Often dubbed what is the most expensive spice in the world, saffron is widely used in many cuisines. Fortunately - for that high price tag - you also are reaping many health benefits.
For starters, as is the case with many spices, saffron's antioxidant properties are quite high. However the ORAC value of it can be a bit deceptive, because remember that is based on 100 grams of weight. Even generic saffron easily runs $12 to $15 per gram, which means that you would be spending north of a thousand dollars worth on this spice in order to experience the ORAC score reflected above. This number was based on samples of saffron from Iran (perhaps the most desired source for it. Samples from Spain were tested, coming in approximately 25% higher, and from Mexico, coming in 65% lower.
Fortunately, the nutritional benefits of saffron extend past just antioxidant power. What it gives it that signature yellow color is a substance known as a-crocin, a carotenoid compound. Along with that are zea-xanthin and lycopene, which yes - are antioxidants - but are known to be especially useful for positively affecting certain body parts, such as the eyes. There's also vitamin A and a gamut of minerals such as selenium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, manganese, copper, and potassium. But considering how little saffron one consumes in a meal, taking it for minerals or other benefits could arguably be the least cost-effective method of obtaining those nutrients. Consider that cayenne pepper has almost an identical ORAC rating and at a cost of pennies on the dollar!
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't: Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, et al. Nutrition Journal NIH Jan 2010