Properties and Benefits of Poppy Seeds: We often see them on bagels, bread or in cakes and wonder what’s the purpose of those small, dark seeds that just get stuck into our teeth. As it happens, poppy seeds are an incredibly rich source of minerals and vitamins and boast impressive antioxidant properties. Around 100 g of poppy seeds supply our body with 87% of the RDI of magnesium, 72% zinc, 122% iron, 144% calcium and the list goes on. Imagine strong bones and teeth, great energy levels, wrinkle-free skin, a healthy heart and thyroid gland, good immunity and fewer gray hairs.
These are but a few of the health benefits of poppy seeds. Edible poppy seeds come from a variety of poppy called Papaver somniferum. As its scientific name suggests, this poppy variety has some other impressive uses besides nourishing the body. Poppy seeds are used to extract opium, in the form of a natural rubbery substance used for both pharmaceuticals preparation and medicinal purposes.
Modern medicine uses immature poppy seed pods to extract opium for the purpose of producing morphine and codeine, two major analgesics used to alleviate pain in cancer patients, treat hypertension, depression, relieve labor pains and manage chronic pain.
The incredible analgesic properties of poppy were known even in ancient times when doctors used unripe poppy pods to perform rudimentary surgeries. Along with the development of trade, poppy flowers have come to be cultivated throughout the world. The plant requires a generous sun exposure and a fertile soil to thrive. Although poppy flowers are symbolically depicted as being red, they actually come in a variety of colors such as white, yellow, orange, red, blue and purple.
Although unripe poppy pods ooze opiates when cut, the concentration of opium in mature, edible poppy seeds is too low to produce any significant alterations of consciousness or induce any visible sedative effects. Apparently, poppy seed oil contains even less opiates than the seeds. Both poppy seeds and poppy seed oil are considered to be two of the healthiest ‘foods’ on the planet.
Poppy seeds are about 40% fatty acids and volatile essential oils. They are particularly rich in Omega-3 and Omega-9 fatty acids, notably linoleic acid and oleic acid. For example, oleic acid helps lower LDL cholesterol level and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels. A generous intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as those above, is representative of the Mediterranean diet and favors a healthy blood lipid profile. This leads to a reduced risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.
Pure poppy seed extract is widely used for the preparation of cough syrups, mucus-thinning expectorants and analgesics, due to the plant’s potent sedative effects. Nonetheless, eating a tablespoon of poppy seeds will not alter normal brain function or induce highly euphoric states. Instead, it will supply you with great amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
About 100 g of poppy seeds contains 65% of the RDI of pantothenic acid, a.k.a. vitamin B5, a great ally in coping with stress. Also, poppy seeds provide 71% of the RDI of thiamine or vitamin B1, as well as 20% of the RDI of folic acid. While thiamine boosts energy, folic acid is especially recommended during preconception and pregnancy to ensure the birth of a healthy baby.
Poppy seeds are especially good for the heart. In addition to healthy fatty acids, they contain magnesium (87%) and potassium (15%). These two minerals regulate heart pressure, heart rate, body fluids, prevent palpitations and extrasystoles. If you are suffering from any form of heart disease, it is important to have a healthy dietary supply of both potassium and magnesium.
Poppy seeds are such a rich source of dietary iron (122%) that they are excellent in preventing and treating anemia. Because of their incredible zinc content (72%), they provide great support to our immune system and help prevent and ease infections and colds.
Selenium (24%) regulates thyroid gland activity and, consequently, balances hormones. The thyroid gland is famous for making weight fluctuate and inducing metabolic disorders, so eating selenium rich foods is crucial for preventing such unhealthy imbalances. Phosphorus (124%) is part of our bone structure.
Last but not least, poppy seeds contain incredible amounts of manganese (292%), a powerful antioxidant-mineral, as well as copper (181%), a powerful antibacterial and anti-aging agent. Eating copper-rich poppy seeds delays hair graying and eye discoloring. For more information on vitamin and minerals, you can go to this page.
Poppy seeds can be turned into paste and added to curries or desserts. A very popular combination is poppy seed paste and coconut flakes. My guilty pleasure is a dessert cake with poppy seed dough, vanilla cream and chocolate-topped oats biscuits. How do you eat poppy seeds?