Saffron springs from a purple flower hailing from the lily family, which is usually called a "saffron crocus." The saffron comes from dried "threads" found in the stigmas of this flower, which must be handpicked and then cured over heat to become the spice we know and love.

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This arduous process means that it can take 75,000 blossoms to create a single pound of saffron, and that it's the most expensive spice in the world. Luckily, only small doses of saffron are needed to improve your food's flavor⁠—and to improve your health!

Saffron's taste is usually described as a floral one and its color ranges from yellow to a deep red. This hue comes from the carotenoid crocin, which also happens to be a powerful antioxidant.

Other antioxidants that can be found in saffron include safranal and kaempferol, which has known anti-cancer properties. Meanwhile, crocin has been found to inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells and saffron compounds have shown other anticancer benefits in both human cell cultures and in animals, including enhancing the effect of certain chemotherapy medications.

Perhaps more relevant to the 123Diet's constituents, saffron compounds have also been associated with lowered appetite, reduced dietary intakes, and weight loss in both men and women.

The ladies may also be interested in the fact that consumption of a herbal mixture that included saffron led women to experience less pain during their periods, perhaps of the spice's relaxing effect on smooth muscle. Plus, even smelling saffron was found to decrease the levels of stress hormone cortisol in menstruating women.

Saffron has also been found to be significantly more effective than a placebo at improving symptoms of depression and postpartum depression. In fact, it may even do so as effectively as the antidepressants fluoxetine (Prozac), imipramine (Tofranil), and citalopram (Celexa). Saffron has also shown potential to combat anxiety, insomnia, and even schizophrenia.

On a more intimate note, saffron has also been shown to combat erectile dysfunction, including fluoxetine-related erectile dysfunction and the erectile dysfunction often experienced by diabetics.

Saffron also reduced fluoxetine-related sexual dysfunction in women, improving symptoms like low arousal and pain with intercourse. Even if you don't struggle with any of these issues, saffron still might help get you in the mood; rat studies have indicated saffron may also boost sexual desire!

That's not even all⁠—saffron has all kinds of little known potential health perks! For instance, it's been seen to help regulate the immune system and may even be effective against serious viral infections like HIV and the herpes simplex virus.

Saffron may fight age-related macular and retinal degeneration, inhibit the formation of atherosclerosis, prevent damage during a heart attack, lower cholesterol, and reduce inflammation.

It can combat the vascular complications of diabetes and increased insulin sensitivity in diabetics, plus protect against various toxins.

It's been associated with improved reaction time and athletic performance in a group of male university students and could slow down the neurodegeneration that can come with Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions.

Animal studies also suggest that saffron also has potential for treating neuropathic pain, heroin withdrawal, various digestive disorders, burn wounds, asthma, and high blood pressure.

Finally, saffron's bright colors also make it a promising substitute for dangerous food dyes. Jeez, is there anything that saffron can't do?

The amount of saffron you'd typically consume in a meal is too small to be a significant source of nutrients, but it will give you micro-doses of winners like vitamin C and potassium.

The benefits of saffron may be evident after you've tasted only 30 mg of it, but you should be able to safely consume as much as 1.5 grams at once. Just make sure you stop well short of a 5 gram dose, which is when the potential toxic effects would kick in.

These healthy and flavorful recipes for Curry Chicken with Konjac Rice, Moroccan Lemon Chicken, and Saffron Cabbage all call for a pinch of saffron. Keep them in mind if you'd like to enjoy a tasty, romantic meal that you won't have to regret the next time you step on a scale!

Curry Chicken with Konjac Rice

Curry chicken with konjac rice

Estimated nutritional value of 293 calories, 8.5g fat, 77 mg cholesterol, 23.1g carbohydrate, 6.3g fiber, 33.3g protein, and 9.6g sugar.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
20 minutes
1 serving (1 protein, 1 vegetable)


  • 100g chicken cooked and shredded
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Curry powder
  • 1tbs coconut milk/cream
  • Tumeric
  • Diced corriander
  • A pinch of saffron

Chop up, roast, mash, and blend tomatoes, onion, garlic and curry powder. Mix the blended sauce with the chicken while cooking. Wash some Konjac rice (half a packet). Add a little saffron, then add to the chicken. Cook for another 2-5 mins in the pan then serve.

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Moroccan Lemon Chicken

Roasted meat

This exotic dish is sure to hit the spot! Estimated nutritional value of 128 calories, 2.6 fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 4g carbohydrate, .6g fiber, 21.5 protein, and 3.5g sugar.

Prep Time
15 minutes
Cook time
30 minutes
Makes 1 serving (1 protein)


  • 100 grams chicken breast
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced onion
  • Pinch of ginger
  • Pinch of ground coriander
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Pinch of lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon slices

Marinate saffron strands in lemon juice, then crush into a paste. Add dry spices. Dip chicken breast in lemon juice and spice mixture. Rub additional spices into chicken breast with salt and pepper. Wrap individual servings in foil and cover with slices of lemon and a little of the saffron mixture. Bake chicken at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked and tender.

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Saffron Cabbage

Vegetables and fruit

This tasty recipe is sure to impress! Estimated nutritional value of 170 calories, 2.1g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 30.9g carbohydrate, 12g fiber, 11.3g protein, and 16.2g sugar.

Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook time
20 minutes
Makes 1-2 servings (1 vegetable)


  • Chopped cabbage (½ head)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 tablespoons onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed and minced
  • Pinch of saffron powder or threads softened in water and made into a paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • Dash of mustard powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, heat chicken broth and spices. Add cabbage and cover pan with a lid. Cook cabbage until tender, adding water if necessary to keep from burning, and coat with the spice mixture. Serve hot with chicken or chilled for a cool salad.

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