One nutrient that gets little attention is sulfur. It is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten” mineral. Despite the fact sulfur is present in many foods, many people are deficient.
Sulfur is important in healing; when you are deficient you may experience pain and inflammation in muscles and bones. It is important in metabolism; sulfur is contained in insulin, which supports the utilization in the body of sugar from carbohydrates.
Ninety-nine percent of the mass of the human body is comprised of six chemical elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. The remaining one percent is made up of potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine and magnesium. This composition may seem to indicate that sulfur is inconsequential, but in fact it is the third most abundant mineral in the body.
Every living tissue contains sulfur. It is present in two important amino acids: methionine, which cannot be synthesized by your body, and cysteine, which is synthesized by the body, but must have access to a steady supply of sulfur.
About half the sulfur in your body is contained in your skin, muscles and bones. Hair and nails also have sulfur, as do cartilage and connective tissues. These last two are in a more flexible form, and with aging, they break down. A deficiency of sulfur often appears as wrinkles.
Sulfur is part of one of the main antioxidants produced in your body, glutathione. This vital substance is not effective without sulfur, and glutathione is your body’s built-in detoxifier. Scientists say sulfur is a potent aluminum antagonist. Since some people believe aluminum may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, these scientists say a sulfur deficiency may be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s. Many people with low levels of sulfur exhibit “foggy mind,” poor concentration and memory problems.
A deficiency of sulfur may play a role in obesity, which has grown to alarming proportions. The standard Western diet, high in grains and processed foods, results in a loss of sulfur.
Some of the best sources of sulfur are high-protein foods, such as organic, pastured eggs, grass-fed meats, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, nuts and leafy greens. It is also good to drink water, which can provide up to ten percent of the body’s daily need for this mineral. Hard tap water is rich in sulfur. Raw garlic is an excellent source. Experts recommend three cloves a day, raw and crushed or chopped before eating. You can put it in gaspacho or pesto, or sprinkle garlic cloves with olive oil and roast them, particularly with sweet potatoes, carrots and onions.