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Pregnancy has the potential to transform your physical and mental well-being to a great extent. Saffron is great during pregnancy, as it promotes positive emotions and possesses certain medicinal qualities that help deal with the symptoms of pregnancy. Saffron helps cope with feelings of anxiety, stress and stomach pain and is often recommended to pregnant women for its many qualities. However, like most things, saffron too may pose problems if it is not taken in moderation. Read on to discover the benefits, uses, and side-effects of saffron during pregnancy.
What is Saffron?
Saffron is the dried stigma of the crocus sativus flower. It is a thread-like structure that contains pollen, located at the centre of the flower. The saffron plant bears four flowers, from which the styles and crimson-coloured stigmata are collected and dried. A single flower contributes only three strands of saffron, and it takes approximately 14,000 saffron strands to produce one pound of saffron. A lot of effort and labour goes into harvesting these saffron threads, thus, making it one of the most expensive spices in the world.
It is cultivated mostly in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, and in India, this flower is only grown in Jammu & Kashmir. This exotic spice is referred to by different names based on the languages used in India, like saffron, kesar, koung, zaffran or kumkumapoovu.
Saffron is regarded as ‘The Golden Spice’ because it not just adds a unique aroma and flavour to food but also aids in health issues like digestion by forming a protective coating in the digestive tract. The yellow-orange colour imparted to the food containing saffron is a result of the carotenoid pigment crocetin present in it.
It is used in many beauty treatment creams, as it has certain medicinal properties and soothing effects on the skin. It helps the skin regain radiance and glow and helps maintain an even texture. Also, because of its antioxidant properties, it effectively slows down the ageing process. A commonly believed myth is that consuming saffron during pregnancy helps the baby have a fairer complexion.
Is it Safe to Consume Saffron During Pregnancy?
Yes, consuming saffron in pregnancy is safe because it has numerous medicinal properties. It helps to relieve stress, aches and pains, mood swings, and pregnancy discomforts. However, saffron also has certain adverse effects if taken in large amounts. It can trigger contractions and cause premature delivery. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind when adding saffron to your diet:
• Consume saffron only at the onset of the fifth month of gestation, as the pregnancy is stable at this time, and the risk of endangering the baby due to premature contractions is reduced .
• Use only two to three strands, at most, in any preparation, as excessive saffron may adversely affect your health.
• Saffron for pregnant women should be sourced only from a high-quality vendor to eliminate any risk of artificial colouring or impurities.
Benefits of Saffron For Pregnant Women
Saffron is essential and highly recommended during your pregnancy because of its medicinal nature. Its primary advantage is that it helps in digestion by forming a protective coating in the digestive tract. When consumed in moderation, the benefits of saffron during pregnancy include the following:
1. Reduces Mood Swings
Pregnancy triggers several hormonal changes in your body, and that has a profound effect on your feelings. You may go from being cranky at one moment to being impulsive or emotional in another. For such times, saffron can come to your rescue. It acts as an anti-depressant and boosts the blood flow to your brain. Consuming saffron results in the production of the hormone serotonin that elevates your mood.
2. Manages Blood Pressure
A woman’s heart rate can speed up by 25% during pregnancy, causing fluctuations in blood pressure. Saffron possesses potassium and crocetin that help in lowering your blood pressure. This feature can be beneficial during pregnancy.
3. Calms Morning Sickness
4. Aids In Digestion
Majority of women suffer from stomach aches during pregnancy. Digestion slows down during pregnancy and an expectant mother may require some stimulating agents to ease the process. Saffron is known to boost the blood flow to your digestive system, and thus, helps to enhance your metabolism. This, in turn, aids in better digestion. Saffron causes the formation of a protective coating in the digestive tract. This extra layer helps to soothe the gastrointestinal acidity and also lessens bloating.
5. Gets Rid of Cramps
A pregnant woman experiences cramps ranging from mild in the beginning to near severe before delivery. Throughout the pregnancy, the bones and muscles stretch and shift to accommodate the growing baby, and this can cause pains and cramps in the stomach and pelvic joints. Saffron is a natural painkiller. It relaxes the muscles, which helps to relieve stomach pain and soothe cramps.
6. Protects Against Heart Disease
Saffron has a magical property of protecting you against heart diseases. During pregnancy, women tend to consume more than the required amount of fatty foods to satisfy their increased appetite. This can have a detrimental effect on their cardiovascular system. The antioxidants, crocetin and potassium present in saffron help reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels in your body.
7. Increases Iron Levels
During pregnancy, it is highly recommended that you consume iron-rich foods because your body requires iron to be healthy. Saffron has high iron content and is beneficial in boosting your haemoglobin levels and red blood cell formation.
