Sulfur is a key element/mineral in sustaining life. It’s in the soil and thus in many of the foods you eat. In fact, your body needs it to perform many essential functions, such as building DNA and repairing the damage your body undergoes on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, it also helps your digestive system to metabolize the food you eat.
However, too much sulfur consumption can be bad for your health. Research into the field is ongoing but we have compiled a detailed breakdown of the various medical studies, along with scientific evidence, to help you understand how much sulfur your body needs.
Why Does Sulfur Matter?
Before getting into the details of the amount of sulfur you need on a daily basis, let’s discuss why you need to boost dietary sulfur levels. As discussed already, sulfur is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including protein synthesis and detoxification.
The following are some important reasons why sulfur matters.
- Consuming enough sulfur can help support healthy skin, hair, nails, joints, liver function, and immune system health.
- An NLM (National Library of Medicine) study shows that sulfur has anti-inflammatory properties. It can benefit individuals with chronic conditions like arthritis or asthma.
- Enzymes, which are responsible for chemical reactions within cells, rely on sulfur for their formation and proper function.
- Without sulfur, some important functions like digestion and metabolism would be affected.
- Sulfur is necessary for converting thiamine and biotin, and it plays a role in synthesizing glutathione. It’s an important antioxidant that protects against damage caused by harmful molecules in the body. It boosts the immune system and helps regenerate other antioxidants.
- Sulfur is a vital component for insulin function and glucose metabolism, aiding in the prevention of diabetes according to NLM.
However, it’s important to note that consuming too much sulfur can lead to unpleasant side effects, including bad breath, a burning sensation, and diarrhea. Therefore, it’s important to consume foods containing sulfur in moderation.
Important Note: Some people are sensitive or allergic to certain sulfur-containing compounds found in these foods. If you experience digestive issues or other symptoms after eating high-sulfur foods, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider ASAP about possible causes.
Foods High in Sulfur
The following are the two main compounds of organosulfur:
- Cysteine: Your body can self-synthesize or create this compound on its own.
- Methionine: This compound has to come from outside sources and that’s why it’s regarded as an essential amino acid.
It means that you need to focus on consuming food sources that contain methionine compounds, including the following.
Meat products are a huge source of the methionine your body needs. Turkey, beef, chicken, fish, ham, and duck are some of the best protein sources containing amino acids and sulfur (methionine).
Certain delicacies like the heart, liver, and other organ meats also hold higher quantities of methionine than other cuts. For instance, 5 percent of the amino acid quantity in chicken is methionine.
Many types of seafood, from fish and shrimp to scallops and prawns, hold significant amounts of sulfur. The amount of sulfur you’ll consume by eating seafood will depend on several factors, such as the type of fish/seafood you are eating, where it was bred, and the feed it received.
Proteins obtained from plants generally have lower amounts of methionine than animal or meat-based diets. Certain ingredients, specifically chickpeas, kidney beans, peas, and specific types of lentils have higher amounts of sulfur in them.
Eggs contain a huge amount of methionine. In fact, an NCBI (National Center of Biotechnology and Information) study estimates that egg whites are 8 percent methionine and cysteine. That’s a high quantity for a single serving of food to have.
Nuts and seeds get their sulfur quantities from the soil they are grown in and certain items like almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are particularly high in sulfur.
Most dairy products are high in sulfur, from milk and yogurt to various types of cheese. Parmesan and cheddar, the two most commonly used, are especially potent in their sulfur amounts.
Vegetables have the least amounts of sulfur by far so if you’re looking to cut down, experts recommend a plant-focused diet. That said certain products like garlic, onions, and radishes hold more sulfur than other items.
Additionally, broccoli and sprouts are also some of the best cruciferous vegetables rich in sulfur. The same is the case for greens like cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
Keep in mind that these amounts are relative and the sulfur quantities in any of these vegetables are far less than what you’d get from protein sources.
