We hear a lot about the ever popular chia seed, but when did society forget about the humble poppy seed? The tiny oil seeds, derived from the poppy plant, are full of nutritional value and have an earthy, nutty flavor. They also add a beautiful aesthetic touch to cakes and breads, and have been an important ingredient in some cultures for millenniums.
The Forgotten Seed
Poppy seeds come from a biennial herb, common in the East Mediterranean. They can be light gray, dark gray, black or midnight blue in color. The earthy, nutty flavor of the oilseeds oozes out when gently dry fried on a pan, and they are traditionally used as a seasoning in traditional Indian dishes, including dal and raita. Poppy seeds aren’t so much forgotten as taken for granted. When chia seeds made their way into modern diets as an incredibly nutritious ‘super food’, people didn’t consider whether poppy seeds had their own nutritional value. Many people will remember their grandma or mother baking lemon poppy seed cake or orange poppy seed muffins, but they were seen as more of a decorative addition, rather than beneficial to health. But, even in small amounts, poppy seeds are actually an extremely good source of dietary fiber, protein and minerals, and should not be forgotten about!
1. Good Source Of Dietary Fiber
The outer husk of the poppy seed is a good source of dietary fiber, which is a plant-based type of carbohydrate that adds bulk to your food. You will get 19.5 grams of dietary fiber from 100 grams of raw poppy seeds, which is 51% of your daily recommended intake. A large percentage of the fiber found in poppy seeds is metabolized slowly, which helps absorb water down the digestive tract. That, in turn, can ease constipation and keep you feeling fuller for longer. The dietary fiber content of poppy seeds can also decrease blood LDL cholesterol levels by binding bile salts, decreasing their re-absorption in the colon.
2. Good Source Of Minerals
Full of calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc, poppy seeds are tiny power houses of minerals. Just one teaspoon of the oilseeds has 4% of your recommended daily intake of phosphorus and calcium! When combined, these two substances form the mineral used to build bones, and adults regularly need both to help avoid bone weakening diseases like osteoporosis.
Poppy seeds are also a good source of iron, which carries oxygen through the body and builds proteins and neurotransmitters, improving the immune system. One teaspoon of poppy seeds provides about 4% of the daily recommended intake of iron for men, and 2% for women.
Zinc is an important mineral that supports the structure of proteins and the production of new cells. It is not stored in the body, so, although you don’t need large amounts of it, you still need a little bit every day to meet your daily recommended intake. This important mineral supports the immune system and encourages neurological development. One teaspoon of poppy seeds provides 2% of the recommended daily intake for men and 3% for women.
On top of that, poppy seeds are a great source of copper, which is an essential mineral that helps the body produce red blood cells. In turn, it keeps your connective tissues strong and can aid in strengthening bones. One tablespoon of poppy seeds will provide you with just over 140 micrograms of copper, which is around 10% to 15% of your daily recommended intake.
3. Source Of B-Complex Vitamins
Poppy seeds provide B-complex vitamins, including thiamin, pyridoxine, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and folic acid. B vitamins are extremely important during the metabolism process, especially when metabolizing fat and carbohydrates. However, as they are so small and you probably wouldn’t eat more than a couple of tablespoons in a day, it would not provide enough to keep your B vitamins at a constant level, so it’s worth remembering that, while they will contribute to your overall intake, you need to make sure you’re getting enough from other sources as well.
Thiamin is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps cells produce energy from carbohydrates, and helps the heart, muscles and nervous system function. An adequate intake of pyridoxine helps convert food into glucose, which produces energy, and controls blood levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid that could be associated with heart disease. Niacin is important for overall health, with higher levels of the B vitamin potentially improving cholesterol levels and lowering cardiovascular risks. Pantothenic acid helps your body use carbohydrates, proteins and lipids properly to improve skin health. Riboflavin is water soluble and is not stored in the body, meaning you need to replenish it every day. It works with other B vitamins to help produce red blood cells and release energy from carbohydrates. Folic acid also contributes to the healthy production of red blood cells and, during pregnancy, it can help the development of the baby’s neural tube into the brain and spinal cord.
