Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in your body, after calcium and phosphorous. It’s an important mineral element that you get almost wholly through dietary proteins, yet it’s been over 20 years since the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) issued its last update on recommended daily allowances (RDA) for it.
In a study examining critical elements about how sulfur works in the body, researchers noted we might not be getting enough and the importance of this mineral may be underestimated.
The Importance of Sulfur
Almost fifty percent of your body’s sulfur are located in your muscles, skin and bones, but it does much more than benefit just these three areas. It plays important roles in many bodily systems.
Sulfur bonds are needed to allow proteins to maintain their normal shape. Your hair and nails consists of a tough protein called keratin, which is high in sulfur, whereas connective tissue and cartilage contain proteins with flexible sulfur bonds, giving the structure its flexibility. With age, the flexible tissues in your body tend to lose their elasticity, leading to sagging and wrinkling of skin, stiff muscles and painful joints.
Sulfur also plays an important role in:
- Your body’s electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
- Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
- Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
- Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
Are You Getting Enough Sulfur in Your Diet?
Only two of the 20 amino acids, methionine and cysteine which are normally found in foods contain sulfur. Also, they are not stored in your body. Any excess is changed into sulphate and excreted in the urine or stored in the form of glutathione (the body’s most potent anti-oxidant).
Dietary Sources of Sulfur
The best and most ideal way to obtain sulfur is through your diet. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed/pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered “complete” as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein. Needless to say, those who abstain from animal protein are placing themselves at far greater risk of sulfur deficiency.
Other dietary sources that contain small amounts of sulfur include:
- artichokes, Jerusalem but not French
- bakery products containing whey, cysteine, eggs or enzymes
- bean curd/tofu milk
- bean sprouts
- beans of all sorts
- bok choy
- brussels sprouts
- cheese of all sorts
- collard greens
- dairy products
- green beans
- lentils of all sorts
- milk from any animal
- miso soup
- papaya (slightly)
- pineapple (slightly)
- sour cream
- split peas
- turmeric (though not high in thiols, it is really good at raising thiol levels)