Most food items have some amount of sulfur in them and grains like oats, wheat, and flour are no exception. But small amounts of sulfur are essential for your body’s daily processes so you shouldn’t be worried about this in any way.
Spices like ginger and garlic powder, mustard, and marmite also have good amounts of sulfur to help you with essential bodily functions.
Drinking water in many parts of the world has been contaminated with sulfur that leaches out of the soil and into water wells. In part, this is because of the excessive pesticides, fertilizers, and insecticides that are used on crops.
As a result, the only way to stay safe is to drink filtered or bottled water that has been checked for contaminants and declared drinkable.
Other beverages like beer, cider, or wine may also have high quantities of sulfur. Fermented drinks are a high-risk environment for naturally developing sulfur.
The following are some more food items, fruits, and vegetables with low levels of sulfur:
- Macadamia nuts
- Long Grain Rice
Fun Fact: The cooking process can decrease the sulfur content in certain foods, but the extent of reduction varies depending on the cooking method. For instance, boiling cruciferous vegetables results in a greater decrease in sulfur compared to microwave and steam cooking.
How Much Methionine is Recommended on a Daily Basis?
The research on how much or how little methionine your diet should hold is varying and oftentimes contradictory. In general, the amount recommended is 1.3 grams for an individual who weighs 150 pounds. That isn’t a lot. In fact, it’s significantly lower than the amounts most people regularly consume.
Is this a problem? A study suggests that the problem lies in homocysteine, a compound derived from methionine, which may have implications related to heart disease. Of course, this is not an absolute finding, quite the opposite.
Other researchers claim 1.3 grams simply isn’t enough and the initial studies were limited in their approach. They recommend a maximum of 2 grams daily for most adults and up to 3 grams per day for the elderly.
So, What Should Be the Daily Methionine Intake?
According to an NCBI study, the daily recommended amount of methionine for a healthy adult is 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (or 6.8 milligrams per pound of body weight). So, if you weigh 60 kilograms (or 132.2 pounds), you’ll need to consume around 900 milligrams of methionine daily.
However, it’s important to note that this is the recommended amount if you’re not consuming cysteine from external food sources.
This daily recommended dosage of methionine is somewhat similar to what Mayo Clinic suggests, which is 200 milligrams three to four times a day and it’ll be 600 to 800 milligrams daily.
If you consume meat products, you’ll most probably consume this much (or even more) methionine daily. But if you follow a plant-based or vegan diet, you’ll consume less sulfur, which can lead to some health issues.
Therefore, you should carefully track your sulfur intake and minimize it if you’re consuming more than what’s recommended. Whereas, if you’re consuming less, you can always consider taking methionine supplements. However, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before taking this step.
What’s the Best Approach When It Comes to Consuming Sulfur?
When it comes to consuming sulfur, adopting a balanced diet with a focus on plant-based foods is considered the best approach. Prioritizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts can ensure an adequate intake of sulfur-containing compounds.
Including a variety of vegetables in your diet is particularly beneficial. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are excellent sources of sulfur. Additionally, garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots are also great options and they can be flavorful additions to your meals.
If you consume animal products, you should carefully monitor and regulate the consumption of poultry, fish, and dairy items. These foods can contribute to sulfur intake, but they should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
By making informed and healthy choices about the foods you eat, you can support your overall well-being and reduce the risk of diseases and illnesses. In addition to a sulfur-rich diet, regular exercise and self-care play vital roles in maintaining good health.
It’s worth noting that individual dietary needs may vary, and consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance. They can help you optimize your diet to ensure an appropriate intake of sulfur and other essential nutrients.
Conclusion to What Foods Are High in Sulfur
Overall, the research into sulfur and its various impacts on human health is still ongoing. So far, we know that it’s important, but that too much can be a bad thing.
So, you should focus on following a balanced diet and pair it with an active lifestyle. It’s the key to promoting overall health and taking care of yourself.