What associations does the word "sulphur" evoke? Most have rotten eggs, fire and matches. Meanwhile, this mineral occupies an important place in the human body, although its functions, at first glance, are not as noticeable as those of other useful substances. Sulfur does not give shape to the body, as does, for example, calcium, which forms bones and teeth. It does not soothe the muscles and will not give a restful healthy sleep, like magnesium. It won't affect sexual activity like zinc, which depends on testosterone production. You can take even a small amount of iodine and almost immediately see its work - the functioning of the thyroid gland will improve. When taking sulfur, no quick visible effects should be expected. It is stored in the body in, so to speak, "background mode", but at the same time it plays its own, only assigned role.
Why do we need sulfur?
Sulfur (S, sulfur) is a mineral first found in the ground around volcanic craters and geysers. But in addition, it is found in some plants, in particular cereals, fruits and vegetables. This macronutrient is also presented in protein products.
In importance, sulfur is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the human body. The adult body contains approximately 140 grams of this substance. It is mainly concentrated in the skin, muscles, joints, nails and hair. But why does the body need such large reserves of sulfur? What functions are assigned to it?
The role of sulfur in the body:
- is necessary for the synthesis of glutathione (an endogenous antioxidant);
- in the form of disulfide compounds provides strength and elasticity to the hair;
- is important for the synthesis of taurine (necessary for the normal functioning of the cardiovascular, muscular and nervous systems);
- binds chains of amino acids that form insulin;
- is part of amino acids (methionine, cysteine), B vitamins, pangamic acid, vitamin U, hormones.
Thus, given that sulfur is an element of several amino acids, it is reasonable to say that animal products are also sources of sulfur. In particular, these are different types of meat, eggs, cheese, milk.
But in the human body, sulfur does more than just create amino acids. It is essential for healthy bone development, the nervous system, supports the cardiovascular system, liver and joints, and even prevents cancer. In addition, it is responsible for the health of muscles, hair and epidermis. But people with diseases of the digestive system, in particular, such as ulcerative colitis, should use sulfur with extreme caution.
Other functions of sulfur:
- reduces blood cholesterol, which has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system;
- improves skin quality;
- methylsulfanylmethane (a sulfur compound found in fresh vegetables) relieves joint pain;
- has anti-cancer abilities;
- enhances immunity;
- detoxifies the liver;
- promotes normal blood clotting;
- has a beneficial effect on brain function.
Sulfur in foods
The body receives most sulfur from protein foods - mainly from meat.
Turkey, chicken, pork, guinea fowl, beef, rabbit, goat meat, and most types of fish are by no means a complete list of foods high in sulfur. For a healthy adult with an adequate intake of protein, a serving of meat per day can fully provide the required amount of sulfur. Therefore, most nutritionists in the world do not recommend the use of pharmaceutical supplements containing this mineral. Dairy products (milk, cheese, sour cream) are also foods high in the macronutrient, and among fruits rich in sulfur are bananas, pineapples and watermelon. In addition, there is a lot of sulfur in nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, coconuts) and seeds (sunflower, sesame).
Eggs are equally good sources of S. A serving of quail, for example, can provide nearly the same amount of a macronutrient as a serving of meat. Chicken, especially yolks, are also rich in sulfur. Although egg yolks help in the process of detoxifying the liver, people with high cholesterol and heart disease should limit their consumption of this product. The permissible amount of yolks in food is determined by the attending physician.
Nearly all fibrous, leafless vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables are rich sources of sulfur. This list includes corn, peas, spinach, different types of cabbage (white cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi), mustard, asparagus, okra, lettuce, eggplant. And almost all vegetables rich in sulfur have a common characteristic - a specific smell.
The most recognizable sulfur-containing plants:
- cruciferous: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Chinese and other species;
- onions: onions, shallots, garlic, leeks.
Benefits of various sulfur-containing vegetables
Garlic, onion, shallot, leek and other vegetables from this group of plants contain various sulfur compounds. For example, sulfur derived from garlic has anti-cancer properties. At least that's what scientists are convinced after several laboratory studies. A substance from onions improves glucose tolerance in diabetics.
Sulforaphane, an organosulfur compound found in broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, increases glutathione activity, reduces mitochondrial permeability, and reduces oxidative stress in the body (essentially massive free radical production).
Quite interesting results of the study were shared by scientists who conducted an experiment in one of the Chinese provinces (with a rather high level of atmospheric pollution). It is the unfavorable environmental conditions that are called the cause of the frequent occurrence of liver cancer in the local population. However, people who regularly consume broccoli have, so to speak, immunity against free radicals. Broccoli has also been seen to reduce oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics.
And sulfur compounds, present in all types of cruciferous, have powerful anti-cancer properties, counteract carcinogens, including trans fats.
How to cook vegetables while preserving the properties of sulfur
Of course, raw vegetables and fruits contain the most useful substances. But to provide the body with sulfur, not everyone dares to eat an onion or garlic. This, of course, is possible, but not very pleasant. Sulfur-containing vegetables often end up on our table either as components in salads or after heat treatment. But how to cook a delicious dish and preserve the beneficial properties of sulfur?
Onions and garlic
But if these vegetables are consumed raw, then very small portions are used. Most often, these products are found boiled, stewed or fried. But if onion or garlic is chopped before cooking and left for at least 10 minutes, then the process of additional production of allyl sulfur starts, which becomes more resistant to heat.
This vegetable is best cooked in a double boiler - this way it retains the maximum amount of sulfur. But here, too, there are some remarks. Experiments have shown that a lightly steamed vegetable contains at least three times more sulforaphane than a product after a strong heat treatment. It is advisable to finish cooking broccoli at the stage when the cabbage is still a delicate bright green color. This usually takes 3-4 minutes in a double boiler.
Again, studies show that lightly sautéed cabbage contains more bioavailable organosulfur compounds than a vegetable cooked over high heat and for a long time. To preserve the macronutrient, before cooking cabbage, like onions, chop to the desired consistency and leave for a few minutes - so that useful compounds (myrosinase) “work”. And also, as in the case of broccoli, an excellent cooking option is steamed (steam for 4-5 minutes). If the cooking process takes place using a microwave oven, then it is better to resort to low and medium power.
To activate the enzyme myrosinin and make the sulfur from cauliflower more bioavailable, it is advisable to cut the vegetable into small florets and leave for 10 minutes. Steam or cook in the oven. For example, if you mix cauliflower with a little curry, cayenne pepper, salt and olive oil, and then bake it all, you get a very tasty and sulfur-rich dish.
This type of cabbage, for maximum preservation of sulfur, is also best cooked in a double boiler or baked. At the same time, the same rule remains relevant: not for long and avoiding too high a temperature.
|Product name (100 g)||Sulfur content (mg)|
|Chicken egg||) 1050|
|Shellfish [1 17]||250|
In some regions, spring drinking water also contains a lot of sulfur. A liquid with a sulfate content per liter of more than 250 mg has a pronounced unpleasant odor and taste.
Sulfur Side Effects
Although rare, sulfur can cause side effects when consumed in excess.
Symptoms of sulfur poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and headaches.
If any of the above symptoms appear while consuming foods rich in sulfur, it is worth giving them up for a few days. If the symptoms persist, see a doctor.
And the fact that the body needs additional consumption of foods rich in sulfur can be indicated by joint pain, dull hair and weakened nails.
An adult needs about 1 g of sulfur daily. This need can be easily satisfied by adhering to proper nutrition.
- Gataulina G. – Sulfur in the body: role, deficiency and excess, sulfur in products. – Inflora. 2012 301 p.