by Bree West
Rye is a grain with a strong, unique flavor and looks similar to wheat but is more long and slim. The color of rye can vary from yellow-brown to gray or green. It can come in many forms, such as the whole rye berry to rye flour, rye flakes, or a variety of rye-containing products. Rye flour is better than wheat because it’s more difficult to separate the bran and germ from the grain in rye, and therefore will usually contain more nutrients than wheat flour. When using rye to make bread, it’s important to know that its gluten is less “elastic” and holds less gas than wheat does during the leavening process, which means the bread made with rye flour will be denser than bread made with wheat flour.
This grain is native to Central Asia and commonly used by humans; however, most of the rye grown in the United States is used for the feeding of livestock. Unlike other grains that are more popular, rye was viewed as "second class" or food for the poor in the past. In the times of the Greeks and Romans, as living standards started to increase, eating rye became less common. Today, the majority of rye comes from Russia, Poland, China, Canada, and Denmark.
A very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B1, a great characteristic of rye is that is has a 4:1 ratio of magnesium to calcium. This is an important quality because many Americans today actually get plenty of calcium, if not too much, but are quite deficient in their magnesium intake. This ratio of too much calcium and not enough magnesium can lead to problematic conditions such as kidney stones, the calcification of joints that leads to arthritis, and the calcification of arteries and vessels that leads to arteriosclerosis. Getting enough magnesium helps to balance the effects of calcium, and it’s a great heart-friendly mineral. Magnesium is vital for so many things in the body that it is arguably one of the most important minerals! So consuming foods that have a healthy amount of magnesium like rye is very important for good health.
The high fiber content in rye makes it a great food for diabetics as high fiber foods help to decrease or prevent spikes in diabetic's blood sugar levels. Furthermore, rye and the fiber it contains help to minimize the symptoms that are related to irritable bowel syndrome. Many scientific studies have also proven that high fiber foods help to significantly reduce the risk for colon cancer because the fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping to excrete the toxins from the body more rapidly. When stool remains in the intestines for too long, the toxins are not only reabsorbed into the body, but it causes inflammation to the intestines that can eventually be a factor in the development of colon cancer. Rye flour in particular helps to add bulk to the stool because it has a lot of non-cellulose polysaccharides that have a high water-binding ability. This means that as water is bound in the intestines, not only does it help the individual to feel full, but it helps to normalize bowel functioning by making the stools larger and softer, which makes them easier to be passed.
Rye has the ability to encourage the production of butyric acid, a fatty acid required for a healthy colon. Studies show that butyric acid helps keep the lining of the intestines healthy and therefore helps relieve symptoms that are associated with inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, and other such intestinal problems. Studies are also showing that butyric acids can cause cancer cells to turn into normal cells. This is a unique characteristic because most substances that help fight cancer either kill the cancer cell or cause the cancer cell to kill itself, but butyric acid seems to have the unique ability to save the cell by normalizing its function and returning it back to a normally functioning cell.
When buying rye, as with any other grain, make sure to avoid any rye or rye product that has any signs of moisture, and when buying rye in bulk, make sure the bins are covered well. Rye should ideally be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place ; under these conditions, rye can stay fresh for several months. One important note to be made is that when shopping for rye bread, be careful to read labels; sometimes bread labeled as rye bread is really just wheat bread with caramel coloring.
When cooking with rye berries, make sure to rinse and wash them well to remove possible dirt. Rye berries are easily cooked using one part rye to three or four parts boiling water; once the water has reached boiling, lower the heat, cover, and let it simmer for approximately an hour. Rye flakes can be used as a great oatmeal alternative or in place of rice or can be used in homemade granola recipes!
100% Rye Vegan Bread:
- 1¾ cups + 3 tablespoons warm water
- 2¼ teaspoons or one ¼-ounce package active dry yeast
- 4 cups dark rye flour
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
- ½ teaspoon espresso powder
Get the recipe at VeganBaking.net