Saffron vs Safflower - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
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.
Table of contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Glycemic Index of safflower is unknown, and saffron has a GI equal to 70.
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.
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.
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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 .
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  .
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|