When you hear the word “sulfur” you may think back to your high school chemistry class and remember the days when you were forced to memorize the periodic table of elements and perform experiments on that yellow sulfur rock with your lab partner. If the biggest take-home message you received was that sulfur doesn’t smell so great, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s time to take sulfur out of the lab and understand its vital role in your diet!
Unlike calcium or potassium, sulfur seems to keep a low profile compared to its elemental counterparts. The truth is, sulfurous compounds are involved in hundreds of physiological processes in the human body and deserve some dietary spotlight. Here’s a few to chew on:
~ Sulfur is required for the synthesis of glutathione – one of your natural antioxidants
~ It is also required for the development of taurine, an acid critical for proper cardiovascular and central nervous system function.
~ It is necessary for the formation of insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
~ Keeps your skin, hair and nails strong and healthy
So you’re starting to get the picture. At this point, I hope you’re asking yourself WHERE CAN I GET THIS!? Fortunately, your Sakara meal program has got what you need!
Cruciferous vegetables: Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale are all members of the cruciferous family. When you go about your day-to-day life, you inevitably ingest small amounts of carcinogenic compounds, which over time can accumulate and threaten your health. Good news is these vegetables are abundant in a phytonutrient called sulforaphane, which can increase the ability of your liver to detoxify dangerous cancer-causing compounds. In fact, a study in 2003 published in the International Journal of Cancer indicated that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables could provide a survival advantage for women with ovarian cancer.
All about alliums: Alliums are the clan of veggies better known as garlic, onions, leeks, chives and shallots. They may not be the best first-date foods but let me tell you, these guys provide a host of health benefits and you won’t want to miss out on the action. Garlic in particular can have blood-thinning effects and may reduce the formation of blood clots – so much so that you should tell your doctor if you’re taking blood-thinning medication and you eat a ton of garlic. There is also evidence that it may help to lower LDL-cholesterol aka the “bad” cholesterol. Furthermore, studies have shown that allium vegetables seem to have a protective effect against stomach and colorectal cancers, likely due to their organsosulfur compounds. These compounds work by assisting your liver detoxification system and modulating your natural antioxidant system.
Was it the chicken or the egg? Though sulfur is also abundant in meat and poultry, we’re going to say opt for the egg. Well, the organic egg anyway. Protein based foods tend to be good sources of dietary sulfur, and eggs are just one convenient (and budget-friendly) way to reap the benefits. You can also turn to vegan protein sources like soybeans, tofu, or lentils for a daily dose of this stuff. Not to mention legumes provide an additional fiber bonus – and you know how we feel about fiber!
Now that you know how to navigate the grocery store when you’re in search of sulfur, there are a few things about produce prep you should know. Unfortunately when it comes to alliums, the beneficial sulfur compounds are at their peak when they are raw, and heat actually reduces their potency. Chances are you don’t eat an onion the way you would an apple, and you prefer to use it in your cooking. The silver lining is that studies have found that if you slice your allium veggies and let them sit for at least 10 minutes before cooking, they release more sulfur compounds and they become more resistant to heat. When it comes to the cruciferous crew, steaming is your best bet. Steaming these guys actually increases their sulfur bioavailability, meaning your body is able to use and absorb more of its sulfur content. Just make sure you steam your green veggies until they turn bright green. If they become dull, you’ve gone too far!
Next time you think of sulfur I hope it’s because you’re slicing onions or prepping broccoli rabe for your dinner party! Or of course, because you’re enjoying the sulfur-rich decadence of our Creamy Cauliflower Couscous with Toasted Almonds & Apricots or our signature (kale) Vitality Salad w/ Energizing Herb Croutons!