Rye – Properties and medicinal uses

Rye or Secale cereale is an important grain, cover and forage crop grown extensively in many parts of the world, with Europe as the main producer. As a close relative of barley, this grain has a lot of health benefits on the human body. It can improve heart health, relieve constipation, prevent cancer, control diabetes, aid weight loss, and boost metabolism.

Botanical name: Secale cereale

Botanical family: Poaceae


  • Rye grains can be eaten whole. This way, they are either eaten as boiled rye berries or as rolled rye, similar to rolled oats.
  • More commonly, rye grain is refined into flour, which can be used to make bread and certain kind of dishes.
  • The grain is used by many to make alcoholic beverages.
  • In agriculture, rye grain is used as a cover crop and green manure to improve soil productivity.
  • Also, rye grain has been used for its medicinal properties for a long period of time. In Chinese traditional medicine, rye was used to alleviate fatigue and lethargy, and also boost digestive function of the stomach.


The contents of rye are very similar to that of wheat, just that rye contains more proteins and fiber than wheat. Below are the primary nutrients of rye.

  • Carbohydrates – This is the most abundant nutrient in rye, representing about 55% of its total content. Starch is the primary constituent of the carbohydrate, with it being enclosed in cellulose. This enclosure of starch in a cellulose slows down the digestion of rye, thus making it to release glucose into the bloodstream at a very slow and tolerable rate.
  • Vitamins – As known with most grains, rye lacks vitamin C, provitamin A, and vitamin B12. This is why it is advisable to combine them with fresh vegetables and fruits that are rich in these vitamins. However, rye contains significant amounts of vitamin E, niacin, folates, and vitamins B1, B2, and B6.
  • Minerals – Rye is deficient in an essential mineral known as calcium. It is however significantly rich in magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Among trace elements present in rye, zinc and selenium stands out.
  • Proteins – This wonderful grain is reasonably rich in proteins, representing about 14.8% of its total content. This is an amount that surpasses that of wheat.


Impressive medicinal uses of rye
  1. Improves heart health by fighting cardiovascular disorders
  2. Relieves constipation
  3. Prevents cancer, especially that of the colon
  4. Aids weight loss
  5. Controls diabetes
  6. Prevents gallstones
  • Heart health

Almost all grains have the property of preventing arterial degeneration, and rye’s property in this case stands out even more. It makes the arterial walls more elastic, thus, improving blood circulation. Worth mentioning is the fiber content of rye, which provides up to 60% of the daily recommended intake for fiber.

Fiber is beneficial to heart health as it helps absorb and eliminate excess cholesterol from the body. Excess cholesterol can clump in our arteries and subsequently block blood flow to vital organs such as the heart and brain. Situations that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

Also, there are many claims that rye benefits those suffering from hypertension. This might be due to its rich potassium content and very low sodium content. It is advised that you consume unsalted form of rye, preferably in its whole grain form, to maximize its beneficial effect.

  • Constipation

The consumption of rye may be very beneficial in cases of constipation. This is due to its richness in cellulose fiber. If you are unaware, fiber is a great laxative that facilitates the movement of bowel. It adds bulk to stool and improves the peristaltic action of the gut, so that stool is passed down the colon with ease.

  • Cancer

Rye intake may help prevent cancer, especially that of the colon. The bile acids present in the colon such as lithocholic acid and deoxycholic acid, act as carcinogens on the intestinal mucosa. The consumption of rye helps reduce the concentration of these bile acids. Moreover, this wonderful grain is known to stop constipation, a major risk for colon cancer.

  • Aids weight loss

The fiber in rye has been associated with even more satiating effect than that from barley or wheat. As someone who wants to shed off some weight, eating less amount of food is of paramount importance throughout your weight loss journey. And rye consumption can help you with that. The fiber from rye can make you feel full very quickly, and prevent you from taking those between-the-meal snacks that might be full of fat and calories.

  • Controls diabetes

As we have seen earlier, the sugars in rye are slowly digested and released into the blood stream very slowly, without causing spikes in blood sugar This is coupled with rye’s richness in fiber –  a non-nutritive component that can improve insulin secretion and maintain blood sugar level.

As a diabetic, you must always be on alert on the type of food you eat and how it affects your blood sugar. Foods that are composed of simple sugars can cause spikes in blood sugar level than those containing complex ones. Rye is one of those foods that have larger complex sugars that are not broken down so easily. This makes them to have very little effect in increasing blood sugar level.

  • Gallstones

Rye consumption may help lessen the severity of gallstones or prevent it from occurring in the first place. This has been associated to its soluble dietary fiber content, which helps reduce the amount of bile acids in our body – the component responsible for the formation of gallstones (1).

Health concern

Just like wheat, barley, and their hybrids, rye contains gluten. This makes rye consumption unsuitable for people with gluten-related disorders such as wheat-allergy, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

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