Sulfur is a mineral that is critical to the human body, but chances are you’ve never sought out to eat sulfur-rich foods. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral found in our bodies after calcium and phosphorus. We get it in our diets from a number of foods including garlic, onions, eggs, and protein-rich foods. Sulfur-rich foods have many health benefits and a deficiency may negatively impact your health. It’s not surprising then to wonder what foods are high in sulfur and why you should be eating more of them!
Health benefits of sulfur
Sulfur has a long history of being used for a variety of dermatological disorders, as an ingredient in acne ointments, in anti-dandruff shampoos, and as an antidote for acute exposure to radioactive materials. Sulfur aids in wound healing via keratin and has a history of folk usage as a remedy for skin rashes.
Sulfur has long been used as a remedy for skin rashes.
Also, sulfur is needed for many chemical reactions involved in the metabolism of drugs, steroids, and compounds that are not naturally present in the body such as food additives and environmental pollutants.
Sulfur is also important for the production of glutathione, one of the body’s most potent antioxidants, which helps to protect your cells from damage and support liver health.
Top 7 sulfur-rich foods
Here is a sulfur-rich foods list:
- Allium vegetables
Even if you haven’t heard the term “allium” before, you’re probably a lot more familiar with these vegetables than you think! And you probably eat the most common ones, — onions, and garlic — pretty often. Leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots are also part of the allium family.
These vegetables contain compounds called organosulfur which are responsible for their beneficial effects. Most notably, allium vegetables may help to prevent cancer including esophageal, colon, stomach, breast, and lung. Although there is lots of evidence supporting these anti-cancer properties, more research is needed.
- Cruciferous vegetables
What do cauliflower and kale have in common? Besides being trend-setting vegetables in recipes, they’re also cruciferous vegetables. Other vegetables in this family include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, radishes, and watercress.
These vegetables are rich in a compound called glucosinolates, which is a sulfur-containing compound that has been suggested to have anti-cancer effects. (5)
We’ve all smelled that rotten egg smell at some point in our lives. The stench has plagued anyone who has made hard-boiled eggs and forgotten about them on the stovetop for a few extra minutes. Did you know that the smell is actually a reaction of compounds in the yolk with sulfur contained in the white? (6)
Regularly eating eggs such as boiled or poached eggs can give you a much-needed boost in the sulfur intake.
- Fish and meat
Animal products, including fish, meat, and seafood are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids (building blocks of protein) including cysteine and methionine. These protein foods contain between 3% and 6% sulfur amino acids. (7)
Crab, chicken, lobster, lamb, scallops, and organ meats have the highest sulfur content. Due to their high protein content, fish and meat increase satiety after a meal and can aid in weight management and body composition changes. (8)
It might come as a surprise, but certain fruits do indeed contain sulfur. Currants, peaches, raspberries, and olives all contain significant amounts of sulfur, but dried fruits contain the most.
Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative in dried fruits including dried apricots, dried dates, dried figs, and raisins. While sulfur dioxide is considered to be safe, some people may be sensitive to it, and it may even cause asthma symptoms in those who are predisposed.
- Dairy products
Dairy products such as milk and cheese, especially cheddar and parmesan, have sulfur in suitable amounts.
They are also good sources of calcium, a key mineral for bone health. But did you know that calcium can also help with weight management? A study out of the University of Tennessee showed that eating three servings of dairy per day while reducing calorie intake had accelerated fat and weight management. (10)
Enjoying a handful of mild nutty tasting sunflower seeds can help take care of your hunger and give you a good dose of sulfur at the same time.
- Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are little nutritional powerhouses. Nuts such as peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and almonds, as well as certain seeds, such as sesame and sunflower seeds, contain sulfur. (9)
In addition to their sulfur content, nuts also contain sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Because of their unique composition, the consumption of nuts has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease and gallstones in both genders and diabetes in women. There is some evidence that they may also have beneficial effects on high blood pressure, cancer, and inflammation. (11)
The bottom line
Sulfur is one of the most important minerals in the human body and is essential for the body’s healthy functions. It’s also a key component of amino acids, which are involved in growth and muscle and tissue.
While there is no recommended daily allowance for sulfur in our diet, including a variety of sulfur-rich foods from the list above has many health benefits and contribute to good overall health. There are many reasons to eat sulfur-rich foods in your diet!
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