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Poppy seed is the dried seed of Papaver somniferum, an erect annual herb, 30-150 cm long with 0.5-1.5 cm thick stem. Stem is glabrous with thick waxy coating. Leaves are numerous, alternate, spreading horizontally, 15-25 cm long. Flowers are few, solitary, on a 10-15 cm long peduncle. Fruit is a capsule with waxy coating. Seeds are numerous, very small, white grey with an oily endosperm. Poppy is a self pollinated plant. The seed is the spice.
The nutty flavor and satisfying crunch of poppy seeds are traditionally enjoyed in salad dressings, cakes and spice blends. The tiny seeds are great sprinkled on breads, crackers, pretzels and rolls, and sprinkled on salads and noodles.
Health benefits of poppy seeds
Poppy seeds contain many plant-derived chemical compounds that found to have antioxidant, 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 the 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 reabsorption in the colon. It thus helps in a further decrease in blood LDL cholesterol levels.