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Get acquainted with your nutrients - Sulphur
Get acquainted with your nutrients – Sulphur
Sulphur is a non-metal element and though it may not be an essential nutrient it is a constituent of essential nutrients. Sulphur is an important component of several essential nutrients such as amino acid methionine and vitamins biotin and thiamin. After calcium and phosphorous, sulphur is the mineral element present in significant amounts in our body.
Two of the 20 amino acids normally present in dietary proteins contain sulphur. One of these amino acids, methionine is an essential amino acid as it cannot be synthesized by our body and has to be supplied by our daily diet. Cysteine is the other sulphur containing amino acid and can be synthesized in our body but the for this process to occur it requires a steady supply of sulphur.
Food sources of sulphur
The main source of sulphur in our diet are sulphur containing amino acids, methionine and cysteine. These are provided by foods that come from plant sources. Animal foods which we consume that provide the sulphur containing amino acids also get them from plant sources which they eat. Only plants and bacteria are capable of biosynthesis of organic sulphur compounds.
Proteins, in general, contain 3 to 6% of sulphur containing amino acids. A very small amount of sulphur is obtained in the form of inorganic sulphates and other forms of organic sulphur present in foods like garlic, onion, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.
Here are some foods that are very good sources of sulphur
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
Foods such as meats, nuts, and seafood also contain sulphur. About 10 % of the sulphur we consume comes from drinking water. Plants were grown in soils which are deficient in sulphur also will be deficient in sulphur.
What does sulphur do in the body?
Sulphur containing biomolecules take part in many important functions in living organisms such as free radicals scavenging, tissue integrity protection, enzyme functionality, DNA methylation and repair, and so on. As a constituent of the hormone insulin, it plays a role in carbohydrate metabolism. Sulphur containing biomolecules are involved in a variety of homeostatic processes in the body.
Glucosinolates are sulphur-containing compounds and they are responsible for the unique sharp taste and a pungent aroma characteristic of these cruciferous vegetables. The concentration of glucosinolate in crucifers can vary depending on the species, cultivar and environmental conditions. These products show chemo-preventive activities.
The mechanisms include
- Altered estrogen metabolism
- Protection against reactive oxygen species
- Altered detoxification by induction of phase II enzymes
- Decreased carcinogen activation by inhibition of phase I enzymes
- Slowed tumour growth and induction of apoptosis.
Sulphur plays an important part in the synthesis of a lot of key metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione. These sulphur containing metabolites, of which glutathione is one, are receiving a good amount of attention because of their therapeutic effects such as antioxidant activity. Sulphur is the third most abundant mineral in our body. Therefore, it is essential to take adequate amounts of sulphur containing foods in the diet.