Sulfur is one of the major elements in the atmosphere, and as such, it’s found all around us, including the soil our food grows in. Consequently, sulfur is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It assists the body in various important functions, including building and repairing DNA, as well as protecting the cells against damage. Sulfur also assists your body to metabolize food and contributes to the health of your skin, tendons, and ligaments.
Thus, incorporating enough sulfur-rich foods is vital for your health, especially considering the fact sulfur is an essential mineral, meaning the body cannot produce it on its own, and the only way to obtain it is through our diets. Read on to learn more about the benefits of a sulfur-rich diet, and which foods are high in sulfur.
What exactly is sulfur and why do we need it?
As we mentioned, sulfur is an essential mineral, found in a wide variety of foods, and even drinking water from certain origins. There are two primary amino acids that are considered to be organic sulfur compounds - methionine and cysteine. Both are used by the body to make proteins and both are present in your skin, hair, and nails where they help to make these tissues strong and flexible.
While methionine is an essential amino acid, cysteine can be synthesized by the body, making it non-essential. However, dietary sulfur is still necessary for the production of cysteine. These amino acids can be found in plant-based foods as well as several animal-based foods, all listed below.
Sulfur is also a natural anti-microbial, effective at treating certain dermatological conditions such as acne, rosacea, and dandruff. It has long been used in several topical therapies, and also antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and antiepileptic drugs.
While there is no recommended daily allowance of sulfur, its various health benefits have been demonstrated in several studies, and the best way to ensure you’re consuming adequate amounts of it is through your diet. The following 7 foods are high in sulfur:
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale are a primary source of dietary sulfur. They provide it in a form known as glucosinolates. This sulfur-containing compound may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study. Glucosinolates have also been shown to have a protective effect against developing certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s disease.
Tip: steaming broccoli for one to three minutes maximizes the body’s ability to absorb sulfur-containing compounds.
Related article: The Mineral Content of 47 Major Fruits and Vegetables
2. Chickpeas and lentils
Chickpeas, lentils, couscous, and oats are good sources of getting cysteine through your diet. This amino acid, which the body cannot produce without dietary sulfur, has antioxidant properties and is important for the creation of collagen and protein. To learn more about the properties and importance of collagen, check out our previous article The Ins and Outs of Collagen.
3. Nuts and seeds
Almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are all rich in sulfur in the form of thiamine, also known as Vitamin B1.
Thiamine is an essential nutrient, which aids normal function and prevents complications in the nervous system, brain, heart, stomach, and intestines.
4. Allium vegetables
Allium vegetables, which include garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots are rich in various forms of dietary sulfur. These organosulfur compounds have been linked to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells in the esophagus, breasts, and lungs, according to some animal studies.
Research also suggests that organosulfur compounds may be beneficial for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
Related: Prevent Cancer By Avoiding These 5 Diet Mistakes
Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese all provide the body with Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a compound that is a source of natural sulfur.
Research has demonstrated that MSM may reduce inflammation, and is effective against joint pain. A randomized study found that individuals shuddering from osteoarthritis-associated knee pain experienced a relief in their symptoms and improved joint function after 12 weeks of taking MSM supplementation daily. Furthermore, MSM also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, contributing to potential anti-cancer benefits too.
6. Meat and fish
Turkey, beef, chicken and scallops, crab, and fish are animal-based sources of the essential amino acid methionine. Methionine is a powerful antioxidant, which promotes healthy hair and strengthens the nails. It also plays an important role in detoxifying harmful substances in the body, such as heavy metals, and prevents buildup in the liver by facilitating the breakdown of fats.
7. Leafy greens
Besides being another good source for MSM, leafy green vegetables also provide sulfur in the form of biotin or vitamin H. Biotin helps break down substances in the body and turn them into energy. Your body needs it to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
Biotin is also found in many cosmetic products, as it is recommended for strengthening the hair and nails.
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