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Sulfur-rich foods and 5 health benefits

We hear a lot about the importance of eating foods that provide minerals like calcium and potassium. Sulfur-rich foods receive less attention but offer many benefits. Sulfur is a nutrient that has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant effects, which is why vegetables rich in this mineral, like onions, broccoli, and cabbage, are among the best foods for your joints and immune system. .

What is sulfur?

Sulfur is a non-metallic chemical element. It is also the third most abundant mineral in the human body, after calcium and phosphorus. Our body cannot produce it itself, so we must get it from certain sources through our diet, be it plant or animal, as well as through drinking water. The type of sulfur that we get from drinking water is called inorganic sulfate. Sulfur-containing compounds are also found in many foods, so-called organo-sulphur compounds.

Why do we need sulfur?

In the human body, sulfur has the following functions:

– Protection against cell damage and oxidative stress
– Helps in the synthesis of antioxidants
– Build and repair DNA
– Maintenance of nitrogen balance
– Support of the immune function
– Inflammation control
– Inhibition of certain harmful bacteria

Foods high in sulfur

Sulfur is found in a variety of foods, whether of plant or animal origin. It is present in varying amounts in:

– the vegetable
– Nuts
– Legumes
– Meat
– Seafood
– Poultry
– Dairy products
– eggs

Studies have shown that most people get their greatest intake of dietary sulfur from foods that provide two amino acids: methionine and cysteine ​​(organic sulfur compounds). They are found in protein-rich foods such as seafood, meat, legumes, milk and eggs.

Other food groups that provide high levels of sulfur in people’s diets are alliums and cruciferous vegetables, which include vegetables like onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, and others. One study found that these two groups of vegetables accounted for up to 42% of the total sulfur intake in the selected diets.

Which fruits are rich in sulfur and which vegetables contain the most?

Below is a list of foods with the highest sulfur content:

organic meat
Shellfish/seafood (such as crab, lobster, shrimp, and scallops)
Poultry (chicken and turkey)
Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir, etc.)
Sesame seeds
sunflower seeds
Red beans

Health benefits of sulfur and its uses

Here’s what we know about the benefits associated with eating foods high in sulfur and eating more of this mineral:

1. Helps fight inflammation and joint pain

Sulfur-containing foods such as garlic and onions are said to have an anti-inflammatory effect. This means they can reduce chronic inflammation, which contributes to pain, as well as a range of chronic diseases. Eating sulfur-rich foods can help relieve joint and muscle pain. For this reason, a compound called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a sulfur-containing compound found in plant and animal foods, is added to supplements to relieve joint pain. Some research shows that when adults with osteoarthritis take MSM supplements for at least 12 weeks, they tend to experience less pain and improved joint function.

2. Support cardiovascular function

A diet that includes sulfur dioxide from foods, especially nutrient-dense foods like allium and cruciferous vegetables, can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Some sulfur-rich foods, like broccoli and cauliflower, are high in beneficial compounds called glucosinolates, which appear to protect against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain neurodegenerative diseases.

3. Have antimicrobial properties

Sulfur and its derivatives naturally have some antimicrobial effects due to their ability to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. This explains why dermatologists sometimes use topical treatments to treat skin conditions like acne, dandruff, rosacea, and warts. The glucosinolates found in cruciferous greens also have antimicrobial effects, particularly in the digestive system, and the ability to enhance detoxification. They have been shown to reduce the growth of bacteria and other microbes that can damage the gut and colon.

4. May help ward off cancer

A number of sulfur-rich foods, particularly those from the cruciferous and allium families, contain antioxidants and other compounds that have been shown to have anti-cancer effects. Leeks and cruciferous vegetables, both of which are high in organosulfur compounds, have been shown in some studies to help stop the growth of certain cancer cells, including those that cause breast, prostate, digestive and lung cancer. MSM has been shown not only to have immune-supporting and anti-inflammatory effects, but also antioxidant properties that may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon, gastrointestinal, and liver cancer.

5. Have antioxidant effects

Sulfur plays a role in the synthesis of glutathione, which is considered one of the most powerful antioxidants. The increase in glutathione enzyme activity that can occur when you eat a high-sulphur diet helps fight inflammation and oxidative stress that lead to symptoms associated with aging and some chronic diseases. For example, glutathione is thought to help reduce the risk of certain neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s because it helps protect brain cells from damage and promotes clearance of the buildup of amyloid beta plaques in the brain, which is linked to cognitive decline .

risks and side effects

Sulfur from natural food sources is generally very safe to consume and beneficial. However, you can consume too much if you take sulfur-containing supplements or drink too much water that contains this mineral.

What are the effects of excess sulfur on the body?

High intakes of sulfur supplements, such as MSM or sulfur water, can cause mild side effects in some people, including indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea or loose stools, and skin and eye irritation. It is also not suitable for people taking blood thinners due to possible side effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. If you are pregnant, you should consult a doctor before taking sulfur supplements.

Some people may also be sensitive to the effects of this mineral, particularly those with inflammatory bowel disease. A high-sulphur diet, especially from animal products, can potentially worsen gastrointestinal problems in people with impaired bowel function because it affects bacteria in the gut. According to some research, large amounts of sulfur obtained from an animal-based diet also tend to be low in fiber, which can negatively alter gut microbiota ratios and increase protein fermentation. This can have some adverse effects.

How can I reduce the amount of sulfur in my body?

It is unlikely that your health would suffer from eating foods containing sulfur, but some people are sensitive to sulfite preservatives (derived from sulfur) that are added to foods and beverages.

The frequency of this sensitivity is controversial, but it is estimated that about 1% of adults (1 in 100) are adversely affected by sulphites. If you think they’re causing you trouble, avoid products like:

Wine with the addition of sulphites
the cookies
pickled foods
bottled juices
most spices
canned and frozen foods


There are currently no recommended daily amounts (official guidelines) for sulfur. One study found that, on average, people consumed about 950 milligrams of sulfur per day (ranging from 630 to 1,270 milligrams) from a variety of foods, particularly green vegetables, onions, garlic, and protein-rich foods. If you are using MSM supplements to improve your health, the standard recommended dose is around 500 milligrams of MSM per day, taken two to three times a day. Other reports indicate that up to three to six grams of MSM per day (usually divided into three doses) appears to be safe and well-tolerated.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.

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