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Saffron vs Safflower - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Elen Khachatrian by Elen Khachatrian | Last updated on October 12, 2021
Education: Nutrition & Microbiology at YSU
Saffron
vs
Safflower

Summary

Safflower contains more fats, protein, vitamins, monounsaturated fat, and less sodium than saffron. Besides, safflower is cheaper and has a lower GI. On the other hand, saffron has more fiber, carbs and contains less saturated fats.

Introduction

Safflower and saffron are similar enough, so they are sometimes mistaken for each other. These herbs both have bright pigment that can provide color in a dish; they both are used as a flavor. Despite similarities, however, there are specific apparent differences between the two. We will discuss those similarities and differences in the following sections of the article.

What's The Actual Difference?

The main difference is flavor. Safflower has a relatively mild flavor, while saffron provides a subtly metallic flavor with earthy notes. They also differ in color. Saffron has a more delicate color compared to safflower. Safflower is bright red, while saffron has yellow pigment. Besides, you need a small amount of saffron to give the food a rich yellow color, whereas you will need to use more safflower for a similar effect.

Varieties

Saffron belongs to the Crocus genus, related to ginger. The common saffron type is Persian Saffron, which is native to Ancient Persia. Saffron is the stigma of the plant flower.

Safflower belongs to the Carthamus genus. This herb produces two types of oil: monounsaturated fatty acid and polyunsaturated fatty acid.

Uses

Saffron and safflower are widely used in Indian and Italian cooking. Indian chefs use it in rice dishes, and Italian chefs use it in risotto.

Saffron is an essential ingredient in the classic French dishes bouillabaisse and paella.

Safflower is prized for its oil that can be used to cook food over high heat.

Price

Saffron is a costly spice. Its' cost falls in the range of 500 to 5.000 U.S. dollars for 450 grams. Saffron is so expensive due to its labor-intensive harvesting method. Safflower is way cheaper than saffron.

Nutrition

In this section of the article, you can find a detailed nutritional description of saffron and safflower. You can find a nutrition infographic at the bottom of this pagethat visually shows the main differences between safflower and saffron.

Micronutrients

Comparing these spices, we can see that saffron contains more fiber and carbs, while safflower is higher in fats and protein.The amount of saturated fats is higher in saffron, where as safflower has more polyunsaturated fats. Both contain no cholesterol.

Vitamins

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin A +960%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +911.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +55.4%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +56.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +15.8%
Contains more Folate +72%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 32% 0% 0% 270% 29% 62% 28% 0% 234% 70% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 3% 0% 0% 0% 291% 96% 43% 242% 270% 120% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +960%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +911.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +55.4%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +56.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +15.8%
Contains more Folate +72%

Safflower is relatively richer in vitamins than saffron. It contains nine times more Vitamin B1, more Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, and folate. On the other hand, saffron has nine times more Vitamin A and more Vitamin C. Both lack Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B5, and Vitamin B12. In addition, safflower has no Vitamin C.

Minerals

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Calcium +42.3%
Contains more Iron +126.5%
Contains more Potassium +150.9%
Contains more Magnesium +33.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +155.6%
Contains less Sodium -98%
Contains more Zinc +363.3%
Contains more Copper +432.6%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 34% 417% 189% 108% 153% 20% 30% 110%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 24% 184% 253% 276% 61% 1% 138% 583%
Contains more Calcium +42.3%
Contains more Iron +126.5%
Contains more Potassium +150.9%
Contains more Magnesium +33.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +155.6%
Contains less Sodium -98%
Contains more Zinc +363.3%
Contains more Copper +432.6%

Both saffron and safflower are packed with minerals; however, mineral amounts are different. Saffron has more iron, calcium, and potassium than safflower. On the other hand, safflower has a higher magnesium level. It also contains three times more zinc, four times more copper, phosphorus, and less sodium than saffron.

Glycemic Index

The Glycemic Index of safflower is unknown, and saffron has a GI equal to 70.

Acidity

Saffron is an alkaline spice, while safflower is an acidic spice. Saffron has a pH equal to 29.6, whereas safflower has a pH equal to 7.1. That means, taking saffron in high doses may increase your risk of indigestion and nausea.

Calories

The number of calories of safflower is almost two times higher than that of saffron. Saffron contains 310 calories per 100 g, while safflower has 517 calories per 100 g. Nonetheless, people often consume spices in minor quantities, so calories will not matter so much.

Health Benefits

Diabetes

According to research, safflower oil may help improve insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels in obese postmenopausal women with type2 diabetes. What's more, safflower oil can reduce abdominal fat and increase muscle tissue in this group of women after 16 weeks, as it contains a polyunsaturated fatty acid called linoleic acid [1].

On the other hand, saffron may also be beneficial for type 2 diabetes. Research shows that hydroalcoholic saffron extract can significantly improve blood glucose control by lowering serum FBS levels in type 2 diabetes patients. However, more research is required [2].

Anti-inflammatory Effects

According to studies, safflower is an excellent source of polyphenolic compounds. These compounds can inhibit nitric oxide synthase's pro-inflammatory activity and have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-oxidation effects [3].

On the other hand, saffron also contains antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects as well.This plant contains kaempferol, a compound that may help to reduce inflammation [4].

