Kale, cabbage, onions, garlic and broccoli are some of the most nutritious foods on earth. But have you ever wondered what makes them so healthy? In addition to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they contain sulfur, which is an essential component of your cells and tissues.
This is the third-most abundant mineral in your body and has a wide range of therapeutic uses. The regular consumption of garlic and other foods high in sulfur may help reduce oxidative stress, protect against inflammation and increase your antioxidant levels.
Make sure your diet includes freshly crushed garlic, onions, broccoli, fish and other foods high in sulfur. This mineral protects against oxidative stress and strengthens your natural defenses.
Potential Health Benefits of Sulfur
Sulfur is one of the most important minerals in the human body and a key component of several amino acids, including methionine, taurine and cysteine. It's also used in various dietary supplements, especially those designed for arthritis sufferers. Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), for instance, can be obtained through diet or supplements. According to the Arthritis Foundation, this sulfur compound may help relieve pain and inflammation.
Read more: How Does Sulfur Help the Body?
As WebMD notes, topical products containing sulfur may help prevent acne breakouts and treat dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and scabies. Sulfur ingestion, though, is not recommended. Topical application may cause skin dryness and irritation in some people.
Onions, eggs, cruciferous vegetables and other foods high in sulfur are considered safe. Allicin, for example, is an organic sulfur compound that occurs naturally in garlic. When consumed in adequate doses, it may inhibit tumor growth and cancer cell proliferation, boost cardiovascular health and destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Sulfur Food Sources
This compound can be found in a wide range of foods, from eggs and organ meats to oysters, mussels, salmon and sulfur vegetables like leafy greens. It also occurs naturally in almonds, peanuts and walnuts. Onions and garlic are among the best sulfur food sources due to their high allicin content. Hard-boiled eggs have a specific smell due to their sulfur-containing compounds.
A diet rich in high-sulfur foods may improve your health. This mineral plays a key role in the production of glutathione, the so-called master antioxidant. Glutathione exhibits detoxifying properties and supports liver health. It also contributes to DNA synthesis, sperm cell formation, immune function and lipid metabolism, according to Medical News Today.
The downside is that some people are allergic or intolerant to sulfur. A 2014 research paper featured in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has documented such a case. A physically fit woman experienced swelling of the mouth and throat, low blood pressure and itching after using energy drinks and sports supplements with sulfur-containing compounds, such as taurine. In this case, it makes sense to switch to a low-sulfur diet.
Garlic and Onions
Garlic, onions, leeks and other vegetables in the Allium genus are among the best dietary sources of sulfur. According to a 2014 review in the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis, these foods boast high doses of allicin, alliin and diallyl sulfide as well as phytonutrients.
Allicin, one of the most abundant sulfur compounds in allium vegetables, exhibits antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-cancer and cardioprotective effects. This nutrient has been shown to induce cancer cell death and modulate the immune system. It may also improve blood lipids and cholesterol metabolism, leading to better cardiovascular health.
To fully reap its benefits, add freshly crushed garlic to your meals. This will strengthen your body's natural defenses and protect against bacterial infections. Cooking destroys the enzyme allinase and reduces allicin levels in garlic.
Cabbage and Other Cruciferous Veggies
Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous veggies are rich in sulforaphane, a compound that protects against several types of cancer and reduces DNA damage. A 2015 research paper published in Oncotarget suggests that this sulfur compound may help prevent bladder cancer without causing toxicity. Furthermore, people who consume cruciferous vegetables regularly have a lower risk of developing breast, prostate and colorectal cancer as well as heart disease, according to a 2015 review published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.
Sulforaphane has also been studied for its ability to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorders, oral cancer and lung adenocarcinoma. These potential benefits may be due to its ability to suppress inflammation, neutralize oxidative stress and positively alter brain function.
Cruciferous vegetables can also bring you closer to your weight loss goals. They're high in fiber and low in calories, keeping you full for hours. One cup of chopped cabbage, for example, has only 22 calories, 5.1 grams of carbs and less than 1 gram of fat. Plus, it's an excellent source of sulforaphane, which may help prevent weight gain and boost your metabolism while reducing fat mass.
What About Eggs?
Vegetables are not the only foods high in sulfur. Eggs are rich in methionine, a sulfur-containing amino acid. This natural compound regulates the immune system and metabolic processes. It also supports glutathione synthesis, protecting your cells and tissues from oxidative stress. Its potential health benefits, though, are subject to debate.
