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Rye bread

Modern dietary experts are discovering the virtues of a cereal that has been a staple of the Finnish diet for centuries: fibre-rich rye. A large-scale Nordic project called "Rye and Health" has achieved some impressive results, including the programmed death of a cancer cell, with a diet containing a lot of the humble grain. "It is the first time that this effect has been achieved through diet," says Professor Herman Adlercreutz of the University of Helsinki.

The results so far have borne out assessments presented during the early stages of the research to the effect that rye can lessen the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer. Another result indicates that rye helps people slim. That is because energy is removed from the body along with fibre, thereby preventing obesity and even helping people to shed weight.

The secret is in the fibre

The Finns nowadays eat most of their rye in the form of wholegrain sourdough bread. Professor Adlercreutz explains that the healthiness of rye bread is not attributable to the amount of fibre alone, but also to its composition. The whole fibre complex is rich in healthy substances like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lignanes. "When the fibrous layer is removed from grain, as happens for example when wheat is milled, most of these beneficial substances are likewise removed," Adlercreutz points out.

Rye fibre has numerous good properties. They affect bowel functions, metabolic processes and the quality, amount and composition of intestinal bacteria. They also influence gall acidity. This is especially important, because some gall acids are co- carcinogenes, which means that they help cancer-causing substances to begin the process of attacking the body.

Fibres also influence the body's hormone balance ann lower the blood oestrogen level, thereby lessening the risk of breast cancer. They dilute toxic substances in the intestines and remove them.

When we eat wholegrain rye bread, the lignanes in it provide the raw material from which hormone-like substances, especially enterolactone, is created in our intestines. Professor Adlercreutz explains that these inhibit the growth of several kinds of cancer cells.

Six slices of rye bread a day provide all the fibres our bodies need. To get the same amount from vegetables, we would have to eat 1.3 kilos of carrots, eight kilos of tomatoes or two kilos of apples.

Rye pasta and hamburgers

When evidence of the health-promoting properties of rye began mounting, the food-processing industry discovered a new enthusiasm for a grain that it had tended to disparage as a basic staple. Rye pasta, both fresh and dried, is an example of the new products that have been developed. Especially the latter has been much praised for its wholesome taste, and has even gained acceptance in Italy. Another new item on the supermarket shelves is a blend of long-grain white rice and coarsely-ground rye. Young consumers have also been thought of: one of the international hamburger chains in Finland now offers the option of rye buns.

Rye Cultivation and Consumption