Saffron is produced in India as part of the spice industry, and for centuries it has been a staple ingredient in the diet and a valuable source of fibre.
“Most Indians enjoy saffron as part of their daily diet and can expect to consume around 30 grams of the colourful spice by consuming just the seeds – a typical amount is about a third of a teaspoon or 1.5g,” says the India Food Standards Authority (IAFSA).
But what are the health benefits of saffron?
One ingredient that sets saffron apart from other dishes is the presence of the antioxidant compound, ascorbic acid.
According to research from the WHO, the antioxidant helps to improve skin tone, increases blood flow to skin cells, improves wound healing and protects against some cancers.
The research has also shown saffron reduces the risk of developing inflammatory bowel, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
It also inhibits the growth of some types of bacteria, and helps reduce inflammation.
“Saffron has proven to be beneficial in combating age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and breast cancer, in addition to many other ailments,” says Dr Akshat Ramanathan, head of epidemiology and epidemiology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur.
“As many as 40 per cent of Indian women are believed to have been affected negatively by stress, so the high nutritional value of saffron makes it a very suitable ingredient in many health foods,” agrees Dr Rajendra Rao, director of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute at IIT.
Another ingredient in saffron is citric acid, which acts as an anti-inflammatory.
“It is thought that it might help reduce arthritis pain, and reduce stiffness and soreness that can be caused by arthritis or surgery,” says Rao.
It also shows promise to be useful in the treatment of depression.
“Acute consumption of saffron, even in modest doses (one teaspoon a day) in studies of rodents, is associated with a reduced risk of depression, with some evidence in humans, including in patients with major depressive disorder,” says Rao.
Is it effective over long-term?
Saffron has also been shown to help people cope well with stress-related illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel syndrome.
Research in mice has shown it helps reduce
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