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Saffron vs Turmeric - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Saffron
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Turmeric

Introduction

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.

Varieties

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.

Uses

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.

Price

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.

Nutrition

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.

Micronutrients

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.

Vitamins

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.

Minerals

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.

Glycemic Index

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.

Acidity

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.

Calories

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.

Health Benefits

Anti-inflammatory Effects

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 [1].

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 [2].

Weight Loss

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 [3].

Cancer

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 [4]. 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 [5].

Diabetes

According to the rat study, saffron extract can reduce hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia risk in diabetic rats [6]. Another study showed that saffron can lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin sensitivity [7]. 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 [8].

Cardiovascular Health

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 [9].

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 [10].

Aphrodisiac Effect

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 [11]. 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 [12].

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 [13] [14].

Summary

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.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17044766/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23497863/
  3. h286368958_Saffron_A_Functional_Spicettps://www.researchgate.net/publication/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2758121/
  5. https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/acamc/2019/00000019/00000001/art00009
  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2014/920857/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22980812/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3857752/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466873/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23146777/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22552758/
  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1743609518301838
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26877844/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25853978/
Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Profession: Nutrition & Microbiology at YSU
Last updated: May 31, 2021

Infographic

Saffron vs Turmeric infographic
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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 Magnesium +26.9%
Contains more Iron +395.5%
Contains more Calcium +51.4%
Contains more Potassium +20.6%
Contains more Copper +296.3%
Contains more Zinc +312.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +18.7%
Contains less Sodium -81.8%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 417% 34% 153% 189% 110% 30% 108% 20%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 2063% 51% 184% 149% 434% 123% 129% 4%
Contains more Magnesium +26.9%
Contains more Iron +395.5%
Contains more Calcium +51.4%
Contains more Potassium +20.6%
Contains more Copper +296.3%
Contains more Zinc +312.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +18.7%
Contains less Sodium -81.8%

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 C +11442.9%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +98.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +78%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +843.9%
Contains more Folate +365%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 1.35
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 270% 32% 0% 0% 29% 62% 28% 0% 234% 0% 0% 70%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 3% 0% 89% 0% 15% 35% 26% 33% 25% 0% 34% 15%
Contains more Vitamin C +11442.9%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +98.3%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +78%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +843.9%
Contains more Folate +365%
Equal in Vitamin B3 - 1.35

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
23
Turmeric
Mineral Summary Score
132
Saffron
392
Turmeric

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
58%
Turmeric
Carbohydrates
65%
Saffron
67%
Turmeric
Fats
27%
Saffron
15%
Turmeric

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 Turmeric
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

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

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Turmeric
Turmeric contains less Sodium (difference - 121mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Turmeric
Turmeric is lower in glycemic index (difference - 70)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Turmeric
Turmeric is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Saffron
Saffron is lower in Sugar (difference - 3.21g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Saffron
Saffron is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.252g)
Which food is cheaper?
Saffron
Saffron is cheaper (difference - $0.3)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Saffron
Saffron is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Saffron Turmeric Opinion
Calories 310 312 Turmeric
Protein 11.43 9.68 Saffron
Fats 5.85 3.25 Saffron
Vitamin C 80.8 0.7 Saffron
Carbs 65.37 67.14 Turmeric
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 11.1 55 Turmeric
Calcium 111 168 Turmeric
Potassium 1724 2080 Turmeric
Magnesium 264 208 Saffron
Sugar 3.21 Saffron
Fiber 3.9 22.7 Turmeric
Copper 0.328 1.3 Turmeric
Zinc 1.09 4.5 Turmeric
Starch
Phosphorus 252 299 Turmeric
Sodium 148 27 Turmeric
Vitamin A 530 0 Saffron
Vitamin E 4.43 Turmeric
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.115 0.058 Saffron
Vitamin B2 0.267 0.15 Saffron
Vitamin B3 1.46 1.35 Saffron
Vitamin B5 0.542 Turmeric
Vitamin B6 1.01 0.107 Saffron
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 13.4 Turmeric
Folate 93 20 Saffron
Trans Fat 0 0.056 Saffron
Saturated Fat 1.586 1.838 Saffron
Monounsaturated Fat 0.429 0.449 Turmeric
Polyunsaturated fat 2.067 0.756 Saffron
Tryptophan 0.17 Turmeric
Threonine 0.33 Turmeric
Isoleucine 0.47 Turmeric
Leucine 0.81 Turmeric
Lysine 0.38 Turmeric
Methionine 0.14 Turmeric
Phenylalanine 0.53 Turmeric
Valine 0.66 Turmeric
Histidine 0.15 Turmeric
Fructose 0.45 Turmeric

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. Turmeric - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172231/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.