4. Lowers ‘Bad’ Cholesterol
Poppy seeds contain fatty acids and essential volatile oils. They are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids, which are both important healthy fatty acids. Oleic has been shown to increase energy expenditure and, along with dietary fiber, aids in lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid, which improves hair oils and the body’s natural wound healing ability.
5. Poppy Seeds Can Aid In The Prevention Of Diseases
The plant-derived chemical compounds found in poppy seeds have antioxidant and disease preventing properties. Studies suggest that diets rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids, like oleic acid, commonly found in Mediterranean diets, can help prevent coronary artery diseases and strokes.
6. Beneficial For Nervous Disorders And Insomnia
Poppy seeds offer a natural supply of alkaloids, which provide a natural calming effect that can ease nervous disorders and insomnia. They also have a high content of magnesium, which is linked to improved sleep quality, duration and tranquility. Poppy seeds can help regulate metabolism, which can also help sleep disorders and insomnia. Warm milk with poppy seeds and honey is a great remedy to help you unwind and get ready for bed. As well as being consumed, the seeds can also be used as a topical paste dressing to relieve swelling and joint pains.
Poppy seeds can be found in just about any supermarket or health food store, but if you’re interested in trying to harvest and store them yourself, take a look at this little guide…
Try These Delicious And Healthy Poppy Seed Recipes
Poppy seeds have a number of health benefits and there are plenty of great ways to use them, other than the traditional lemon cake. Because they are so small, poppy seeds are not the handiest snack to eat on their own. They are, however, perfect to add to hot or cold cereals, smoothies, salad dressings and baked goods. And here are some great recipes to try at home.
Flourless Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins – This is a great take on the traditional lemon poppy seed cake recipes, without the added carbohydrates from refined flour. They work perfectly as a grab-and-go breakfast, Sunday brunch treat or even as a tasty but healthy dessert option. As well as the nutritional benefits you’ll get from the poppy seeds, there are also blueberries, yoghurt, lemons, oats and apples that have a myriad of their own health benefits. This recipe includes a number of fantastic substitutes the blogger uses, including Greek yoghurt instead of oil and butter and truvia instead of refined sugar.
Poppy Seed Fig Pancakes – This blogger has also opted for alternatives to refined white flour, using coconut flour and spelt flour instead. An important ingredient in this recipe alongside the poppy seeds is the figs, which are a fantastic source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. They are extremely beneficial to digestive health and help relieve constipation. These pancakes are a great weekend breakfast option, especially in the fall!
Clean Eating Spelt Crackers – These vegan crackers are chewy rather than crispy and can also be made into flatbread. They are full of nutritious, fiber-rich flax, sesame and poppy seeds, plus they are super quick to whip up, which is always great news! It’s just a matter of mixing the dry ingredients together and then adding the only wet ingredient – applesauce – to create the dough.
Pumpkin, Pecan And Poppy Seed Scones – These savory delights are packed full of nutritious ingredients, including, of course, pumpkin, pecans and poppy seeds, but also, onions, vegan milk and lemon. They look absolutely beautiful plated up and make the perfect Sunday brunch treat. The blogger even suggests trying them out as sweet scones instead of savory for a change by substituting the onions with something sweet.
Baked Eggs With Lemon Cream And Poppy Seeds – This dish is full of creamy deliciousness, but be aware, it’s not low on calories! The great thing about it though is it’s full of healthy ingredients that are packed with nutritional value, including, of course, poppy seeds, but also eggs, lemon and shallots. You couldn’t find a more elegant brunch or lunch than this show stopper, especially when served with fresh bread and a little green salad.
Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole With Mushrooms – This hearty meal is a fantastic winter dish that will warm you from the inside out. The great thing about this recipe is that the blogger offers ingredients and instructions to make it from scratch, rather than including the modern-day tradition of using a canned cream of soup in chicken casserole dishes! By following this recipe and making it from scratch, you know exactly what’s going in the casserole, and can therefore avoid any of the added sugar or preservatives that might be found in your canned soup.