Food Facts: Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant properties which are vital for preventing disease and general health promoting properties. They contain many fatty acids and essential volatile oils, which comprise about 50 percent of their net weight, and are also responsible for their unique flavor. The seeds are especially rich in oleic and linoleic acids. Oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, helps lower LDL, which is the bad cholesterol and it also increases HDL, which is the good cholesterol in the blood. Research studies have found that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring a healthy blood lipid profile.

Poppy seeds outer layer is a good source of dietary fiber. 100 grams of raw seeds provide 19.5 grams, or 51 percent of the recommended daily levels of fiber. Much of this fiber is metabolically inert content which helps increase the bulk of the food by absorbing water down the digestive tract, and thereby easing constipation issues.

Dietary fiber binds to bile salts, which is a product of cholesterol, and decreases their re-absorption in the colon. This helps to further decrease blood LDL cholesterol levels as a result.

The seeds are an 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 with fat and carbohydrates, turning them into usable energy.

Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required 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 control heart rate as well as 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, and papaverine. When consumed in food, these compounds produce a minimal effect on the human nervous system. These chemicals actually have beneficial effects on the human body, such as to soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers, and are used extensively in pharmaceutical as well as in many traditional medicines in the preparations of cough mixtures, and expectorants.

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