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.
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