These tiny seeds have a lot of potential and are packed with nutrients!
Find out how good they are for you and get an idea of the tasty vegan dishes you can make with them.
But be aware that there may be limits to how much you can consume, so be sure to check where you’re getting it from.
poppy seed nutrients
The tiny seeds are incredibly high in calcium, with just one tablespoon containing 126 milligrams – the recommended daily allowance is 700 milligrams.
The problem is that it is estimated that we only absorb between 8 and 15% of the calcium from poppy seeds, because they also contain compounds that inhibit its availability.
If you soak and bake or bake them – think poppyseed cakes, pastries or savory dishes – it increases the availability of calcium, but the exact figure is not known.
In short, poppy seeds can provide a good calcium boost but aren’t as rich as some might think.
Poppy seeds also contain good amounts of other important minerals, such as iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc.
On top of that, they’re a great source of protein, with just one tablespoon providing 1.6 grams – and offer valuable fiber and unsaturated fats.
The dark bluish color of poppy seeds means they contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that help protect your tissues and DNA from damage and support your immune system.
In a nutshell, poppy seeds are packed with important nutrients and are definitely worth adding to your diet!
What’s up with poppy opioids?
Poppy plants contain morphine, codeine and thebaine, opium alkaloids known for their pain-relieving and sleep-inducing abilities.
Manufacturers use the sap of the poppy plant to make drugs such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone which are highly addictive and dangerous.
Poppy seeds do not contain any of these opioids, but they can become contaminated during harvesting or processing because the poppy pod is rich in opioid sap, also known as poppy latex.
This is why poppy seeds are usually washed before they are packed and sold for human consumption.
People sometimes sell their homegrown poppy seeds, which may be unwashed and contain higher levels of opioids, but this is rare.
This certainly won’t apply to poppy seeds available in regular stores, so you don’t have to worry!
Bakers using poppy seeds tend to work with reputable suppliers following a number of cases of people failing drug tests after eating poppy seed bread and other baked goods.
Just beware of teas made from poppy seeds and marketed as “calming” as they may contain some of the opioids and it is easy to ingest a large dose. They can also be addictive, so it’s best to avoid them.
They are not available in the UK, but you may encounter them while travelling.
How to use poppy seeds
The tiny seeds are very versatile, but many of us don’t know how to use them. You can try a layer of poppy seeds as a crispy topping on bread, rolls, and bagels.
Or stir them into batter for cakes and muffins, make them into savory crackers, or toss them into a curry or salad dressing.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, soak them then grind them into a paste in a food processor. It makes a wonderful sweet pastry topping – simply mix the batter with sugar, a little cornstarch and a little water, then boil briefly until it thickens.
You can also add chopped raisins or prunes for extra sweetness!
This mixture can be used as a filling in cakes, pastries or strudels, and it makes a lovely topping on a baking sheet.
Pre-soaking the seeds also increases calcium availability, so it’s a win-win!
Who should avoid poppy seeds?
As a precaution, athletes should avoid eating anything with poppy seeds a few days before and during a competition to avoid any possibility of drug tests showing traces of codeine and morphine in their urine.
Also, do not give poppy seeds to babies and toddlers. The old folk remedy of poppy seeds boiled in milk to soothe a crying baby can lead to an accidental overdose.
Even if washed poppy seeds contain only trace amounts of opioids, it may be enough to affect a young child.
Poppy seeds as a staple food
There’s no need to be wary of eating a bagel or poppyseed muffin in case it makes you sleepy, because it’s not going to happen.
Poppy seeds have been and still are part of many cultures and are traditionally eaten without side effects in much larger amounts than what we eat in a slice of bread.
They provide many essential and valuable nutrients and taste delicious, which is why they are so popular!
Poppy seeds have helped increase people’s nutrient intake for millennia and nutritional science is only the beginning to appreciate their value.
Several countries cultivate a so-called non-opium poppy variety that is still safe because it has been bred to produce almost no opioids in the sap.
The largest producer of poppy seeds is the Czech Republic and they exclusively grow this variety, so there is no risk that the seeds contain opioid residues.
If you want to be sure, check the origin of the poppy seeds you buy.
The truth is, there’s no need to worry about poppyseed baked goods, so enjoy them freely – every day if you wish!
Want to add more seeds to your diet? Discover the everyday superfood: chia seeds!