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Supplementing your nutrition with saffron

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 There has been a lot of media recently about the health benefits of saffron, and this article discusses a few of the ways you can supplement your nutrition with saffron.

Potency

It is important to keep in mind that quality saffron is a potent spice, and very little is needed nutritionally to obtain the benefit of saffron.  The potency of saffron comes from its high concentration of the active compounds crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin. 

Safranal is responsible for saffron’s unique aroma, and picrocrocin is the compound responsible for saffron’s bitter taste.

Saffron's active compounds are water soluble, which means that saffron can be easily ingested either by taking raw, drinking in tea, or by cooking in food. 

 

Application

Most clinical trials are conducted using dosages of between 20mg – 30mg of saffron taken daily for a period of time usually 4 -6 weeks.  Visit our health benefits page for details and links back to the clinical studies.

20mg of saffron is equal to around 10 saffron threads, there are around 400 threads to a gram, therefore each thread weighs around 2mg.  10 saffron threads is the equivalent of around a small pinch.

Saffron can be taken raw or by infusing into hot water to make saffron tea.  Saffron tea has a beautiful refreshing flavour and aroma, and can be a very relaxing alternative to coffee, and is caffeine free.

The most important thing to remember when you are making saffron tea is to allow the saffron enough time to infuse, at least 15 to 20 minutes.  Use a little bit of hot water first and let it steep, and then add more hot water after infusing to bring the temperature back up.  Your saffron threads should last at least 3 good pours before they start to turn white and lose all their colour.

Whilst saffron is an amazing spice to cook with, the quantities used in cooking are so low that it is probably not a good method for controlling quantity as a supplement.  The other drawback is that your food will be so delicious you might eat more and gain weight !

 

Extracts

There is a huge market in saffron extracts, saffron tablets, and saffron capsules, with any number of manufacturers making various health claims.  Whilst some of these might be quite reputable, I suspect many of them are not. 

Look for a brand you can trust, and a local supplier who is available to answer your questions.   A lot of these extracts are sold at very high prices equal to hundreds of dollars per gram, and are nothing more than powdered saffron threads mixed with common vitamins and nutrients.

We don’t sell extracts because we haven’t been able to find a quality product manufactured by a reputable brand at a competitive price.  When you consider that a gram of pure saffron threads can be bought for under $10 and will last weeks, we can’t justify prices for extracts (powdered saffron) that work out to a hundreds of dollars per month.

 

What to consider when buying saffron

The most important consideration when you buy saffron is quality.  Saffron should consist entirely of red threads, yellow threads are other parts of the flower (styles and stamens) which contain no active compounds.  In a lower quality saffron they are not removed in order to reduce cost of production, and to bulk up the product for sale.

European saffron is traditionally sold in this way, and for use traditionally in cooking this is not a problem, and many recipes imply a mild saffron.  European saffron is said to be less bitter than Persian saffron and this is one of the key reasons, it simply contains less active compounds.

Freshness is important too, saffron should always smell strong and aromatic, never musty or old.  Saffron should be dry and brittle to the touch, if it is moist and spongy it means that it hasn’t been properly dried, again adding to the weight and reducing the concentration of active compounds per gram. 

Persian saffron is sun dried until it is brittle, and then it is sealed into its packaging.  European saffron is traditionally oven dried or dehumidified until dry but not brittle.   In a European saffron the yellow threads are typically not removed, and hold more moisture than the red threads.  Once packaged if they remain in the package for too long they can start to smell musty. 


The typical nutrient breakdown of saffron as sourced from the US Nutrient Data Library is shown below.

 

NUTRIENT UNIT VALUE PER 100G
     
Proximates
   
Water g 11.9
Energy kcal 310
Protein g 11.43
Total lipid (fat) g 5.85
Carbohydrate, by difference g 65.37
Fiber, total dietary g 3.9
Minerals    
Calcium, Ca mg 111
Iron, Fe mg 11.1
Magnesium, Mg mg 264
Phosphorus, P mg 252
Potassium, K mg 1724
Sodium, Na mg 148
Zinc, Zn mg 1.09
Vitamins    
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 80.8
Thiamin mg 0.115
Riboflavin mg 0.267
Niacin mg 1.46
Vitamin B-6 mg 1.01
Folate, DFE µg 93
Vitamin B-12 µg 0
Vitamin A, RAE µg 27
Vitamin A, IU IU 530
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) µg 0
Vitamin D IU 0
Lipids    
Fatty acids, total saturated g 1.586
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 0.429
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 2.067
Cholesterol mg 0
Other    
Caffeine mg 0

 



 

 

 




 

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