8. Cures Respiratory Illness
Saffron possesses anti-inflammatory properties that help dilate the nasal airways. It also reduces the swelling and inflammation in the lungs. As a result, you can breathe clearly. Saffron can also aid pregnant women suffering from asthma by removing any blockage that is present in their lungs and trachea.
9. Reduces Hair-Fall
Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy often result in increased hair fall. A widespread practice among many pregnant women is applying a paste of milk, saffron and liquorice to reduce hair fall. The antioxidants in saffron nourish the hair, making it stronger.
10. Aids in Better Sleep
As the pregnancy progresses, sleeping becomes a challenge, with the mother tossing and turning all night to comfortably accommodate the growing belly, deal with the effects of hormonal surges, and reduce the discomfort of stretching bones. All these factors together cause cramps, pain and discomfort. During such times, you can have saffron infused tea or milk. Saffron contains mild sedative properties that help promote sleep and enable you to feel relaxed. Drinking saffron with milk is known to improve your quality of sleep.
11. Heals Skin Problems
Many women claim that consuming saffron helps them fight common skin problems. These include pimple breakouts, melasma, and acne that arise during pregnancy. Saffron is a blood purifier, and an effective solution to skin problems caused by impurities in the blood.
12. Helps Avoid Congestion Due to Allergies
Often, your immune system is compromised during pregnancy. You become vulnerable to infections and allergies, as it has anti-inflammatory properties. Saffron helps in easing your cough, asthma, allergies and nasal congestion. Besides, applying a paste of saffron and sandalwood helps to bring down fever.
13. Helps Experience Movement of the Baby
As per ayurvedic scriptures, saffron tends to increase your body heat, causing a rise in your body temperature. This, in turn, results in the movement of the baby inside you. It’s always a pleasure to feel your baby move in your womb.
14. Prevents Sore Gums
A surge of hormones often causes sore gums during pregnancy. To get relief, you can use ground saffron to gently massage your gums. This helps to reduce the soreness and sensitivity.
15. Helps in Treating Eye Problems
Saffron is considered very beneficial for good vision. Consuming saffron during pregnancy often helps improve vision, especially in case of cataract.
16. Keeps You Healthy
The potassium present in saffron contributes to keeping the kidney healthy, as it maintains a proper electrolyte balance. People who eat a potassium-rich diet have increased bone density and leaner mass. Saffron is an ideal herb for pregnant women, as it is rich in folic acid, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and Vitamin A and C.
17. Healthy Bones
Pregnant women lose calcium at a high rate, as the amount of calcium present in their body is utilised for the growth of the baby. Loss of calcium diminishes the bone density and makes the bones brittle and weak. They also lose calcium from teeth, causing tooth decay. In such circumstances, having saffron can be highly beneficial to ensure good health of bones and teeth.
When to Consume Saffron During Pregnancy
Saffron is believed to be an appetite booster and helps in digestion. Yet, it is advisable that you consult your ob-gyn before consuming saffron during pregnancy.
It is recommended and considered safe to consume saffron during the second trimester, mostly from the fifth month onward. Healthcare providers should instruct expecting mothers on when to consume saffron during pregnancy so that they consume it in the right amounts.
Eating saffron during pregnancy increases the body heat, which in turn raises the frequency of uterine contractions, so having it during the night time is ill-advised as your body will be running a lot of processes during this time.
Saffron is believed to induce contractions, and in extreme cases, may cause spontaneous miscarriage. Doctors recommended that a dose of not more than 10g of saffron is consumed per day, as any more than that may prove to be risky and affect your baby causing preterm labour or even miscarriage. Although it has high nutritional value, it is advisable to be aware of when to eat saffron during pregnancy to avoid any harm or adverse reaction.
How to Consume Saffron During Pregnancy?
You now know that saffron is safe to be used in pregnancy, but in a limited amount. It is important that the expectant mothers are well informed about how to use saffron during pregnancy. Saffron is primarily consumed in two forms:
This is the most common way of using saffron at home or by commercial cooks. The saffron threads are gently crushed and transferred into water, milk, or broth. It is left to infuse for about 10 to 15 minutes before being consumed or added to a recipe.
This form of saffron is best suitable for use in nutritious soups and salad dressings. You can crumble the saffron strands with your fingers and use them directly in different preparations.
