Saffron means “yellow” in Arabic because when used in cooking, it confers a yellow tint to foods. Harvesting saffron requires intensive labor; an estimated 75,000 flowers are need to produce just 1 lb. of saffron.
Saffron is a famous, delightful and an expensive spice known for its color, flavor and medicinal properties. Saffron is actually the threads or the stigma of the flower of the S. crocus plant. The flowers contain many essential volatile oils, the important one being safranal, which gives saffron its distinct hay-like flavor. Botanically known as Crocus Sativus, saffron is a perennial plant belonging to the family of Iridaceae of the genus Crocus. Saffron is an exotic spice native to Southern Europe and is now cultivated around the world particularly in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Iran and Turkey and in Jammu and Kashmir state of India. This orange-yellow colored spice is used for various medicinal purposes due to its strong flavoring properties. This article provides you with the health and nutrition benefits of eating saffron, along with its nutritional value.
Some Benefits of Saffron:
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends taking 30 mg of saffron per day to treat depression. According to the website, saffron has comparable efficacy to fluoxetine for depression, but reports that conclusive studies are still needed to make a firm conclusion. Saffron may be beneficial when long-term treatments are needed to alleviate depression because there are no known side effects associated with taking the herb medicinally.
A study conducted by Professor Silvia Bisti at ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science and University of L’Aquila in Italy, found that saffron may slow or prevent age-related vision loss and treat macular degeneration. Saffron is an anti-oxidant, but it appears to have additional qualities that particularly affect vision. The researchers found that saffron may alter genes responsible for the fatty acid content vision cell membranes, which impacts the strength and resilience of eye tissue.
Saffron contains compounds called crocetin and crocin that may improve memory and cognitive processing, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. These properties may be a useful for treating degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Memory and cognitive decline are common disorders in the elderly population, and saffron is a relatively mild treatment that may be effective.
Saffron may fight cancerous tumor growth according to website Drugs.com. The action of the herb is not known, however, saffron may prevent tumors from spreading while leaving the healthy cells unaffected. Saffron may also be effective used concurrently with some conventional cancer treatments, while leaving the medication’s effects unadulterated.
Nutrition Benefits Of Eating Saffron
- Saffron is very much effective in lowering the blood cholesterol level and triglycerides among the heart patients. Saffron was even used in ancient times to increase blood circulation and relieve stomach aches and kidney stones.
- Saffron contains carotenoids, which helps in increasing the oxygen diffusivity in the plasma and other liquids. It also helps in improving pulmonary oxygenation.
- The presence of carotenoids in saffron also helps to curb skin tumors and improve arthritis.
- The different active components in saffron bring about a positive effect on people with neurodegenerative disorders and memory impairment.
- Saffron, when rubbed or massaged on the gums, helps in reducing soreness and inflammation of the mouth and tongue.
- Herbalists believe that saffron is capable of treating cancer, as it contains anti-cancer properties. However, the effectiveness of saffron in treating cancer is still under research.
- Saffron is also believed to be as effective as Prozac in treating mild and moderate depression.
- Saffron is said to possess many plant derived chemical compounds that are known to have anti-oxidant, disease preventing and health promoting properties.
- Saffron is also rich in vitamins including vitamin A, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C, all of which are essential in providing optimum health. The active components that are part of saffron have much therapeutic application in many traditional medications as anti-spasmodic, carminative and diaphoretic.
- Saffron also contains several antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and lycopene that help in protecting the body from oxidant induced stress, infections and acts of immune modulators.
- This particular spice is also a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that help in controlling the heart rate and blood pressure. On the other hand, manganese and copper are used as co-factors for antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase by the body. Iron also plays a role in increasing the count of red blood cells in the body.
Saffron Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms
- fresh shiitake mushrooms (one package/bunch)
- 1 medium size onion
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 32 ounces (3 cups) of organic sodium-free chicken stock (or) just water
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan + more for serving
- 2 tbsp. salted butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (1st press, cold press, extra virgin olive oil)
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 pinch of saffron threads
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- red pepper flakes
- salt & white pepper to taste
Directions: I cook my risotto quiet differently from the standard stirring over and over… it works out and taste just as good when I cook my risotto as a standard rice recipe.
- clean and slice the mushrooms, peel & chop the onions, and then saute onions in a pot with butter & olive oil for a minute or two, add mushroom, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes, saute for another few minutes.
- then add rice for a quick saute, add stock/water, & wine
- wait until you see a slight bubbling but not boil, then lowers the heat to low
- add saffron, thyme, fresh parsley, and grated parmesan, stir and cover for 20 – 25 minutes
- it’s ready at 20 minutes if you like your rice on the al dente side, slightly cook more for a moist/fluffy rice (25 minutes). I like it more al dente…
- top off with more grated parmesan cheese and a few parsley leaves for presentation.