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Poppy seeds nutrition facts

Nutty and pleasant in taste, poppy seeds are nutritious oilseeds used as condiment in cooking. Although the seeds obtained from the dry fruits (pods) of the poppy plant (opium poppy), they are entirely free from any sinister side effects of other poppy plant products such as opium poppy.

Poppy plant is a biennial herb of East Mediterranean and Asia Minor origin belonging to the Papaveraceae family, in the genus: Papaver. Scientific name: Papaver somniferum.

papaver somniferum
black poppy seeds
Poppy plant (Papaver somniferum).
Note for azure color poppy plant with fruit globes containing poppy seeds.
Black poppy seeds.

Ancient Egyptians were aware of poppy seeds harvesting from the poppy fruit head. Through the Arab traders, opium cultivation spread to Persia, ancient Khorasan, and India. Today, seeds of poppy is a well established commercial crop in many parts of the world including Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey, France, India, and East European region.

The poppy plant grows upto 5 feet in height. It requires full sunlight and fertile soil to flourish. Depending upon its variety, lilac, blue, red or white flowers appear during spring on long peduncles which subsequently turn into globular or oval shaped fruits (seed capsules).

sesame and poppy seeds white poppy seeds
Close up view. Compare black poppy seeds with white sesame seeds size. Also note for bean shaped poppy with polygonal surface indentations.
Photo courtesy: lenore-m
White poppy seeds.

Each globular poppy fruit head (capsule) measures about 4–6 cm in length and 3–4 cm in diameter, contains numerous tiny, bean (kidney) shaped seeds, which rattle when shaken inside dried capsules. Seeds poppy can be light gray to dark gray, black, or bluish depending on cultivar type.

Poppy seeds are popular ingredients and generally employed as condiment and to press oil. The seeds, indeed, are very safe to use as food and contain negligible quantities of toxic alkaloids of the opium poppy.

Health benefits of poppy seeds

  • Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that found to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.

  • Their unique nutty aromatic flavor is because of many fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50% of net weight. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids. Oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increase HDL or "good cholesterol" levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

  • Poppy seeds outer husk is a good source of dietary fiber. 100 g raw seeds provide 19.5 g or 51% of recommended daily levels (RDA) of fiber. Much of this fiber is metabolically inert content which helps increase bulk of the food by absorbing water down the digestive tract and thereby easing constipation problem.

  • Additionally, dietary fiber binds to bile salts (a product of cholesterol) and decrease their re-absorption in the colon. It thus helps in a further decrease in blood LDL cholesterol levels.

  • The seeds are excellent source B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid. Many of these vitamins functions as co-factors in substrate metabolism especially fat and carbohydrates.

  • Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. Copper is utilized in the production of red blood cells. Zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

  • Dried poppy seeds contain very small levels of opium alkaloids such as morphine, thebaine, codiene, papaverine etc. When consumed in food, these compounds produce minimal effect on the human nervous system. On the contrary, these chemicals found to have some beneficial effects on the human body; soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers. Its seed extractions found useful in pharmacy and in many traditional medicines in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants, etc.

Selection and storage

Fresh whole or ground poppy seeds can be readily available in the grocery stores. The seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats, which make them vulnerable to oxidation and turn rancid. Therefore, buy good quality whole fresh seeds from authentic store.

Store seeds poppy in cool, dry, dark place, in airtight containers where they will stay fresh for up to six months.

Preparation and serving method

Poppy seeds are one of favorite items in many cultures. They add special nutty flavor to the recipes. Their flavor is somewhat augmented by roasting them in a pan under mild heat. Gentle frying releases special aromatic essential oils in the seeds and enhance crunchiness.

Here are some serving methods:

Poppy, in general, is used either in the form of whole seeds, ground or as thick or thin paste in recipes.

poppy seeds pastr1y
Poppy seed pastry.
Photo courtesy:rusvaplauke
  • Likewise in sesame, poppy too sprinkled over toasts, breads, seafood.

  • In India and Pakistan where its seeds popular as "khus khus", gently fried poppy are ground in a mixer to prepare thin paste which is then added as thickening in dips, curries and in sweet dishes.

  • In South India, poppy seed milk is used to prepare sweet recipe popular as kuskus payasam with added milk, coconut milk, cardamom, raisins, and sugar.

  • In Central Europe, especially in Austria and Hungary, the seeds are used in s a popular sweet pastry dish like Strudel and Germknodel.

  • The seeds are widely used in confectionery like stuffing, rolls, bagels, sweet breads, biscuits, and cakes.

Safety profile

Poppy seeds are less allergic among seeds and nuts. They can be used safely even in pregnant women and children.

Sports personnel, however, need to keep in mind that they may test false positive when consume food items containing poppy seeds for banned opiate substances like morphine, codiene etc. However, these compounds may not be high enough to produce narcotic drug side effects.

(Medical disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)

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Further Resources:

1. USDA National Nutrient Database.

2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.

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