The Top Foods High in Sulfur (2024)

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By Jillian Levy, CHHC

February 21, 2022

The Top Foods High in Sulfur (1)

We hear a lot about the importance of consuming foods that provide minerals like calcium and potassium. Foods high in sulfur get less attention, even though sulfur-rich foods offer many benefits.

Sulfur is a nutrient that has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant effects, which is why veggies that are high in this mineral — such as onions, broccoli and cabbage — are some of the best foods for your jointsand immune system.

What Is Sulfur?

Sulfur is a nonmetallic chemical element. It’s also the third most abundant mineral in the human body next to calcium and phosphorus.

Our bodies can’t make it on their own, so we must acquire this mineral from our diets, including from both plant- and animal-derived food sources, as well as from drinking water that comes from certain sources.

The type of sulfur we get from from drinking water is called inorganic sulfate. There are also sulfur-containing compounds found in many foods, which are called organosulfur compounds.

Why do we need sulfur? Within the human body, functions of sulfur include:

  • Protecting against cellular damage and oxidative stress
  • Helping with synthesis of antioxidants
  • Building and repairing DNA
  • Maintaining nitrogen balance
  • Supporting immune function
  • Controlling inflammation
  • Inhibiting certain harmful bacteria

Foods High in Sulfur

You’ll find sulfur in a wide variety of foods, including plant-based and animal foods. It’s present in varying amounts in:

  • vegetables
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • meat
  • seafood
  • poultry
  • dairy
  • eggs

Studies have found that most people get their highest intake of dietary sulphur from foods that provide two amino acids: methionine and cysteine (organosulfur compounds). These are found in foods that provide protein, such as seafood, meat, legumes, milk and eggs.

Other food groups that provide a high percentage of sulfur in people’s diets are alliaceous and cruciferous vegetables, which include veggies like onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower and others. One study found that these two groups of vegetables contributed up to 42% of total sulphur intake among sampled diets.

What fruits are high in sulfur, and which vegetables have the most sulfur?

Below is a list of the top sulfur-rich foods:

  • Beef
  • Organ meats
  • Crustaceans/seafood (like crab, lobster, shrimp and scallops)
  • Poultry (chicken and turkey)
  • Fish
  • Dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir, etc.)
  • Eggs
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • Scallions
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas


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

1. Help Fight Inflammation and Joint Pain

Sulfur foods, such as garlic and onions, are thought to have anti-inflammatory effects. This means they can reduce chronic inflammation that contributes to pain along with a range of chronic diseases.

Consumption of sulfur foods may help decrease joint and muscle pain. That is why the compound called methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which is a sulfur-containing compound found in plant- and animal-based foods, is added to dietary supplements intended to lower joint pain.

There’s some research showing that when adults with osteoarthritis pain take MSM supplements for at least 12 weeks, they tend to experience a reduction in pain and improved joint function.

2. Support Cardiovascular Function

A diet that includes sulfur dioxide from foods, especially from nutrient-rich foods like allium and cruciferous vegetables, may help lower one’s risk of developing heart disease.

Some sulfur-rich foods, such as broccoli and cauliflower, contain high levels of beneficial compounds called glucosinolates that seem to offer protection against cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and some neurodegenerative diseases.

3.Have Antimicrobial Properties

Sulfur and its derivatives naturally have some antimicrobial effects due to their ability to inhibit growth of harmful bacteria.

This explains why topical treatments are sometimes used by dermatological to manage skin conditions, including acne, dandruff, rosacea and warts.

Glucosinolates found in cruciferous vegetables also have antimicrobial effects, especially in the digestive system, and the ability to enhance detoxification. They have been shown to decrease proliferation of bacterial and other microbes that can damage the intestines and colon.

4. May Help Defend Against Cancer

A number of sulfur-rich foods, especially those in thecruciferous and allium plant families, contain antioxidants and other compounds that have demonstrated anti-cancer effects.

Allium and cruciferous vegetables, both concentrated with organosulfur compounds, have been shown in some studies to help stop growth of certain cancer cells, including those that cause breast, prostate, gastrointestinal and lung cancer.

