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What is sulfur?

Sulfur is a chemical element, which is in the human body a part of [1]:

  • Proteins
  • Coenzyme A (CoA), required for release of energy from nutrients
  • Glutathione, an antioxidant
  • Heparin, an anticoagulant
  • Heparan sulfate, a viscous substance between the cells in the cartilage, skin and hair

How much sulfur do you need?

The amount of sulfur you need per day is not known. No sulfur deficiency symptoms are known. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for sulfur has not been set.

Foods High in Sulfur

Foods High in Sulfur

Picture 1. Examples of foods high in sulfur

You can get all the required sulfur from the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and methionine [1], cystine, homocystine, homocysteine and taurine. Other sources of dietary sulfur include vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B7 (biotin), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), inorganic sulfate in foods, drinking water and other beverages.

Chart 1. Foods High in Sulfur

PLANT FOODS Sulfur (mg)
Tea (1 cup, 237 mL) 430
Cocoa drink (1 cup, 237 mL) 400
Carrageenan, dried (1 tsp, 5 g) 270
Peaches, dried (100 g) 240
Apricots, dried (100 g) 170
Barley (100 g) 120
Coffee (100 mL) 110
Peanuts (1 oz, 28 g) 110
Duck (3 oz, 85 g) 340
Shellfish (3 oz, 85 g) 230-340
Beef (3 oz, 85 g) 170-300
Poultry: chicken, turkey, goose (3 oz, 85 g) 200-280
Beef liver (3 oz, 85 g) 230
Fish (3 oz, 85 g) 110-210
Cheese (2 oz, 57 g) 130-190
Egg (50 g) 180
Lamb, mutton (3 oz, 85 g) 140-170
Sausage (3 oz, 85 g) 70-150

Chart 2. Foods Low in Sulfur

PLANT FOODS Sulfur (mg)
Brazil nuts (1 oz, 28 g) 85
Brussel’s sprouts, spinach (boiled) (1/2 cup, 120 mL) 80
Rice, boiled (1 cup, 237 mL) 80
Figs, dried (100 g) 80
Chocolate (2 oz, 57 g) 65
Oatmeal, prepared with water (1 cup, 237 mL) 50
Asparagus, broccoli, leeks (all boiled) (1/2 cup, 237 mL) 45-50
Legumes: beans, lentils, peas; boiled (1/2 cup, 120 mL) 40-50
Potatoes and sweet potatoes (boiled) (1 cup, 237 mL) 40
Almonds, walnuts (1 oz, 28 g) 30-40
Mushrooms, raw (100 g) 25-35
Avocado, currants, olives, passion fruit, prunes, raisins (100 g) 20-35
Artichokes (Jerusalem), beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, salsify, swede, turnips (all boiled) (1/2 cup, 120 mL) 15-35
Chestnuts (100 g) 30
Bread (2 slices, 50 g) 30
Dates (50 g) 25
Coconut (50 g) 20
Cornflakes 30 g, plus added water (1 cup, 237 mL) 10
Apple, apricot, arrowroot, banana, blackberries, butter, carrots, cherries, cranberries, cream, cucumber, eggplant, goosenberries, grapes, grapefruit, honey, jam, lard, lemon juice, margarine, nectarine, orange, peach, pear, pineapple, plums, raspberries, pumpkin, quince, rhubarb, strawberries, tapioca, tomato (100 g) <10
Milk (1 cup, 237 mL) 70

Chart 1 and 2 source: MEBO Research [2]

Other sources of sulfur:

  • Drinking water in some areas contains a lot of sulfur; water containing more than 250 mg sulfates per liter has a distinct unpleasant odor and taste.
  • Sulfites (compounds with SO32- ion), naturally occurring or used as preservatives or antioxidants in [3]:
    • Baked goods: breads, cookies, crackers, pastries, waffles (sulfites are in baker’s yeast)
    • Condiments
    • Dressings, sauces, soup mixes, tomato paste, ketchup
    • Dried, canned, pickled or frozen fruits, vegetables and fish, dried herbs and spices
    • Fruit juices, concentrates, jams, jellies, gelatin, pectin, sugar syrups
    • Gravies
    • Guacamole
    • Jams
    • Lettuce
    • Maraschino cherries
    • Molasses
    • Potato chips
    • Processed meats
    • Shrimps
    • Soft drinks
    • Snack foods: candies, chocolate and fruit bars, potato chips, trail mix
    • Soup mixes
    • Sparkling grape juice
    • Starch foods: potato, noodles, rice mixes, cornmeal
    • Tea
    • Trail mix
    • Vegetable juices
    • Wines, especially in sweet and white wines, beer, cider, wine, wine vinegar
  • Supplements: acidophylus probiotics, alpha-lipoic acid, bromelain, chlorella, dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), glutathione, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), NAC, papain, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B7 (biotin)

Sulfate Side Effects and Toxicity

Sulfur Burps

Some people may–after eating foods or supplements high in sulfur–experience ‘rotten eggs’ burps or/and gas due to hydrogen sulfide (H2S) produced by normal intestinal bacteria, when they break down sulfur compounds.

Diarrhea in Infants

Infants fed with formula containing water high in sulfur or people drinking water containing more than 250 mg sulfates per liter may get diarrhea [1].

Sulfite Sensitivity

Sulfites may cause an allergic-like reaction with facial flushing and swelling, difficulty breathing, skin rash and headache in sensitive people, especially in asthmatic patients [3].


There are no known symptoms of sulfur toxicity from dietary reasons. No Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for sulfur has been set [1].

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