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Turmeric vs. Saffron — Health Impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Elen Khachatrian by Elen Khachatrian | Last updated on July 10, 2023
Medically reviewed by Jack Yacoubian Article author photo Jack  Yacoubian
Turmeric
vs
Saffron

Summary

Saffron is richer in magnesium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. In comparison, turmeric is richer iron, copper, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B5, vitamin E, and vitamin K. 

Their macros are different. However, we consume them in low amounts, so it makes the macros insignificant. 

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. 
In this article, we will dive deep into their differences regarding the general aspects, nutritional content, and health impacts. 

Uses

Turmeric and saffron are essential 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, paellas, and pilafs.

Price

Saffron is a costly 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 a cheaper spice comparatively. 

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.

Since we are consuming these as spices in very low amounts, their macronutrient amount and fiber content does not have much significance. However, we will include them in this comparison. 

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.

We consume very low amounts that these are mostly insignificant.

Vitamins

Saffron is vitamin dense compared to turmeric. Saffron is richer in vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C. In comparison, turmeric is richer in vitamin B5, vitamin E, and vitamin K. 

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
:
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +11442.9%
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 - 1.46
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 89% 0% 3% 15% 35% 26% 33% 25% 15% 0% 34%
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%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin C +11442.9%
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 - 1.46

Minerals

Tumeric has a higher mineral content than saffron. It has three times more iron, copper and zinc, 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.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" charts below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food.
Contains more Calcium +51.4%
Contains more Iron +395.5%
Contains more Phosphorus +18.7%
Contains more Potassium +20.6%
Contains less Sodium -81.8%
Contains more Zinc +312.8%
Contains more Copper +296.3%
Contains more Selenium +10.7%
Contains more Magnesium +26.9%
Contains more Manganese +43.5%
Equal in Selenium - 5.6
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 51% 2063% 149% 129% 184% 4% 123% 434% 2583% 34%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium 34% 417% 189% 108% 153% 20% 30% 110% 3706% 31%
Contains more Calcium +51.4%
Contains more Iron +395.5%
Contains more Phosphorus +18.7%
Contains more Potassium +20.6%
Contains less Sodium -81.8%
Contains more Zinc +312.8%
Contains more Copper +296.3%
Contains more Selenium +10.7%
Contains more Magnesium +26.9%
Contains more Manganese +43.5%
Equal in Selenium - 5.6

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.

However, the glycemic load of saffron is much lower because the serving size is 0.5, making the glycemic load low.

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 amounts 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 minor quantities, so calories will not matter so much.

You can read about saffron vs. safflower in this article. 

Health Benefits

Anti-inflammatory Effects

Turmeric contains bioactive compounds that are called curcumin. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant that also has anti-inflammatory effects. Studies suggest that the daily intake of curcumin should be 1 gram, which may be challenging to reach if you use turmeric spice only. To get this dosage daily, you need to consume different types of foods rich in curcumin, and they are mostly from the ginger family. [1].

Saffron is also a good source of potent antioxidants 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 an excellent 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, leading to several types of cancer [5].

Diabetes

According to the study, saffron extract can reduce hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia risk in diabetic rats [6]. Another study showed that saffron could lower blood sugar levels and raise insulin sensitivity [7]. Nevertheless, more research is needed. Turmeric may help with blood sugar management in 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, a daily intake of 30 mg of saffron for four 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 small 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. Some people can have side effects such as stomach upset, dizziness, or diarrhea in rare cases. These side effects can be common only at higher doses [13] [14].