There’s also evidence that MSM not only has immune-supporting and anti-inflammatory effects, but also antioxidant properties that can lower risk for certain cancers, such as colon, gastrointestinal, and liver cancers.

5. Have Antioxidant Effects

Sulfur plays a role in the synthesis of glutathione, considered to be one of the most powerful antioxidants. Increased glutathione enzyme activity, which can happen when you consume a diet high in sulfur, helps fight inflammation and oxidative stress that lead to symptoms associated with aging and certain chronic diseases.

For example, glutathione is thought to help lower the risk of certain neurodegenerative diseases, such asAlzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, because it helps defend brain cells against damage and promotes clearance ofamyloid-beta plaque buildup in the brain, which is associated with cognitive decline.

Risks and Side Effects

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

What does too much sulfur do to the body?

High intake of sulfur supplements, such as MSM, or sulfur water may cause mild side effects for some people, including indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea/loose stools, and skin and eye irritation.

It’s also not suitable for people taking blood-thinner medications due to potential side effects affecting the heart and cardiovascular system that may occur. If you’re pregnant, you’ll want to speak with a doctor before taking sulfur supplements.

Certain people can also be sensitive to the effects of this mineral, especially those with inflammatory bowel disease. A diet rich in sulfur, particularly from animal products, may potentially worsen GI issues in people with impaired gut function due to how it affects bacteria in the gut.

According to some research, high amounts of sulfur obtained from an animal-based diet pattern also tend to be low in fiber, which can negatively shift ratios of microbiota in the gut and increase protein fermentation. This may have certain damaging effects.

How can I reduce sulphur in my body?

It’s unlikely that your health will suffer from eating foods with sulfur, but there are people who are sensitive to sulfite preservatives (derived from sulfur) that are added to foods and beverages.

It remains up for debate how common this is, but it’s estimated about 1% of adults (1 in 100) are negatively affected by sulfites. If you suspect they are causing you problems, avoid products like:

  • wine with added sulfites
  • beer
  • cookies
  • crackers
  • pickled foods
  • bottled juices
  • most condiments
  • canned and frozen foods

How to Add to Diet (Plus Dosage)

As you can see from the list of sulfur-rich foods above, there are plenty of options for adding more of this mineral to your diet.

Whether you’re a plant-based eater or an omnivore, you can increase your intake of this essential mineral by eatinga balanced diet that includes a variety of food groups, especially foods high in protein, allium vegetables and cruciferous vegetables.

It’s believed that sulfur and other beneficial compounds found in veggies like broccoli, onions and garlic are most available when these foods are cooked. Try steaming broccoli and similar veggies for several minutes or sautéing garlic and onions,to helps maximize the bioavailability of sulfur-containing compounds.

Dosage Recommendations:

There are currently no recommended daily intakes (official guidelines) for sulphur.

One study found that, on average, people consumed about 950 milligrams of sulfur per day (with a range of 630 to 1,270 milligrams) from diets containing a variety of foods, especially green veggies, onions, garlic and protein foods.

If you’re using MSM supplements to improve your health, a standard dosage recommendation is about500 milligrams of MSM per day, taken two to three times daily. Other reports show that up to three to six grams of MSM daily (divided into three doses normally) seems to be safe and well-tolerated.


  • Foods high in sulfur include those in these food groups:
    • Allium vegetables: garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, and shallots
    • Cruciferous vegetables: arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and radishes
    • Eggs
    • Legumes: chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, and peas
    • Meat and seafood: chicken, crab, lobster, scallops, and organ meats
    • Dairy products: milk, yogurt, parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese
    • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds
  • Benefits of consuming more foods high in sulfur include protection against inflammation, joint pain, oxidative stress and impaired immune function.
  • There is no recommended daily allowance for sulfur, but because it’s found in a variety of animal and plant foods, the best way to get enough is to eat a varied, balanced diet.
The Top Foods High in Sulfur (2024)


What has high content of sulphur? ›

The high sulfur content of coal has been recognized as the source of air pollution problems (acid rain), particularly from electricity generation and in industrial boilers, and also a cause of other environmental problems such as acid mine drainage due to oxidation of pyritic sulfur in coals.

