The effects of wheat and rye breads made from whole-wheat grain (WWG), wheat aleurone flour (WAF) or rye aleurone flour (RAF) on net portal absorption of carbohydrate-derived nutrients (glucose, SCFA and lactate) and apparent insulin secretion were studied in a model experiment with catheterised pigs. The breads were similar in dietary fibre (DF, 120–125 g/kg DM) but differed in arabinoxylans (50–62 g/kg), β-glucans (4–9 g/kg) and content of soluble DF (13–29 g/kg). Six pigs in a repeated 3 × 3 crossover design were fitted with catheters in the portal vein and the mesenteric artery and a portal flow probe. Pigs were fed three meals daily (at 09.00, 14.00 and 19.00 hours), and blood profiles were collected repeatedly from 08.30 until 19.00 hours once weekly. Net portal absorption of glucose was similar among breads and between meals. In contrast, insulin secretion was lowest (P < 0·05) in pigs fed RAF bread (3·9 nmol/h), intermediate in pigs fed WAF bread (5·4 nmol/h) and highest in pigs fed WWG bread (5·9 nmol/h), indicating that RAF bread improved insulin economy. Portal concentrations of propionate, butyrate and valerate were high, intermediate and low (P < 0·05) when pigs were fed RAF, WAF and WWG breads, respectively. Insulin secretion was higher (P < 0·001), and portal absorption of SCFA was lower (P < 0·05) after the first daily meal than after the second daily meal (8·8 v. 4·4 nmol/h). A low insulin response was associated with high portal absorption of SCFA. In conclusion, RAF bread was able to improve insulin economy compared to WWG bread.