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This ancient grain can help you lose weight and prevent disease

This Swedish breakfast bread could add years (and happiness) to your life.
by Erica Chayes Wida / / Source: TODAY

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There is an ancient grain lauded for its ability to make you stronger and feel healthier — and it may already be on your grocery list.

Eating rye bread has been a Nordic morning ritual dating back to the days of Vikings. Today, many Swedes attribute their country’s health and happiness, which ranked ninth on last year’s World Happiness Report alongside Australia, to this breakfast routine.

Ninety-nine percent of Sweden’s citizens eat rye bread regularly — consuming an average of 4 million pounds a year.

Rye bread with seeds
Getty Images stock

“There are a couple of reasons why rye is interesting from a health perspective,” David Seres, director of medical nutrition at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition, told TODAY. “One is that it retains its fiber, even after the bran has been removed and fiber is thought to be good for us in the diet. And the second is that when you eat an equal amount of rye compared to wheat, your blood rises less and more slowly.”

Research shows rye has the ability to control diabetes, aid in weight loss and fight cancer and cardiovascular disease.

According to a study by Harvard University, unprocessed whole grains such as rye, millet, quinoa and oats are far more nutritious than refined wheat. Each kernel contains three parts (bran, germ and endosperm) all of which have purported health benefits. The bran is the outer layer, rich in fiber which supplies the body with B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants and phytochemicals, the natural chemical compounds in plants known for preventing disease. The core of the seed, or germ, also has vitamins E, B, antioxidants and phytochemicals, as well as healthy fats. The grain’s inner-layer, called the endosperm, has carbohydrates and protein, plus a small amount of minerals and B vitamins.

Rye breads from Scandinavia may be a little different than the rye loaves most Americans know. The baked bread in Northern Europe tends to feel bumpier, and tastes nuttier and more sour than the smooth, sliced loaf used in a lot of delis stateside.

But eating bread by the loaf is not the only way to reap the benefits of this wonderful little grain. Rye flakes are a great way to incorporate rye into your diet and make for an easy breakfast, just like oats.

Try this simple hot cereal recipe to start the day off right:

Apple Cinnamon Rye Flakes

In large bowl, combine 1/4 cup rye flakes, 3/4 cup water, one small diced apple, a dash or two of cinnamon and a dash of salt. Cover and microwave on high for 3 to 5 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes, stir and enjoy.

Rye berries are another great way to get a daily intake of this antioxidant-rich food. Luckily, they can be used in many recipes and salads that call for rice, quinoa or pasta. They are nutty, chewy and incredibly nutritious.

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