Poppy seeds contain many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, 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 coat 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 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 re-absorption in the colon. It thus helps in a further decrease in blood LDL cholesterol levels.
The seeds are 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 fat and carbohydrates.
Poppy seeds contain good levels of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zincand 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 controlling heart rate and 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, papaverine etc. When consumed in food, these compounds produce a minimal effect when consumed on the human nervous system. On the contrary, the chemicals have beneficial effects on the human body; soothe nervous irritability, act as painkillers, and used in pharmacy as well as in many traditional medicines in the preparations of cough mixtures, expectorants etc.
Poppy seeds are less allergic among seeds and nuts. They can be used safely even in pregnant women and children.
Sports personnel, however, need to keep in mind that they may test false positive when consume food items containing poppy seeds for banned opiate substances like morphine, codiene etc. However, these compounds may not be high enough to produce narcotic drug side effects.
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