Article author photo Elen Khachatrian
Education: Nutrition & Microbiology at YSU
Last updated: July 10, 2023
Medically reviewed by Jack Yacoubian

Infographic

Turmeric vs Saffron infographic
Infographic link

Macronutrient Comparison

Macronutrient breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains more Other +29.9%
Contains more Protein +18.1%
Contains more Fats +80%
Equal in Carbs - 65.37
Equal in Water - 11.9
10% 3% 67% 13% 7%
Protein: 9.68 g
Fats: 3.25 g
Carbs: 67.14 g
Water: 12.85 g
Other: 7.08 g
11% 6% 65% 12% 5%
Protein: 11.43 g
Fats: 5.85 g
Carbs: 65.37 g
Water: 11.9 g
Other: 5.45 g
Contains more Other +29.9%
Contains more Protein +18.1%
Contains more Fats +80%
Equal in Carbs - 65.37
Equal in Water - 11.9

Fat Type Comparison

Fat type breakdown side-by-side comparison
Contains less Saturated Fat -13.7%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +173.4%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 0.429
60% 15% 25%
Saturated Fat: 1.838 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.449 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 0.756 g
39% 11% 51%
Saturated Fat: 1.586 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0.429 g
Polyunsaturated fat: 2.067 g
Contains less Saturated Fat -13.7%
Contains more Polyunsaturated fat +173.4%
Equal in Monounsaturated Fat - 0.429

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the rightmost column. It displays the amounts side by side, giving a clearer understanding of the difference.
Turmeric Saffron
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

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Turmeric Saffron Opinion
Net carbs 44.44g 61.47g Saffron
Protein 9.68g 11.43g Saffron
Fats 3.25g 5.85g Saffron
Carbs 67.14g 65.37g Turmeric
Calories 312kcal 310kcal Turmeric
Fructose 0.45g Turmeric
Sugar 3.21g Saffron
Fiber 22.7g 3.9g Turmeric
Calcium 168mg 111mg Turmeric
Iron 55mg 11.1mg Turmeric
Magnesium 208mg 264mg Saffron
Phosphorus 299mg 252mg Turmeric
Potassium 2080mg 1724mg Turmeric
Sodium 27mg 148mg Turmeric
Zinc 4.5mg 1.09mg Turmeric
Copper 1.3mg 0.328mg Turmeric
Manganese 19.8mg 28.408mg Saffron
Selenium 6.2µg 5.6µg Turmeric
Vitamin A 0IU 530IU Saffron
Vitamin A RAE 0µg 27µg Saffron
Vitamin E 4.43mg Turmeric
Vitamin C 0.7mg 80.8mg Saffron
Vitamin B1 0.058mg 0.115mg Saffron
Vitamin B2 0.15mg 0.267mg Saffron
Vitamin B3 1.35mg 1.46mg Saffron
Vitamin B5 0.542mg Turmeric
Vitamin B6 0.107mg 1.01mg Saffron
Folate 20µg 93µg Saffron
Vitamin K 13.4µg Turmeric
Tryptophan 0.17mg Turmeric
Threonine 0.33mg Turmeric
Isoleucine 0.47mg Turmeric
Leucine 0.81mg Turmeric
Lysine 0.38mg Turmeric
Methionine 0.14mg Turmeric
Phenylalanine 0.53mg Turmeric
Valine 0.66mg Turmeric
Histidine 0.15mg Turmeric
Trans Fat 0.056g 0g Saffron
Saturated Fat 1.838g 1.586g Saffron
Omega-3 - DPA 0g 0.006g Saffron
Monounsaturated Fat 0.449g 0.429g Turmeric
Polyunsaturated fat 0.756g 2.067g Saffron
Omega-6 - Gamma-linoleic acid 0.081g Turmeric
Omega-3 - ALA 0.003g Turmeric

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Turmeric Saffron
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low Glycemic Index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score

The summary scores indicate the extent to which this food can fulfill your daily vitamin and mineral requirements if you consume 3 servings, consisting of 100 grams of each (an approximation of 3 serving sizes).
Vitamins Daily Need Coverage Score
23%
Turmeric
60%
Saffron
Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
575%
Turmeric
479%
Saffron

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)

References

All the values for which the sources are not specified explicitly are taken from FDA’s Food Central. The exact link to the food presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Turmeric - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172231/nutrients
  2. Saffron - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170934/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.