Poppy seeds, often used as a garnish or ingredient in baking, pack a powerful nutritional punch. There are many reasons to add poppy seeds to your diet, from improving digestion to boosting heart health.
This article explores the science behind these benefits and potential risks. So grab a cup of tea and settle in—it’s time to learn about the amazing benefits of poppy seeds!
Where do poppy seeds come from?
Poppy seeds are tiny, kidney-shaped seeds that come from the poppy plant. They are native to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor regions.
Historic evidence suggests poppy seeds were used in ancient Egypt as early as 1400 BC. They have since been cultivated for culinary and medicinal purposes. They also used this seed for its aphrodisiac effect which increases libido and enhances sexual health. It’s a traditional remedy the treatment for mouth ulcers.
The botanical name for the opium poppy plant is Papaver somniferum, and it can grow up to 4 feet tall with showy, colorful flowers.
They have a nutty flavor and are commonly used in baked goods and as a topping for salads and pastries.
The seeds are small but nutrient-dense, containing high levels of healthy fats, protein, and minerals.
Poppy seeds also contain minute traces of opiate alkaloids, leading to their restricted use in certain parts of the world.
Are poppy seeds healthy for you?
Thanks to their high levels of essential nutrients, poppy seeds are a nutritious addition to any diet.
It is generally safe to consume poppy seeds in moderate amounts. Fresh whole or ground poppy seeds are commonly used in cooking and baking and are a popular ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.
However, it’s important to note that consuming large quantities of poppy seeds could cause an opiate-positive result on a drug test. Therefore, regularly drug-tested individuals should be aware of this and exercise caution when consuming poppy seeds.
It’s also worth noting that some people are allergic to poppy seeds. If you have a known allergy to nuts or seeds, avoiding poppy seeds altogether is advisable.
Additionally, pregnant women should speak with their doctor before consuming poppy tea or seeds during pregnancy.
What are the health benefits of poppy seeds?
Poppy seeds have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Aside from their delicious taste, poppy seeds offer a range of health benefits. Here we’ll explore ten potential benefits of poppy seeds.
1. Highly nutritious
Poppy seeds are an excellent source of nutrients and offer multiple health benefits. They are rich in protein, healthy fiber, calcium, magnesium, and other essential nutrients.
Poppy seeds have antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals and reduce inflammation.
They are also an excellent source of healthy fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 acids, which are important for brain function and heart health.
According to USDA, one tablespoon (9 grams) provides:
|Nutrition Facts||Quantity/daily value of nutrition|
2. Helps with pain relief
Poppy seeds have compounds called alkaloids, including morphine and codeine, which have pain-relieving properties. When consumed, these compounds can bind to the brain’s receptors and block pain signals, relieving pain.
They also contain other compounds like flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory effects that can further alleviate pain.
3. Boosts heart health
Poppy seeds are a good source of dietary fiber, which can help regulate cholesterol levels in the blood by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol. Poppy seeds also contain magnesium, a mineral crucial in maintaining healthy heart function and regulating blood pressure.
Additionally, the omega-3 and omega-6 found in poppy seeds can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
4. Supports healthy hair
Poppy seeds are rich in various vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which can nourish and strengthen hair.
Poppy seed oil has fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, which can moisturize and soothe the scalp, reducing dryness and irritation.
In addition, poppy seeds can also be used topically as an oil or paste to provide additional benefits for hair.
5. Helps digestion
It’s a good source of dietary fiber, which is important for maintaining healthy digestion. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, aiding digestion.
The alkaloids in this seed have analgesic and antispasmodic properties. These properties can help relax the digestive tract muscles, reducing cramping and spasms that can lead to discomfort and digestive issues.
6. Improves immunity
One of the key components of poppy seeds is zinc, which is important for immune cell development and function. Zinc deficiency has been linked to increased infection risk and impaired immune function. Poppy seeds too contain antioxidants, such as flavonoids and carotenoids, which help protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation.
7. Enhances fertility
While poppy seeds have been traditionally used to enhance fertility, there is limited scientific evidence to support these claims. However, some studies suggest that the nutrients found in poppy seeds may contribute to reproductive health.
For example, poppy seeds are a healthy source of zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron, which are important for overall reproductive health.
