Foods High in Sulfur
Sulfur is a mineral that is critical to the human body. It helps build amino acids and vitamins and is critical to healthy development of skin, bones, nerve cells and other tissues. Sulfur also helps maintain cardiovascular, joint and liver health and may help to prevent cancer. Fortunately, there are many foods that are high in sulfur, and most people will not have to alter their diets or take supplements to get plenty of this mineral!
List of Foods High in Sulfur
Most of the food groups contain at least a few foods that are high in sulfur. The people most likely to be deficient in this mineral are vegans since the list of fruits and vegetables containing sulfur is relatively short and these categories of foods contain relatively low amounts of sulfur. However, there are some and a vegan should try to include healthy servings of these foods every day. Foods high in sulfur include.
- Vegetables. Edamame beans are the vegetable highest in sulfur. Other vegetables that are high in sulfur are other beans, sweet corn, peas, spinach, broccoli, mustard greens, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, asparagus, okra, lettuce, and eggplant. These vegetables contain glucosinolates which are sulfur rich nutrients that may help prevent cancer.
- Allium Genus. The Allium genus of foods includes seasoning favorites such as onions, leeks, shallots, chive, and garlic. These foods contain compounds such as allyl sulfides and sulfoxides that may increase cardiac health and repair tissues in joints. This group of foods is one of the very best sources of sulfur!
- Fruits. Of the fruits, the avocado (yes, it is a fruit!) is highest in sulfur content, followed by kiwi, bananas, pineapple and strawberries. Melons, grapefruit, grapes, oranges and peaches are also fruits that are high in this essential mineral.
- Meat. In most diets, sulfur comes mainly from the proteins -- and mainly meat. Turkey, chicken, goat, pork, guinea fowl, whale, most fish, beef and rabbit are all meat sources that are very high in sulfur. One of the key ingredients found in amino acids in meats is sulfur. For a healthy adult with an adequate protein intake, a serving or two of meat each day can provide enough sulfur. In fact, the medical center at the University of Maryland does not recommend sulfur supplements to their patients. Instead, a balanced diet with a steady source of protein is recommended for everyone.
- Eggs. Eggs are a great source of sulfur. A whole quail's egg can provide almost as much sulfur as a serving of meat. Chicken eggs, particularly the yolks, are rich in sulfur. Although egg yolks can aid the liver in the detoxification process, be sure to check with your doctor if you have high cholesterol or heart disease since the fats in egg yolks can make those problems worse.
- Other Food Sources. Other foods that are high in sulfur include milk, milk products, chocolate, coffee, tea, grains, sesame seeds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and other nuts.
Nutritional Benefits of Sulfur-rich Foods
Research studies have been done that show several health benefits of eating foods high in sulfur.
- Cardiovascular Benefits. In a study done in Germany in 2008, biochemists outlined how important dietary sulfur for cardiovascular health. They particularly focused on hydrogen sulfide one of the sulfur products found in the Allium genus family of foods described above. Although the exact mechanism of protection is not fully understood, researchers believe that the allyl sulfides and sulfoxides that occur naturally in sulfur-rich foods may increase cardiovascular health by acting as a natural anticoagulant and lowering blood cholesterol.
- Joint, Skin, and Allergy Benefits. Commonly known as MSM, methylsulfonylmethane is a sulfur compound found naturally in fresh vegetables. MSM is also one of the basic ingredients in many of the over-the-counter skin and joint supplements. Although scientific evidence is not available to support this, many people who use MSM believe that this sulfur compound relieves symptoms of joint pain and allergies. Your skin and nails may also benefit from supplemental MSM. The levels of MSM in food will decrease if you store vegetables and fruits for a long time. In order to get the highest level of MSM, you should eat these foods when they are freshest.
- Anticancer Function and Liver Cleansing Benefits. The sulfur compounds found in the Allium genus of foods outlined in the list of foods above are excellent sources of sulfur that seem to fight cancer by increasing the body's immune response and stopping the growth of some tumors. These compounds also help increase the liver's ability to flush out toxins that accumulate in that organ.
- Antioxidant Benefits. Sulfur in amino acids has been shown to be excellent antioxidants. Antioxidants can inhibit the absorption of metals such as lead that are known to cause skin damage and cancer. The antioxidants also work inside the cells of your body and may have cancer prevention properties.
Considerations of Eating Sulfur-rich Foods
Especially with fruits, vegetables, milk products and nuts, you should be aware that the highest levels of sulfur are in those foods that you eat raw and when they are very fresh. Heat will destroy much of the sulfur in vegetables and fruits. You should cook the meat you eat to destroy microorganisms, but most of the meats contain enough amino acids that you will still get plenty of sulfur even after cooking.
Although rare, sulfur can have some side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and headaches. If you are eating a diet very high in sulfur and start experiencing any of these symptoms, stop eating those high sulfur foods for a day or two and see if the symptoms go away. If not, be sure to consult your healthcare provider.