Baked in breads or sprinkled on hot dog buns, poppy seeds are more than just a garnish or flavorful additive. Though banned in some countries, the tiny poppy seed is another example of the poppy’s rare paradox as a plant infused with the potential to both greatly help and harm humankind. The poppy seed, however, is a nutritious helper that can be incorporated into your diet to deliver some unique benefits.
Poppy Seeds Overview
The seeds of the poppy are oilseeds and contain very low opiate levels—certainly with no effect that compares with the opiates obtained from the plant itself. Often used whole, the seeds are also ground or pressed. Historians have dated the cultivation of poppies for seed back to Sumerian times. Egyptians and other ancient civilizations were also aware of poppy and poppy seed benefits. Today, poppy seeds are eaten in many parts of the world and cultivated in regions like Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean and nations such as France and Turkey. They are added to baked goods for their nutty flavor as well as main courses and desserts. Sometimes they are used as a thickening agent for various dishes especially in India.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Poppy seeds are regarded as anti-oxidants which have been shown to help prevent disease. Rich in oleic and linoleic acids, poppy seeds’ fatty acid content can help produce helpful HDL cholesterol and diminish levels of LDL, bad cholesterol. Poppy seeds have a rich mineral and nutrient content as well and contain iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, potassium, and copper along with thiamin, folic acid, riboflavin, and other B-complex vitamins. Moreover, poppy seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Try these lemon poppyseed muffins!
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins Recipe
Yields: 10-12 muffins
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 35 minutes
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- Zest of 2 lemons
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or lightly grease muffin pan and set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar until it begins to fluff (1-2 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time – mixing well after each.
In a separate bowl, add the dry ingredients, poppy seeds, and lemon zest and incorporate. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture – alternating with the Greek yogurt, lemon juice and then vanilla extract.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan – filling the cups ¾ full. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow muffins to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan.
Notes: These work well frozen and reheated in the microwave.
Historically and even today poppy seeds are used by alternative medicine practitioners and in folk remedies for treating various ills. In Algeria, for instance, poppy seeds are sometimes placed in dental cavities to reduce pain. In Iran, an area where poppies were extensively cultivated in ancient times, the seeds are used to help stop nosebleeds. In countries like India where Aruvedic practices are popular, poppy seeds are made into tonics and revered for their general healing properties. Also, many people around the world drink poppy seed tea for its soothing effects.
Other Interesting Facts about Poppy Seeds
While allergic reactions to poppy seeds are rare, they have occurred. A severe reaction could lead to anaphylaxis.
Many people are concerned that the ingestion of poppy seeds could lead to false-positive drug tests. While this has been reported as a possibility in publications such as The Journal of Forensic Science, studies suggested that the presence of codeine along with the slight nudge of the poppy seeds is what could influence a positive test result. On the other hand, most science suggests that ingesting poppy seeds by themselves will not yield a positive result. Still, the possibility of a false positive test continues to be a topic of exploration and scientific study.
In spite of their use in cuisines around the world, the sale of poppy seeds is banned in Singapore. Poppy seeds are also banned in Saudi Arabia. In fact, in Gulf countries like the United Arab Emirates, the possession of poppy seeds has resulted in strict sentences and jail time.
Some patients on certain medications might want to discuss possible interactions between poppy seeds and medicines—especially if poppy seed consumption tends toward the high side.