Poppy seeds are nutritious, but don’t eat too many

Poppy food
Poppy seeds are kidney-shaped, and have a blue-gray colour and are used in various baked goods, salad dressings and West Asian cuisine. Poppy seeds have a crunchy texture and are a good source of protein, fibre, calcium, fat and minerals. These tiny seeds are very nutritious.

All parts of the plant, including poppy seeds, carry opium alkaloids, especially morphine and codeine. This means that eating foods such as muffins, breads or dishes that contain poppy seeds, can result in a false positive for opiates in a drug test.

According to the Mayo Clinic's publication Urine Drug Screening: Practical Guide for Clinicians, a study on poppy seed cookies showed a positive test result for opiates up to two hours after eating. A separate study on poppy seed bagels showed positive drug test results up to one day after ingesting the food.

A serving of whole poppy seeds is 2 tablespoons, which has 92 calories, equivalent to 13 almonds. Poppy seeds are a good source of protein as 2 tablespoons have 3.17 g of protein which is equivalent to a tablespoon of pulses. Poppy seeds are a good source of dietary fibre. As much as 100 g raw poppy seeds provide 19.5 g or 50 per cent of recommended daily levels (RDA) of fibre. A 2-tablespoon serving of poppy seeds provides 3.4 g of fibre, which is almost four times the amount of fibre in a single chapati. Dietary fibre helps lower cholesterol levels, regulate insulin and blood glucose concentrations, promote gastrointestinal health and prevent constipation. Poppy seeds are a concentrated source of specially polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol levels.

Among minerals, calcium stands out exceptionally high. Just 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds provide 253 mg of calcium, as much as a cup of milk (243 mg). This means that thandai, a mixture of milk, poppy seeds and almonds is a valuable source of calcium and can help boost bone health. Other nutrients include iron, zinc and Vitamin B1, folate and Vitamin E.

Commonly known as khas khas and an integral part of the Indian spice rack, these seeds are used in different ways in different parts of the country. Ground white seeds are used to thicken sauces and curries. Poppy seeds are widely used in cuisines of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Kerala. In Bengal, aloo posto contains poppy seeds.

Consumption of poppy seeds is considered safe, but large quantities can cause nausea, dizziness and hallucinations. It may also conflict with certain medicines.

Pregnant and lactating women should restrict consumption of poppy seeds to small quantities.

Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: "To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all."

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