Saffron is the very red powder that you likely use when cooking. It’s great for making food tastier while also giving it an appealing red hue (which we tend to associated with curry).
But did you know that saffron can also be used to help you lose weight? And to boost your mood? There’s actually a fair amount of promising research on this topic, so let’s take a look at whether it belongs in your fat-fighting kitchen arsenal.
How Saffron Combats Weight Gain and Improves the Mood
There are some reports that saffron can be used as an appetite suppressant (1, 2). According to these studies, supplementing the diet with saffron could help to reduce snacking frequency and provide a satiating effect. Several of these studies used relatively small sample sizes but there does appear to be a large enough number of studies to suggest that it has at least some benefit. One study even suggested that it could halve snacking behaviour.
What’s also interesting is the mechanism through which this reduced appetite may be achieved.
Specifically, saffron appears to be effective in helping to combat depression (3), though again larger scale studies are needed. The hypothesis is that saffron works by increasing serotonin, or what we know as the ‘feel good hormone’. Serotonin is not only negatively correlated with depression but is also linked to the production of other hormones such as melatonin (to encourage healthy sleep) and crucially, ghrelin (the hunger hormone).
This is also why we have a tendency to snack when we’re depressed. Comfort eating is a result of low serotonin which leads us to snack on cake and other things.
Before you get too excited about saffron’s ability to cure your fridge-raiding though, keep in mind that there are many reasons that we snack and not everyone is likely to see the benefits. Likewise, foods that raise serotonin are nothing new. In fact, anything high in vitamin C (such as orange juice) will also raise the hormone and thus give you a mood boost.
Saffron is not just useful for weight loss however. Actually, it has been highlighted as being useful for a range of different benefits including treatment of DOMS or ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ (4). This may suggest a use for bodybuilders or athletes even!
High doses of saffron have also been found to reduce immunoglobulin in healthy men temporarily and to reduce inflammation as a result. It may also be effective in reducing cortisol levels, making it a potentially useful anxiolytic (5).
It’s always important to keep these kinds of things in perspective. Saffron isn’t a miracle cure, as they simply do not exist. That said, there’s enough evidence suggesting a range of health benefits and this makes it certainly worth adding to your diet.
Keep some saffron in your cupboard and add it to your cooking where appropriate, you might just experience a mood boost as a result!