Saffron is a spice that is used as a colouring agent, for seasoning the food and in tradition medicine due to various medicinal health benefits.
Also known as Za’faran or Kesar, it is a spice that is obtained from the Crocus sativus plant. The flowers of Crocus sativus consists of thread-like, crimson coloured stigmas. These stigmas are collected and dried, producing saffron.
Saffron is considered to be the most costly spice in the world. It is expensive due to the difficulty of harvesting it and its immense benefits. Farmers need to harvest the delicate threads from the Crocus sativus flowers by hand. Attributing to saffron’s yellow colour and high cost, saffron is also referred to as ‘Golden Spice’.
Nutritional facts of Saffron
100 gm of saffron contains 310 calories, 6 gm of fats, 65 gm of carbohydrates, 3.9 gm of fibre, 148 mg of sodium, 11 gm of proteins, 5.8 gm of fats, 1724 mg of potassium, 111 mg of calcium, 24.4 mg of manganese, 11 mg of iron, 264 mg of magnesium.
Saffron contains vitamins such as folates, niacin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, vitamin A & C. It also contains copper, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc. There are approximately more than 150 chemicals present in saffron, but the ones responsible for the colour, odour, and taste of saffron are crocin, picrocrocin, crocetin, and safranal.
Potential Health Benefits of Saffron…
1. The antioxidant content of saffron helps in neutralising the harmful free radicals, which are associated with diseases such as cancer.
2. The high antioxidants in saffron help kill the cancer cells while un-harming the normal cells.
3. The carotenoid content of saffron has potent anti-tumour effects
4. The carotenoid and Crocin content of saffron makes saffron a potential cancer chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic agent.
Useful in depression
1. Saffron extracts increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine thus, supporting mental health.
2. The extracts of saffron help in enhancing the symptoms of major depression and postpartum depression.
3. Kesar helps treat anxiety, mood disorders, and depression.
Promotes heart health
1. Saffron strengthens the circulatory system thus, helps in decreasing the risk of heart disease.
2. Kesar contains high amounts of thiamin and riboflavin which promote heart health and prevent numerous heart conditions.
3. The crocetin content in saffron lowers blood cholesterol levels and decreases the intensity of atherosclerosis.
4. The antioxidant activity of kesar protects the blood vessels and arteries from clogging.
5. The anti-inflammatory properties of saffron benefit the heart.
Other possible benefits…
Saffron produces numerous health benefits, apart from the health benefits mentioned above, it also produces few more such as, reduces premenstrual syndrome symptoms, acts as an aphrodisiac, reduces appetite and aids weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels and improves eyesight.
It also prevents nervous system disorders, boosts mood, promotes libido, reduces the severity and duration of menstrual cramps, helps fight inflammation and arthritis, treats insomnia, promotes brain health, promotes digestive health, heals burn wounds, protects the liver, protects the skin from UV radiation, and enhances the complexion.
How to use Saffron?
Saffron can be used either in the thread or ground form. In case you wish to garnish your dish then, you can use it in the form of threads but in case you want saffron to blend with your dish then you can use it in the powdered form. It can be used in different ways, some of them are as follows:
- In biryanis.
- As saffron milk.
- As a supplement.
- Added in desserts.
- As a flavouring agent.
- As a marinade for fish.
- Used in grain-based recipes.
- In cakes, cookies, custard, sweetbreads, and pastries.
- For garnishing. Add a few strands to a cup of hot water and add it to a savoury dish at the end of cooking.
How to make Saffron Milk?
Take 7 to 9 saffron threads and ground the threads into a fine powder. Keep it aside.
Take 5 to 7 cardamom pods and grind it until the aroma is revealed. Keep it aside.
In a pan, add 4 cups of milk, the grounded cardamom, a handful of dried rose petals, and 1 cinnamon stick. Heat this to the temperature, just before it boils.
Now stir in the powdered saffron threads, 1 teaspoon rose water (optional), and sweetener.
Allow the milk to simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the colour fo milk changes to golden.
Strain, serve while warm.