Once you have prepared the saffron, the next step is to utilise them in dishes. If you’re wondering how to eat saffron during pregnancy, worry not, as there are plenty of ways to consume it. Saffron forms an important part of the Indian cuisine as it is used in dishes like kheer, lassi, biryani and many other traditional sweets. Here’s how to use saffron during pregnancy:
Saffron With Milk
Calcium is a highly important mineral for the growth and development of your baby. On entering the fifth month of pregnancy, you may add saffron strands to your milk. Else, you may grind the almonds, pistachios and saffron strands and add the paste to your milk. You can drink the saffron milk in the morning as well as in the evening
Saffron in Rice Preparations/ Soup
Saffron may be added to soups and rice dishes to enhance the flavour. Two to three strands will be sufficient to impart colour and flavour
Saffron With Water
You can simply put a few strands of saffron in your glass of water and drink it. It will help in your digestion
Side Effects of Saffron
Saffron has massive benefits for pregnant women, but it comes with its share of side effects. Consumption of saffron in high doses can be hazardous for expectant mothers, as it leads to uterine contractions and can cause following issues:
Saffron tends to increase body heat and temperature, leading to increased uterine contractions. This can result in miscarriage during the early weeks of pregnancy. It is recommended that you start consuming saffron only in your second trimester, and after consulting your gynaecologist.
In many cases, pregnant women complain of experiencing anxiety, dry mouth, nausea and headaches on having saffron. If you are facing such problems, it is best that you avoid saffron.
Saffron can also lead to vomiting in some women. Vomiting doesn’t just make you feel miserable, but deprives you and your baby of essential nutrients. So, ensure that you do not have such an adverse reaction to saffron. If you do, you must avoid consuming it.
Saffron poisoning may occur when a person consumes high doses of saffron, that are equal to or more than 12g. This is characterised by yellowness of skin, eyes and mucus membranes, numbness, bloody diarrhoea, nose bleeds, bleeding lips and more.
Increased intake of saffron stimulates the uterus, increasing the frequency of contractions. This can lead to premature labour.
Owing to the sedative property of saffron, consuming it in higher doses can result in a feeling of dizziness.
Women who are sensitive to certain foods and own a history of being allergic to Olea, Lolium, Sasola plants are at a risk of further allergies on eating saffron.
• Bleeding From Eyelids, Nose or Lips
Depending on the stage of pregnancy you are in, and your experience of allergies and saffron consumption, there are possibilities of complications like bleeding from the nose, lips or eyelids.
The high amount of saffron intake may also cause numbness in some women. Numbness is a tingling sensation in hands and feet, and can occur in eyelids and lips too.
• Jaundice / Diarrhoea / Haemorrhaging
Taking in a large amount of saffron often causes toxic reactions in the body, resulting in conditions like jaundice, haemorrhage and diarrhoea.
• Blood in Urine or Stool
Discharge of blood in urine or stools can be a frightening sight for a pregnant woman. However, it could be a possible side effect of high saffron intake.
Other Things to Remember
Saffron is often sold in adulterated forms and can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. It is important to get original saffron and only from trusted sources. Some precautions or things to remember for consuming saffron safely during pregnancy are:
Buy Packaged Saffron
Local shops may sell these saffron strands in loose form. But for precautionary measures during pregnancy, it is best to buy only the packaged ones.
Go Through the Label
Before buying the saffron, make it a point to check the expiry date of the packet and ensure that it is a certified brand.
Check for Originality
You can differentiate between pure and adulterated saffron by the colour itself. Pure saffron is crimson red and has a soft orange-red tip. Whereas, if you find the saffron completely crimson, it is most probably fake or adulterated.
Grading of saffron is done based on their colour. The highest graded saffron has the deepest tone and is the costliest. Also, the higher grade of saffron has the best aroma. You may enquire about the grade of saffron to select the best available one.
Ensure that the saffron you buy does not possess any yellow or white threads. If it does, it means that the pack is an adulterated one, made up by mixing it with other parts of the flower.
Choose saffron strands over powder form
Buy fresh saffron strands rather than in powdered form, as they may lose their antioxidant properties to a certain extent on being powdered. Also, it becomes easier to check their genuineness. You may immerse a few saffron strands in warm water to check for authenticity. Original saffron takes about 10 to 15 minutes before its colour bleeds, whereas the fake ones bleed colour the moment you immerse them in any liquid or food.
Storing saffron properly is essential to maintain its nutritional properties for a longer time. You will certainly want to store the saffron in a way that it retains its properties because it is expensive. It needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cool place, hidden from sunlight. This helps the saffron to preserve its flavour for minimum six months. You may wrap the saffron in foil to ensure further protection. It is best to keep this airtight container in the refrigerator. To prevent saffron from absorbing atmospheric moisture, you can add a ground sugar cube to it. You can use the saffron strands for up to minimum three years, if stored properly as described above.
Packed with multiple benefits, saffron is a beneficial addition to your pregnancy diet. Consulting a dietitian or doctor will help in determining the optimum quantity of consumption and guard against any side-effect. Give in to your love for saffron in moderation, and reap the benefits it has to offer!