Beyond Cooking: Two Surprising Health Benefits of Saffron
When most people think of saffron, the first thing that comes to mind is the cost. The luxurious spice comes from the flower Crocus sativus and is surprisingly accessible as an extract. Yes, the saffron extract is actually (relatively) affordable as a dietary supplement. What may also be surprising is the health benefits of saffron which include weight management, improved mood, and improved vision.
So, what does the research say about this valued culinary gem?
How Saffron Improves Vision
Saffron supports our vision in two major ways:
- It helps our visual acuity, which is the sharpness of our vision at a distance.
People supplementing with saffron showed an improvement in vision as measured by them seeing an average of two additional lines on the Snellen eye chart commonly used by doctors to test vision.
- Saffron improves the sensitivity of the retina to light in people with early macular degeneration.
Saffron protects and prevents the steady breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the center of the retina, the macula. This addresses the root cause of age-related macular degeneration and improves light sensitivity, a major manifestation of the disease.
People supplementing with saffron had stronger electrical responses to light overall. Researchers were able to determine these improvements by using testing that measures the electrical output of retinal cells in response to light stimulation.
How Saffron Helps With Weight Loss and Mood
You may be thinking: OK, if I lose weight, I’ll be happier. While that may be true, I think you’ll find it interesting to learn just how saffron encourages both weight loss and good mood.
- Saffron encourages healthy brain serotonin levels so that carbohydrate and other food cravings are minimized.
Saffron helps us feel satisfied (satiated) and enhances the activity of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain’s synapses.
When individuals have low serotonin levels it may cause carbohydrate cravings and emotional eating.
The reason that serotonin may be low in the first place is because of a pattern that develops from eating too many carbs. Excessive consumption of simple sugars can deplete serotonin levels, which can in turn cause the individual to crave more carbs.
- Since serotonin is in part responsible for our sense of well-being, having enough of it can keep us in a good mood, too.
Ever heard of SSRIs? Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medication. They allow serotonin to build up between brain cells so that chemical messages can be sent correctly.
You may already be taking an eye health blend that has lutein and zeaxanthin but consider adding saffron into the mix! Saffron extract is available as a supplement by itself as well.
About the author: Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N is a blogger & social media content specialist at Life Extension. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist residing in the South Florida area. Lapes believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease. You can see more of her blog posts by visiting http://blog.lifeextension.com and connect on social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!