Saffron vs Turmeric - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Turmeric is one of the main ingredients in the Indian kitchen. It has a golden yellow color and a bitter taste with a peppery flavor. Saffron also has yellow pigment but it has a light flavor that is different from the flavor of turmeric. Despite a few main similarities, these two are very different from each other. Now let’s look at each of them individually.
Saffron belongs to the genus Crocus sativus, related to ginger. Saffron provides a flavor that is subtly metallic with earthy and nutty notes. One of the well-known saffron types is Persian Saffron, which is probably native to Ancient Persia. Turmeric belongs to the Ginger family Zingiberaceae, it is native to the Indian subcontinent. There are two most common types of turmeric; Madras and Alleppey. Madras turmeric is light yellow whereas Alleppey turmeric is much darker in color.
Turmeric and saffron are very important for several classic dishes because of their bright colors and flavor. In the Indian kitchen, turmeric is one of the main ingredients in curry and vegetable curry. Saffron is widely used in many traditional European and Persian dishes, such as baghali polo or paellas, and pilafs.
Saffron is a very expensive spice. The cost falls in the range of 500 to 5.000 U.S. dollars for 450 grams. This spice is so expensive because of its labor-intensive harvesting method, making the production costly.
Turmeric is also an expensive spice because it requires more raw material and resources to process.
However, saffron is cheaper than turmeric. The difference between the prices of these spices is about $0.3.
In this section of the article, you can find a detailed nutritional description of turmeric and saffron. Please find a nutrition infographic at the bottom of this page that visually shows the main differences between these spices.
In comparison, turmeric contains more fiber and carbs, while saffron is higher in fats and protein. The amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fat are also higher in saffron. Both contain no cholesterol.
Both saffron and turmeric are packed with vitamins, however, vitamin amounts are different. Saffron is relatively richer in vitamins. It contains 56 times more Vitamin C, 9 times more Vitamin B, and 3 times more Folate than turmeric. The levels of Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B1, and Vitamin A are also higher in saffron. Both contain equal levels of Vitamin B3.
Tumeric has a higher mineral content than saffron. It has 3 times more iron, copper and zinc, more potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus than saffron. It also contains less sodium than saffron. On the other hand, saffron has a higher magnesium level than turmeric.
The glycemic index of turmeric is much lower than that of saffron. The GI of turmeric is equal to 0, whereas saffron has a GI equal to 70. Turmeric is considered a low glycemic index food.
On average, both spices are way alkaline. However, the acidity of turmeric is higher than that of saffron. It has a pH equal to 35.5, whereas saffron has a pH equal to 29.6. That means, Taking these spices in high doses may increase your risk of indigestion, and nausea.
The number of calories of these spices is almost equal. Turmeric contains 312 calories per 100 g, and saffron has 310 calories per 100 g. However, people often consume these spices in little quantities, so calories will not matter so much.
Turmeric contains bioactive compounds that are called curcumin. Curcumin is a strong antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory effects. Studies suggest that the daily intake of curcumin should be 1 gram, which may be difficult to reach if you use turmeric spice only. To get this dosage daily, you need to take a supplement that contains significant amounts of curcumin .
Saffron is also a good source of strong antioxidants and that have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Saffron contains kaempferol, a compound that may help to reduce inflammation .
According to the study, taking a saffron extract may help people with coronary artery disease by reducing their body mass index, total fat mass, and waist circumference. The study showed that people who took the supplement also had a reduced appetite. Cooking with saffron is an easy way to add it to your diet without the risk of consuming too much of it .
Turmeric is a great source of curcumin. In vitro and animal studies show that curcumin can reduce the growth of cancer cells. It can contribute to the death of cancer cells and reduce angiogenesis . On the other hand, saffron contains powerful 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 .
According to the rat study, saffron extract can reduce hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia risk in diabetic rats . Another study showed that saffron can lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin sensitivity . Nevertheless, more research is needed. Turmeric may help with blood sugar management in people with type 2 diabetes, because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. According to the study, turmeric extract may help stabilize blood sugar levels and make diabetes more manageable .
Several components of saffron may help to reduce blood pressure and provide protection against heart disease. According to the study, saffron may reduce the possibility “bad” LDL cholesterol cause tissue damage .
The main component of turmeric, curcumin, has beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease. It may improve the function of the endothelium that lines your blood vessels. According to some studies, curcumin may improve endothelial function .
According to the study, daily intake of 30 mg of saffron for 4 weeks may improve erectile function over placebo in men with antidepressant-related erectile dysfunction . On the other hand, turmeric may also help to treat erectile dysfunction. According to the study, a topical ointment made from curcumin can reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to the groin, and improve vasodilation .
Downside and Risks
Saffron is possibly safe in little amounts. However, excessive consumption of saffron is harmful and causes vomiting, decreased heart rate, dizziness, lethargy, yellowing of the skin, and other dangerous complications that can even lead to death.
Turmeric usually doesn't cause serious side effects. In rare cases, some people can have side effects such as stomach upset, dizziness, or diarrhea. These side effects can be common only at higher doses  .
In summary, saffron contains more fats, protein, vitamins, and has fewer sugars and lower levels of saturated fats than turmeric. On the other hand, turmeric has more fiber, carbs, minerals, less sodium, and has a lower GI than saffron.
Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|
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All nutrients comparison - raw data values