While most of the healthy food community continues to rave about chia and hemp seeds, poppy seeds sort of fell below the foodie radar. These black little seeds are every bit as exciting though! Not only do the taste amazing, they are a true nutritional powerhouse as well. Poppy seeds pack an unbelievable amount of nutrients in each seed and give you a spectacular bang for each caloric buck. Here are their most important health benefits plus several delicious tips for sneaking more of them into your diet (including a recipe for raw polka dot cheesecake on a poppy seed crust).
What Poppy Seeds Can Do for You
1. Improve Gut Health
Poppy seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber. In fact, most of the carbohydrates they contain are actually fiber. And although you cannot digest fiber and get energy from it, it’s an extremely important nutrient that feeds the good bacteria in our gut you need for healthy digestion. Fiber also helps you feel full longer after eating.
2. Prevent Diabetes
Several studies also suggest fiber-rich foods such as poppy seeds help prevent diabetes. The fiber slows down the absorption of glucose and by doing so keeps the blood sugar levels more stable.
3. Lower Risk of Heart Disease
High fiber intake is also associated with lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease. Besides fiber, poppy seeds are high in healthy, unsaturated fats too, which is another factor linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
4. Maintain Bone Health
Poppy seeds also contain huge amounts of calcium (forget dairy, this stuff packs 13% daily value of calcium into a single teaspoon!) as well as magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. All of these minerals contribute to keeping your bones and teeth in top shape and help protect them from damage.
5. Support the Immune System
Thanks to a high content of copper, iron and manganese, all of which help your immune system function properly, poppy seeds are an unexpected immune booster. Besides these benefits, the abundant micronutrients in poppy seeds help support many of the essential functions that are going on in your body so don’t ditch them just because they’re not as new and exciting as some other, trendier seeds.
How To Eat More of Them
Poppy seeds are a very versatile ingredient so you don’t have to resort to stuffing yourself with lemon poppy seed muffins to eat enough. One of the easiest way to consume more poppy seeds is just adding a teaspoon or two into a smoothie or even salad dressing; they go especially well together with citrus based ones. But you can always get more creative than that! Tired of chia pudding? Try making a raw poppy seed porridge instead! These seeds also make a great, nut-free base for raw pie and tart crusts or snack bites, which I combined in this Raw Polka Dot Cheesecake.
Raw Polka Dot Cheesecake on a Poppy Seed Crust
Makes 1, 6-inch cheesecake
For the crust & polka dots
4 cups pitted dates (deglet noor)
1 and 1/4 cup ground poppy seeds (I grind mine in a coffee grinder but you can buy already ground ones)
optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the filling
3 cups cashews, soaked for at least 6 hours
2/3 cup maple syrup or raw agave (you can cut this down to 1/2 cup if you have less of a sweet tooth)
2-3 tablespoons water (or more if needed for blending)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
optional: 2 teaspoons grated organic lemon zest
optional: 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
optional: 1/4 teaspoon salt (to enhance sweetness)
1. Combine the dates, poppy seeds and vanilla in a food processor and process until a compact dough forms.
2. Press approximately 2/3 of the dough evenly into a 6-inch pan lined with plastic foil or parchment (this helps you get the cheesecake out of the pan more easily) to form a crust.
3. Roll the rest of the dough into bite sized balls (1/2 – 3/4 inch in diameter) and place them next to each other in a circle on top of the crust (about 1 inch away from the side of the pan).
4. Clean the food processor and drain and rinse the cashews.
5. Transfer all ingredients for the filling to the food processor and process until completely smooth. Add more lemon and/or sweetener if you like.
6. Pour the mixture over the crust and balls and spread evenly.
7. Cover the top with plastic foil and freeze for at least 4 hours.
Before serving, take the cheesecake out of the freezer and leave at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to soften a bit. Slice and serve immediately.
Written by Lucie Javorska of Win-Win Food