly lowered rates of LDL oxidation (18).
May have benefits for weight loss compared to white wheat bread
Replacing refined wheat products in the diet (like white bread) with rye bread may have benefits for weight loss:
- In a 12-week randomized controlled study, 242 participants with overweight or obesity were assigned to consume either rye products or refined wheat products as part of a hypocaloric (below energy needs) diet. After 12 weeks, the rye group participants had lost 1.08 kg more body weight (0.54% body fat) than the wheat group. Additionally, the rye group had 28% lower levels of the inflammatory marker CRP (21).
- A randomized controlled trial examined the effect of rye compared to wheat bread at breakfast and its impact on hunger and satiety. Rye had a more substantial effect on suppressing appetite and decreasing hunger until lunch. Furthermore, increased doses of added rye bran further increased satiety (22).
This may not matter as much for people who do not already consume white bread or refined cereals. However, scientific research shows that replacing such products with rye products may help with appetite control and weight loss.
How does rye bread compare to white bread nutritionally?
The typical bread product most people eat is white bread. For this reason, let’s compare the nutritional properties of rye and white bread.
The table below provides an at-a-glance comparison between the two.
- Since most white bread is fortified with vitamins and minerals, the comparison uses fortified white bread.
- The slice size of white bread is significantly different from rye bread in the USDA database, so the nutritional values here are per 100 grams to ensure a fair gram-for-gram comparison.
- The source of all nutritional data is the USDA database (1, 23).
|Nutrient||Rye Bread (100g)||White Bread (100g)|
|Calories||259 kcal||267 kcal|
|Carbohydrates||48.3 g||49.2 g|
|Fiber||5.8 g||2.3 g|
|Sugars||3.85 g||5.34 g|
|Fat||3.3 g||3.59 g|
|Saturated||0.63 g||0.82 g|
|Monounsaturated||1.31 g||0.72 g|
|Polyunsaturated||0.80 g||1.87 g|
|Omega-3||0.06 g||0.2 g|
|Omega-6||0.74 g||1.68 g|
|Protein||8.5 g||9.43 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 mg|
|Choline||14.6 mg||14.6 mg|
|Folate, DFE||151 mcg||171 mcg|
|Vitamin A, RAE||0 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin B1||0.43 mg||0.51 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.34 mg||0.24 mg|
|Vitamin B3||3.8 mg||4.76 mg|
|Vitamin B5||0.44 mg||–|
|Vitamin B6||0.08 mg||0.09 mg|
|Vitamin B12||0 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin C||0.4 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin D||0 mcg||0 mcg|
|Vitamin E||0.33 mg||0.22 mg|
|Vitamin K||1.2 mcg||0.2 mcg|
|Calcium||73 mg||211 mg|
|Copper||0.19 mg||0.12 mg|
|Iron||2.83 mg||3.4 mg|
|Magnesium||40 mg||27 mg|
|Phosphorus||125 mg||113 mg|
|Potassium||166 mg||117 mg|
|Selenium||30.9 mcg||23.2 mcg|
|Sodium||603 mg||477 mg|
|Zinc||1.14 mg||0.88 mg|
Summary: rye bread vs. white bread
As shown in the comparison table, the main similarities and differences between rye bread and white bread are as follows:
- Both provide a moderate amount of protein and have a similar calorie content.
- Rye bread contains significantly (2.5x) more fiber than white bread.
- Rye bread generally has a slightly higher amount of vitamins and minerals. However, white bread contains higher levels of nutrients like folate, vitamin B1, iron, and other nutrients that are part of white bread’s fortification process. As a result, the overall provision of vitamins and minerals isn’t overly different between the two (24).
However, choosing rye bread over white bread does offer significantly more fiber.
According to scientific research, it also has a better glycemic index and provides more satiety and improved health markers.
Considerations and potential downsides
Rye bread is suitable for most people. However, some people may not be able to consume it.
Thus, rye bread isn’t suitable for people with gluten intolerance or sensitivities to gluten (27).
Rye allergy is comparatively rare compared to wheat allergies.
Anyone who suspects they may have gluten intolerance or rye allergy should consult a health professional to discuss the matter.
Including rye bread in the diet
Here is a quick guide on how to use rye bread.
The standard serving size for rye bread is one regular (32g) slice (1).
If consuming more than one serving, it can be beneficial to be aware of the total calorie/nutrient intake. However, this awareness applies to all foods and isn’t specific to rye bread.
How to use rye bread
People use rye bread in the same way as any other bread:
- Toasted sandwiches
- For breadcrumbs
- Make croutons
- French toast
- Burger buns
For some more unique ideas on using rye bread:
- Pickled herring on rye bread is a popular Scandinavian recipe.
- ‘Bread and butter pudding’ is a traditional British dessert; the traditional recipe uses white bread, but using rye bread would offer more nutritionally.
This article shows that rye bread is a rich source of protein, fiber, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
Furthermore, it may offer health benefits relating to digestive health, heart health, blood sugar control, and weight loss. However, it is worth remembering that most research in these areas compared rye bread to refined wheat products.
At recommended serving sizes, rye can be a nutritious addition to a healthy dietary pattern and a beneficial replacement for white bread.