Read more: The 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs
According to a 2015 research paper featured in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, restricting methionine intake may lead to a longer life and delay aging. Most studies were conducted on animals, so it's difficult to tell how these findings apply to humans.
What we do know for sure is that eggs are a good source of protein and B-complex vitamins. A large egg provides more than 6 grams of protein and just 71 calories. Plus, it's rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, selenium and phosphorus. When consumed in moderation, eggs may lower your risk of heart disease, improve appetite control and facilitate weight loss.
Meat and Fish
Animal products, including meat, fish and seafood, are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids, such as cysteine and methionine. Crab, mussels, haddock, prawns, scallops, chicken, veal and organ meats have the highest sulfur content. One serving of boiled chicken, for example, provides 300 milligrams of sulfur. Baked cod delivers about 230 milligrams of sulfur per serving.
Due to their high protein content, meat and fish increase satiety and aid in weight management. A 2015 study published in the journal Endocrinology assessed the appetite-suppressing effects of protein. Researchers have found that phenylalanine, an essential amino acid, balances the hormones that influence appetite. This compound reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin levels and activates CaSR, a receptor that raises the levels of GLP-1, a satiety hormone.
Read more: 15 of the Best Lean Animal Proteins
Another study, which appeared in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2017, suggests that supplemental phenylalanine increases fat oxidation when consumed before exercise. However, meat and fish are naturally high in this amino acid. Enjoy them in moderation to stay full longer and keep fit.
- WebMD: Sulfur
- ScienceDirect: Garlic Active Constituent S-Allyl Cysteine Protects Against Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Cognitive Deficits in the Rat
- NCBI: Sulfur as a Signaling Nutrient Through Hydrogen Sulfide
- Arthritis.org: MSM
- MDPI: Allicin: Chemistry and Biological Properties
- ScienceDirect: Sulfur Amino Acids Metabolism From Protein Synthesis to Glutathione
- BMC Gastroenterology: Efficacy of Glutathione for the Treatment of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
- Medical News Today: What Are the Benefits of Glutathione?
- Deanna Minich: Is There Really Such a Thing as Sulfur Intolerance?
- ScienceDirect: A Case Study Involving Allergic Reactions to Sulfur-Containing Compounds Including, Sulfite, Taurine, Acesulfame Potassium and Sulfonamides
- ScienceDirect: Sulfur Compounds Identification and Quantification From Allium Spp. Fresh Leaves
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds
- Taylor & Francis Online: Nrf2 Targeting by Sulforaphane: A Potential Therapy for Cancer Treatment
- Oncotarget: Sulforaphane for the Chemoprevention of Bladder Cancer
- Liebert Pub: Dietary Sulforaphane in Cancer Chemoprevention: The Role of Epigenetic Regulation and HDAC Inhibition
- Wiley Online Library: Sulforaphane Epigenetically Enhances Neuronal BDNF Expression and TrkB Signaling Pathways
- NCBI: Sulforaphane Treatment of Young Men With Autism Spectrum Disorder
- AACR Jurnals: Prevention of Carcinogen-Induced Oral Cancer by Sulforaphane
- Europe PMC: Sulforaphane-Induced Apoptosis in Xuanwei Lung Adenocarcinoma Cell Line XWLC-05
- USDA: Raw Cabbage
- Diabetes Journals: Glucoraphanin Ameliorates Obesity and Insulin Resistance Through Adipose Tissue Browning and Reduction of Metabolic Endotoxemia in Mice
- SELFNutrition Data: Foods Highest in Methionine
- SpringerLink: The Role of Methionine on Metabolism, Oxidative Stress, and Diseases
- Wiley Online Library: Methionine Restriction and Lifespan Control
- SELFNutrition Data: Whole Eggs
- BMJ Journals: Associations of Egg Consumption With Cardiovascular Disease in a Cohort Study of 0.5 Million Chinese Adults
- Nutrition Journal: A Randomized, Controlled, Crossover Trial to Assess the Acute Appetitive and Metabolic Effects of Sausage and Egg-Based Convenience Breakfast Meals in Overweight Premenopausal Women
- NHRI.org.tw: Sulphur Food Charts
- Endocrinology: Researchers May Have Found How High-Protein Diets Cause Weight Loss
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: The Effects of Phenylalanine on Exercise-Induced Fat Oxidation