Weight Loss

In one eight-week study, women who took saffron supplements felt significantly fuller and lost significantly more weight than women in the placebo group.

Other research shows that saffron extract may help people with coronary heart disease by lowering body mass index, total fat mass, and waist circumference. The study found that people taking the supplement also had decreased appetite. Cooking saffron is an easy way to add it to your diet without the risk of snacking [5].

Cancer

Saffron is an excellent source of potent antioxidants, including crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal, which help fight against oxidative stress and free radicals. Free radicals can damage human cells, and that can lead to several types of cancer. Besides, mentioned antioxidants can contribute to the death of cancer cells and reduce angiogenesis [6].

Research shows that safflower seed inhibits the proliferation of human cancer cells. In particular, safflower seed inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Safflower seeds treatment may contribute to the death of cancer cells as well [7].

Cardiovascular Health

According to studies, saffron may help to reduce blood pressure and provide protection against heart disease. In addition, several components of saffron may reduce the possibility of "bad" LDL cholesterol causing tissue damage [8].

Safflower oil is rich in oleic acid, which has many health benefits. Research shows that taking safflower oil daily for 16 weeks can be an effective way to lower your risk of heart disease. Eating 1.5 tablespoons of safflower oil can help prevent heart disease. However, more research is needed [9].

Aphrodisiac Effect

Research has shown that saffron has aphrodisiac effects, especially in people taking antidepressants. According to a study, a daily intake of 30 mg of saffron for four weeks can improve erectile function compared to a placebo in men with erectile dysfunction associated with antidepressant medication.

In addition, an analysis of six studies found that saffron supplementation significantly improved erectile function, libido, and overall satisfaction but did not improve sperm performance [10].

Other Health benefits

The antioxidant properties of saffron may improve cognitive function in adults with Alzheimer's. Besides, saffron can improve vision in adults with AMD and protect against free radical damage associated with AMD [11].

Safflower oil contains Vitamin E, which has beneficial effects on the skin. It can protect the skin from the effects of sunlight and free radicals [12].

Downside and Risks

Saffron is possibly safe if it is taken in minor amounts. However, too much consumption of saffron can cause an allergy reaction,vomiting, dizziness, and yellowing of the skin.

People with bleeding disorders who have had surgery should avoid excessive consumption of saffron. It can thin the blood and slow blood clotting, increasing the risk of bleeding [13] [14].

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21295383/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22980812/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7466186/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6535192/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20579522/
  6. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/acamc/2019/00000019/00000001/art00009
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25673029/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466873/
  9. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/etm.2017.5414
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22552758/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26263962/
  12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17719081/
  13. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1398-9995.1997.tb01042.x
  14. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0021870764900474
Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Education: Nutrition & Microbiology at YSU
Last updated: October 12, 2021

Infographic

Saffron vs Safflower infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Saffron Safflower
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Saffron Safflower Opinion
Net carbs 61.47g 34.29g Saffron
Protein 11.43g 16.18g Safflower
Fats 5.85g 38.45g Safflower
Carbs 65.37g 34.29g Saffron
Calories 310kcal 517kcal Safflower
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar g g
Fiber 3.9g g Saffron
Calcium 111mg 78mg Saffron
Iron 11.1mg 4.9mg Saffron
Magnesium 264mg 353mg Safflower
Phosphorus 252mg 644mg Safflower
Potassium 1724mg 687mg Saffron
Sodium 148mg 3mg Safflower
Zinc 1.09mg 5.05mg Safflower
Copper 0.328mg 1.747mg Safflower
Vitamin A 530IU 50IU Saffron
Vitamin E mg mg
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 80.8mg 0mg Saffron
Vitamin B1 0.115mg 1.163mg Safflower
Vitamin B2 0.267mg 0.415mg Safflower
Vitamin B3 1.46mg 2.284mg Safflower
Vitamin B5 mg 4.03mg Safflower
Vitamin B6 1.01mg 1.17mg Safflower
Folate 93µg 160µg Safflower
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K µg µg
Tryptophan mg 0.183mg Safflower
Threonine mg 0.586mg Safflower
Isoleucine mg 0.717mg Safflower
Leucine mg 1.154mg Safflower
Lysine mg 0.534mg Safflower
Methionine mg 0.284mg Safflower
Phenylalanine mg 0.806mg Safflower
Valine mg 1.025mg Safflower
Histidine mg 0.452mg Safflower
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g g Safflower
Saturated Fat 1.586g 3.682g Saffron
Monounsaturated Fat 0.429g 4.848g Safflower
Polyunsaturated fat 2.067g 28.223g Safflower

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Saffron Safflower
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
60
Saffron
89
Safflower
Mineral Summary Score
132
Saffron
190
Safflower

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
69%
Saffron
97%
Safflower
Carbohydrates
65%
Saffron
34%
Safflower
Fats
27%
Saffron
177%
Safflower

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Saffron
Saffron is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.096g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Safflower
Safflower contains less Sodium (difference - 145mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Safflower
Safflower is lower in glycemic index (difference - 70)
Which food is cheaper?
Safflower
Safflower is cheaper (difference - $1.4)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Safflower
Safflower is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar ( g)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Saffron - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170934/nutrients
  2. Safflower - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170558/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.