Whole wheat bread is often touted as the bread choice of health nuts. Although wheat is higher than rye in protein and some nutrients, rye bread provides more fiber. Your best bet is to tailor your sandwich to fit your particular health goals. Keep in mind that what you put between those two slices can make or break your meal's nutritional value, so avoid mayonnaise and high-fat lunch meats for optimal benefits.
Calories, Protein and Fiber
Rye and wheat bread are both cholesterol-free and low in calories. Two slices of each type of bread gives you about 160 calories. Wheat bread is higher in protein, with 6 grams, compared to 5.4 grams of protein in rye bread, but rye wins the contest for highest fiber content. Two slices of rye bread have 3.7 grams of fiber, while the same amount of wheat bread has 2.4 grams of fiber. If you're trying to shrink your waistline, each bread type has its virtues, but the fiber in rye makes it more beneficial to you. Fiber helps you stay full for longer, keeping you satisfied and lowering your urge to snack between meals.
B-complex vitamins are crucial for optimal food digestion, helping your body turn protein, fat and carbohydrates into energy. Rye and wheat bread each contain one-fourth of the thiamine you need daily. Two slices of rye bread provide one-fourth of the folate and one fifth of the riboflavin you need each day, while wheat bread has about 14 percent of your daily value for each of those nutrients. Wheat bread is richer in niacin, however, providing one-fourth of your daily requirement for it, while rye bread gives you about 17 percent of the niacin you should get daily.
Although bread doesn't have a wealth of minerals, it gives you small supplemental amounts of a few key minerals. Two slices of wheat or rye bread provide a little less than 10 percent of your daily requirement for magnesium, calcium and iron, but wheat bread contains a bit more of those minerals than rye bread. Each gives you slightly more than 10 percent of the phosphorus you need, as well, with wheat a little richer in that. Rye bread is saltier, however. Two slices of rye have 386 milligrams of sodium, while wheat bread has 301 milligrams of sodium.
You get about 2 grams of fat in two slices of either type of bread, but their fat content differs. Wheat bread has 0.5 gram of saturated fat, a little higher than the 0.4 gram in rye bread. Wheat bread contains nearly a gram of polyunsaturated fat, almost double the amount in rye bread, but rye is much richer in monounsaturated fat, with 0.84 gram compared to 0.37 gram of monounsaturated in wheat bread. Both of these unsaturated fatty acids may improve your blood cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fat may also help decrease your risk of Type 2 diabetes, prevent irregular heartbeats and lower your blood pressure, while monounsaturated fat may help regulate your blood sugar, according to MayoClinic.com.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.