8 amazing ways to add saffron to your diet
Saffron is the most valuable spice in the world, with 1-pound (450 grams) costing between 500 and 5,000 U.S. dollars. The reason can be found in its labor-intensive harvesting method, making the production costly and expensive.
Saffron is harvested by hand from the Crocus sativus flower, commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” The term “saffron” applies to the flower’s stigmas, with a thread-like structure. It has a subtle taste and aroma, which makes it easy to add to your diet.
In this article, the Saffron Express team is going to show you some impressive health benefits of saffron.
Saffron contains an impressive variety of plant compounds that act as antioxidants — molecules that protect your cells against free radicals and oxidative stress.
Notable saffron antioxidants include crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol.
Crocin and crocetin are carotenoid pigments and responsible for the red color. Both compounds may have antidepressant properties, protect brain cells against progressive damage, improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and aid weight loss.
Safranal gives crocus sativus its distinct taste and aroma. Research shows that it may help improve your mood, memory, and learning ability, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress.
Lastly, kaempferol is found in saffron flower petals. This compound has been linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, anticancer properties, and antidepressant activity.
2. Treat Depressive Symptoms
Saffron is nicknamed the “sunshine spice.” That’s not just due to its distinct color, but also because it may help brighten your mood.
In a review of five studies, saffron supplements were significantly more effective than placebos at treating symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression.
Other studies found that taking 30 mg of saffron daily was just as effective as Fluoxetine, Imipramine, and Citalopram — conventional treatments for depression. Additionally, fewer people experienced side effects from this spice compared to other treatments.
What’s more, both the saffron petals and thread-like stigma appear to be effective against mild-to-moderate depression.
While these findings are promising, longer human studies with more participants are needed before it can be recommended as a treatment for depression.
3. Cancer-Fighting Properties
Crocus sativus is high in antioxidants, which help neutralize harmful free radicals. Free radical damage has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer.
In test-tube studies, crocus sativus and its compounds have been shown to selectively kill colon cancer cells or suppress their growth, while leaving normal cells unharmed.
This effect also applies to skin, bone marrow, prostate, lung, breast, cervix, and several other cancer cells.
What’s more, test-tube studies have found that crocin — the main antioxidant in the spice — may make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs.
While these findings from test-tube studies are promising, the anticancer effects of saffron are poorly studied in humans, and more research is needed.
Read also: Have you ever considered growing saffron?
4. Reduction in PMS Symptoms
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term that describes physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms occurring before the start of a menstrual period.
Studies show it may help treat PMS symptoms. In women 20–45 years of age, taking 30 mg of saffron daily was more effective than a placebo at treating PMS symptoms, such as irritability, headaches, cravings, and pain.
Another study found that simply smelling saffron for 20 minutes helped reduce PMS symptoms like anxiety and lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
5. Acts as an Aphrodisiac
Aphrodisiacs are foods or supplements that help boost your libido.
Studies have shown that crocus sativus may have aphrodisiac properties — especially in people taking antidepressants. For instance, taking 30 mg daily over four weeks significantly improved erectile function over a placebo in men with antidepressant-related erectile dysfunction.
Additionally, an analysis of six studies showed that taking saffron significantly improved erectile function, libido, and overall satisfaction but not semen characteristics.
In women with low sexual desire due to taking antidepressants, 30 mg of saffron daily over four weeks reduced sex-related pain and increased sexual desire and lubrication, compared to a placebo.
6. Reducing Appetite and Aid Weight Loss
Snacking is a common habit that may put you at risk of gaining unwanted weight. According to research, crocus sativus may help prevent snacking by curbing your appetite.
In one eight-week study, women taking saffron supplements felt significantly fuller, snacked less frequently, and lost significantly more weight than women in the placebo group.
In another eight-week study, taking a saffron extract supplement helped significantly reduce appetite, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and total fat mass.
However, scientists are unsure how saffron curbs appetite and aids weight loss. One theory is that saffron elevates your mood, which in turn reduces your desire to snack.
7. Other Potential Health Benefits
Saffron has been linked to other health benefits that have not yet been extensively studied:
May reduce heart disease risk factors: Animal and test-tube studies indicate that saffron’s antioxidant properties may lower blood cholesterol and prevent blood vessels and arteries from clogging.
May lower blood sugar levels: Crocus sativus may lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin sensitivity — as seen in test-tube studies and mice with diabetes.
May improve eyesight in adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Saffron improves eyesight in adults with AMD and protect them against free radical damage, which is linked to AMD.
May improve memory in adults with Alzheimer’s disease: Saffron’s antioxidant properties may improve cognition in adults with Alzheimer’s disease.
8. Easy to Have on Your Diet
In small doses, crocus sativus has a subtle taste and aroma and pairs well with savory dishes, such as paella, risottos, and other rice dishes.
The best way to draw out saffron’s unique flavor is to soak the threads in hot — but not boiling — water. Add the threads and the liquid to your recipe to achieve a deeper, richer flavor.
Crocus sativus is readily available at most specialty markets and can be purchased as threads or in powdered form. However, it’s best to buy the threads, as they give you more versatility and are less likely to be adulterated.
Though saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, a small amount goes a long way, and you often won’t need more than a pinch in your recipes. In fact, using too much consumption can give your recipes an overpowering medicinal taste. In addition, crocus sativus is available in supplement form.
Crocus sativus is generally safe for most people and easy to add to your diet. Saffron Express suggests you to try incorporating it into your favorite dishes to take advantage of its potential health benefits or purchase a supplement online.
This Article is inspired by the article “11 Impressive Health Benefits of Saffron”, written by Ryan Raman, MS, RD on January 7, 2019.