Zinc plays a key role in sperm production, testosterone synthesis, and egg maturation.
Furthermore, the dietary fiber in it improves insulin sensitivity and regulates hormones. This may be particularly beneficial for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that can cause infertility.
8. Helps with weight loss
Poppy seeds are a great addition to a weight-loss diet because they are low in calories and fiber.
A 1-ounce serving of poppy seeds contains just over 100 calories and approximately 3.5 grams of healthy fiber. This can help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods.
Poppy seeds also contain healthy fats and protein, which can curb your appetite.
They are believed to stimulate metabolism and aid digestion, which enhances the body’s ability to burn calories and absorb nutrients from food.
9. Improves bone health and blood clotting
A 1-ounce serving of poppy seeds contains approximately 13% of the daily recommended calcium intake. This mineral plays a crucial role in building and maintaining strong bones.
In addition to calcium, poppy seeds have magnesium, phosphorus, and vitamin K, which are important for bone health.
Poppy seeds also contain trace amounts of other minerals important for bone health, such as zinc, copper, and manganese.
10. Promotes healthy skin
This seed contains high levels of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that helps keep the skin hydrated and supple.
The fatty acids in poppy seeds help to protect the skin from environmental damage, such as UV rays and pollution.
Zinc in this seed helps regulate oil production, reduce inflammation, and promote healing wounds and acne.
Poppy seed extracts are often used in skincare products as a natural exfoliant.
Potential Risks and Side Effects
Poppy seeds are derived from the opium poppy plant, which contains trace amounts of morphine and codeine. While consuming poppy seeds in moderate amounts is generally considered safe, eating large amounts of them may cause certain side effects. Some possible side effects of consuming poppy seeds include:
- Drowsiness or sedation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Headache or dizziness
- Respiratory depression
A study report says, “Poppy seeds have been shown to contain low levels of morphine and codeine, which can result in false positive drug test results.” Therefore, individuals undergoing drug testing must avoid consuming poppy seed-containing foods or beverages.
“Recent data suggest certain poppy seed varieties may have higher codeine contamination than previously reported,” said Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr., the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness (defense.gov).
False-positive drug test results for opioids, such as the poppy diet, can contain small amounts of thebaine, morphine, and codeine that can be detected in urine tests.
Generally, the presence of opiates is higher in unwashed poppy seeds depending on where they’re cultivated, but washed poppy seeds don’t naturally contain opium compounds,
Frequently Asked Questions
Are poppy seeds good for the liver?
They are rich in healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc, which are generally good for the liver. There is insufficient scientific evidence to prove that poppy seeds are good for liver health. However, studies have suggested that some compounds in poppy seeds, such as morphine and codeine, may have potential liver-toxic effects.
Is poppy seed good for the kidneys?
Poppy seeds contain potassium, which aids in treating kidney stones and helps prevent their recurrence. However, no evidence suggests that poppy seeds are specifically beneficial for kidney health. People with certain kidney conditions may need to restrict their intake of foods high in potassium.
How many poppy seeds should you eat?
Experts recommend safely eating about one tablespoon per seven pounds of body weight. If you are on a low-calorie diet, note that two tablespoons of poppy seeds have roughly 45–90 calories. It’s important not to overdo it, as they are relatively high in calories and fat.
Can people with Diabetes eat poppy seeds?
People living with Diabetes should include poppy seeds in their diet regularly. Diabetes can be treated with the help of the manganese in the seeds.
What is the best way to eat poppy seeds?
Poppy seeds are frequently dry-roasted or soaked and crushed before use to make them simpler to handle because they are so little and have the propensity to cling together. They are used in pasta, egg, potato, cream, and cheese recipes and sprinkled on cakes, bagels, and biscuits throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Are poppy seeds good for high cholesterol?
Poppy seeds are rich in important fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, which reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides while raising good cholesterol. This high level of fatty acids has various positive effects on the heart (HDL).
Do poppy seeds affect sleep?
A small amount of opium alkaloids is present in poppy seeds, which can have a soothing effect on the body. This means consumption of poppy seed tea before bed could help promote sleepiness and improve sleep quality for some individuals. However, consuming large amounts of poppy seeds or using them with other substances or alcohol may negatively affect sleep.
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