Saffron is a wonderful spice that’s full of unique flavor. It can be used in so many different ways and has a truly unique taste and aroma. But did you know that it's not just a delightful spice to cook with but one with many health benefits?
Let's take a look at why saffron is so good for you and why you should consider adding it to your cooking more often. But before we get to that, click here to read all about what saffron is, why its so expensive, where it comes from and how to store it.
What are the health benefits of saffron?
There are many claimed health benefits of saffron and most of them are due to the fact that saffron is very rich in certain antioxidants. The main active antioxidants in saffron are called: crocin, picrocrocin and safranal.
So, what are antioxidants good for? Antioxidants fight against oxidative stress and free radicals in the body and these both play a big role in many deadly health conditions like cancer and heart disease and less serious conditions too. The antioxidants can also play a part in protecting the body from nervous system disorders like Alzheimer’s. That’s why it’s believed that antioxidants from good nutrition can help keep people healthy both physically and mentally.
Below are some of the important possible health benefits of saffron:
Saffron to improve mood
Saffron has been found to help improve mood so could be a good treatment for depression. How does this work and why does saffron make you happier? It’s been found that a saffron extract increases the dopamine levels in the brain and that 30mg of saffron each day can have the same kind of effect as drugs that are prescribed to treat mild-to-moderate depression but without the side effects. Several placebo studies even showed it to be more effective. It’s not currently recommended as a treatment on its own, but it might be in the future after more studies have been done. It could be worth trying for people with mild symptoms who want a little bit of help to brighten their mood.
Saffron to improve PMS symptoms
PMS symptoms affect many women each month and consuming or even just smelling saffron can help with these symptoms. PMS symptoms can be physical, emotional or psychological and occur shortly before a woman’s period. Saffron tea is a common remedy for PMS symptoms in some cultures.
There are several studies that support that saffron could help treat PMS symptoms. The result was that taking 30mg of saffron per day was more effective than a placebo for treating PMS symptoms. Simply smelling saffron for 20 minutes also helped reduce symptoms like anxiety and even lowered the amounts of stress hormone cortisol in the women’s bodies.
Saffron to help maintain a healthy weight
There’s some evidence that shows that saffron could help reduce your appetite which can result in weight loss. Scientists are not quite sure how this works yet but it could simply be that when you’re happy – saffron can enhance your mood, remember? – you are less likely to turn to food for comfort.
Studies have shown that people who take saffron supplements feel fuller, are less likely to snack, lose weight, fat mass and inches around the body compared to a placebo group.
How can you include saffron in your diet?
So, now you know about some of the health benefits of saffron but how can you include saffron in your own diet?
It’s so easy to add saffron to your diet by adding it to the meals you cook at home. It goes so well with lots of savory dishes and sweet bakes too. It works especially well in rice dishes like paella and risotto.
There are many uses for saffron and you can even make tea from it. Just make sure you’re buying a good quality product because unfortunately there are some fake versions on the market too and these don’t have any of the health benefits of saffron nor the amazing flavor.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world – it’s more expensive than gold – but a little goes a long way when you’re using high quality saffron in your cooking.
Are there any side effects of consuming saffron?
Saffron is safe to consume and the amount you use in standard cooking does not appear to have any side effects in humans so can be enjoyed safely and without any concerns.
As a supplement, it’s recommended that people can take up to 1.5g of saffron daily but the studies mentioned above have shown that 30mg per day is enough to present health benefits.
High doses of 5g or more per day can be toxic and should be avoided by everyone but especially by pregnant women. As always, it’s best to consult your doctor before starting any new supplements and this is true for saffron too.
The bottom line...
Saffron is a delicious spice to add to your diet and can be enjoyed in many different ways. Studies have shown that it may have several important and promising health benefits. Using it in normal amounts in cooking is safe and not likely to have any side effects at all but if you want to take saffron as a stronger supplement, you should advice with your doctor first as with any new supplement.