Which fruit has more sulphur? ›

Dried fruit: Especially dried peaches, apricots and figs are also sulfur-rich foods. Certain vegetables: Especially asparagus, broccoli, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, radishes, watercress. Certain grains: Especially pearl barley, oats, wheat, and flours made from these grains are all rich in sulfur.

What does high sulfur do to body? ›

Sulfur in excess can cause brain cell death, resulting in brain damage. Signs associated with brain damage can include blindness, incoordination, seizures, death, and others. See the fact sheet on pets and pesticide use for more information about reducing risks to pets. Burning sulfur creates sulfur dioxide, a gas.

What are the side effects of high sulfur foods? ›

Therefore, eating enough sulfur-rich foods is essential for your health. That said, drinking water containing too much of the mineral might cause loose stools and diarrhea. What's more, a diet rich in sulfur may potentially worsen symptoms in people with certain inflammatory bowel diseases.

What are the side effects of sulphur? ›

The side effects of Sulphur are as follows. It causes severe burning, redness, stinging, itching, and swelling. Sulfur-based products cause dryness, oily skin, and peeling of the treated skin. There are headaches, dizziness, and nausea problems.

Is coffee high in sulfur? ›

Most difficult for some people is cutting out items that are traditionally used for quick bursts of energy, like coffee, chocolate, tea and even carob. All are foods high in sulfur. Most fruits, are low in sulfur.

Is canned tuna high in sulfur? ›

The highest sulfur content was found in preserved/canned fish (3.0 g/kg), seafood (2.8 g/kg), white meat (2.8 g/kg) and dairy products, particularly aged cheeses (2.1 g/kg) and lowest in fresh fruit (87 mg/kg), oils and fats (157 mg/kg), and beverages (141 mg/kg), with the exception of onion and garlic (1.3 g/kg).

What foods get rid of sulfur? ›

Good choices include: 3-4oz portions of animal protein or protein from beans/lentils/legumes with low-sulfur veggies, such as salads, carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, spinach, collards, artichokes, and corn.

What disease does sulfur cause? ›

Sulfur dioxide is severely irritating to the eyes, mucous membranes, skin, and respiratory tract. Bronchospasm, pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, and acute airway obstruction can occur. Inhalation exposure to very low concentrations of sulfur dioxide can aggravate chronic pulmonary diseases, such as asthma and emphysema.

Are eggs high in sulphur? ›

Eggs are high in sulfur, as are dairy products, chicken, crab and lobster. Almonds, Brazil nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds will augment your sulfur intake when added to salads, sandwiches and snacks. Rounding out this list of sulfur-rich foods are chickpeas, fava beans, kidney beans, lentils and peas.

Is sulfur bad for the liver? ›

Sulfur-containing compounds are able to interfere with molecular pathways associated with liver fibrosis, such as TGF-β, PDGF, and TLR4/MyD88 signaling, leading to the inhibition of HSCs activation and the fibrogenesis process.

What produces the most sulfur? ›

Nowadays very little sulfur is mined from nature, as most of the production is recovered due to environmental reasons. Byproduct elemental sulfur recovered from natural gas and petroleum is the main source of sulfur worldwide.

What releases the most sulfur? ›

Most of the sulfur dioxide released into the environment comes from electric utilities, especially those that burn coal. Some other sources of sulfur dioxide include petroleum refineries, cement manufacturing, paper pulp manufacturing, and metal smelting and processing facilities.

What are the symptoms of high sulfur levels? ›

Sulfur - So What? Some people have difficulty clearing sulfur from their system, most often due to a genetic inheritance. An intolerance to sulfur can manifest as asthma/shortness of breath, hives/itchy skin, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, flushing, high or low blood pressure, brain fog, chronic stress and fatigue.

What are the symptoms of sulfur sensitivity? ›

Symptoms include flushing, fast heartbeat, wheezing, hives, dizziness, stomach upset and diarrhoea, collapse, tingling or difficulty swallowing. Many of these reactions when fully assessed have been found not to be anaphylaxis, or caused by triggers other than sulfites.


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