Sulfur and Foods Resource
Date: October 2006
I can find information on high sulfur foods, but
what foods are very low, or have no sulfur in them?
First off, let's eliminate any foods that have sulfur added as a
preservative. This is usually indicated on the label; it will say something
like "contains sulfites" (in wine, for example), or there will be an
ingredient listed that has some form of sulfur in its name.
Now let's look at what's in a typical cell, since foods are often made from
all or part of a cell. Aside from water, oxygen, etc., there are four major
types of molecules in cells: nucleic acids, lipids, carbohydrates, and
proteins. Which ones contain sulfur?
Nucleic acids are represented by DNA and RNA. They are made up of carbon,
hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. No sulfur there, but then there aren't any
foods that are pure DNA or RNA.
Lipids are fats and oils. The membranes of cells are made of lipids. Lipids
generally have carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. I can't think of an example
that has sulfur. So corn oil, for example, should be low in sulfur.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches. They only contain carbon, hydrogen,
and oxygen. No sulfur.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are twenty different amino acids
that are combined to make proteins, much like 26 letters combine to make
words and sentences. One of these amino acids, cysteine, contains an atom of
sulfur. So, most anything containing protein will contain at least a little
So the bottom line is that you should look at foods that do not contain
protein. In particular, anything that is purely carbohydrate, such as soda,
will not contain sulfur (unless it's added as a preservative). Starchy
foods, such as pasta and potatos, should contain little or no sulfur, since
they are mostly carbohydrate. Any sulfur in them would be in the tiny amount
of protein that may be present.
Paul Mahoney, PhD
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Update: June 2012