Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Feb

Why You Should Eat Sulfur-Rich Vegetables

“Be sure to eat your sulfur.”

When’s the last time someone told you that? Except for the Wahls talk, probably never. My mother certainly didn’t.

Few people even know much about sulfur besides the whole rotten egg, fire and brimstone thing. It’s a mineral with a role in our physiology, but it doesn’t showboat like the obscenely corporeal calcium, forming bones and teeth that you can literally feel and see. It won’t immediately soothe your restless muscles or put you right to sleep, like magnesium. Unlike zinc, it doesn’t figure prominently in the production of a sexy hormone like testosterone. And though you can take iodine and get an instant reaction from your thyroid, taking sulfur doesn’t produce anything tangible. In short, sulfur lurks in the background and keeps a low profile.

So why does Terry Wahls promote the consumption of three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables every day?

Before we get to that, let’s define what we’re discussing here. What exactly qualifies as a sulfur-rich vegetable? Any and all fibrous non-leafy (although some have leaves, they’re never the culinary focus) usually-green vegetables that steam well and emit a distinctive, offensive-to-some odor probably contain considerable amounts of sulfur and can be called “sulfur-rich”:

  • Brassicas – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and related vegetables.
  • Alliums – onions, shallots, garlic, leeks.
  • Lots of edible stalks, lovely smells if you cook it wrong, and a tendency to go well with lemon butter. That sort of thing.

Back to Wahls’ recommendation to eat more sulfur. What’s the justification for it?

Well, by weight, sulfur is one of the most abundant mineral elements in the human body, coming in at around 140 grams for the average person. And as any regular reader of this blog should know, you don’t get to be an abundant mineral in human physiology by accident. Nope: sulfur is involved in hundreds of physiological processes. Let’s explore some of the big ones:

Sulfur is required for the synthesis of glutathione, one of our premier endogenous antioxidants. I’ve talked a bit about glutathione before. It’s one of the good ones.

Sulfur, in the form of disulfide bonds, provides strength and resiliency to hair, feathers, and feathered hair.

Sulfur is required for taurine synthesis. Taurine is essential for proper functioning of the cardiovascular system, our muscles, and the central nervous system.

Sulfur binds the two chains of amino acids that form insulin. It may seem like we bag on insulin a lot, but it’s absolutely necessary for life.

Sulfur is found in methionine, an essential amino acid (think meat, eggs, cheese), and in cysteine, a “non-essential” amino acid (think pork, poultry, eggs, milk).

But wait a minute. If sulfur can be found in all the animal foods we’re already eating – beef, chicken, eggs, pork, dairy – what’s the point of eating all those sulfur-rich vegetables?

There are two reasons, I think, for focusing on “sulfur-rich” vegetables. First, it’s helpful to group things. We’ve got the leafy greens, we’ve got the brightly colored produce (more on this next week), and we’ve got the sulfurs. We want to eat things from all three categories, and making the latter a separate group ensures that we won’t “overdose” on spinach. It’s just a neat, slick way to get the pro-vegetable message across and increase variety of intake. Second, and most importantly, sulfur-rich vegetation tends to come with extremely potent organosulfur compounds that offer a lot of benefit to those who eat them. Animal sources may contain plenty of sulfur-rich amino acids, which we undoubtedly require, but they don’t contain the organosulfur compounds.

Let’s explore them and go over a few of their potential benefits.

Alliums and Their Allyl Sulfur Compounds

Garlic, onions, shallots, and leeks all contain various organosulfur compounds, some of which show major potential.

Garlic-derived organosulfur compounds have shown promise as anti-cancer operatives in in vitro studies.

Various garlic sulfides protected mice from peroxidative damage and increased glutathione activity in the liver. The garlic sulfides were delivered via corn oil, but I would recommend garlic butter if you’re looking for a fatty vessel.

When cooking meat, using an onion and garlic-based marinade reduced the formation of heterocyclic amines (a carcinogenic compound).

Onion-derived sulfur compounds improved the glucose tolerance of diabetic rats (but garlic-derived compounds did not).

Brassicas and Their Various Organosulfur Compounds

Sulforaphane, an organosulfur compound found in broccoli (especially the sprouts), cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower, inhibited mitochondrial permeability and reduced oxidative stress by increasing glutathione activity in rats.

In inhabitants of a Chinese farming community, where airborne pollution is high and liver cancer incidence is elevated, drinking a sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout drink was also able to increase the urinary excretion of those airborne pollutants.

Broccoli sprouts reduced oxidative stress in type 2 diabetics, as shown in a double blind placebo-controlled trial.

Organosulfur compounds from all kinds of brassicas have the potential to reduce or counteract the carcinogens derived from high-heat cooking.

Eating brassicas along with a carcinogen salad prevented the absorption of said carcinogens.

How to Prepare These Vegetables (and Preserve Their Compounds)

You can’t just go eat a head of cabbage like an apple, or throw together a lovely salad of raw onion, raw garlic, and raw broccoli stalks. I mean, you could, but it’d be pretty unpleasant. No, you want to cook these vegetables, because they taste better and are likely more nutritious that way. But you also don’t want to miss out on all the delightful organosulfur compounds we’ve been discussing. You want the optimal prep method – or close to it.

Onions and Garlic

If it’s beneficial allyl sulfur compounds you want to consume, eating your alliums raw and sliced is the ticket. Heat breaks down the compounds. The only problem is that those same allyl sulfur compounds that might fight cancer, boost antioxidant status, and ward off liver damage are the very things that make raw onion and garlic so pungent and unpalatable. Some people enjoy the stuff raw – not me, besides a little chopped garlic in my salad dressings and some raw onion on a salad – but most prefer them cooked. Luckily, studies suggest that by slicing your alliums and letting them sit for at least ten minutes before cooking, you allow the myrosinase enzyme to release more allyl sulfur compounds and make them more resistant to heat.

Broccoli

Steaming is the way to go. One study found that lightly steaming broccoli rendered the sulforaphane three times more bioavailable than after heavily cooking it. I like to steam my broccoli until it’s bright green and tender enough to pierce the stalk with a fork with an emphatic push. Soggy, dull green broccoli is the worst – and it’s not nearly as beneficial. One group of scientists corroborate my method, saying that three to four minutes of light steaming – until “tough-tender” – is ideal.

Cabbage

Again, research confirms that lightly steamed cabbage offers more bioavailable organosulfur compounds than cabbage cooked at high heat in the microwave. Chop it up to your desired consistency. Let sit for a few minutes so the myrosinase gets to work. Stick to four or five minutes of steaming. Then, toss with your fat of choice. If you want to microwave, use the low or medium setting.

Cauliflower

Cut into small florets, let sit for ten minutes (to let the myrosinase enzyme do its work and make the glucosinates more available), and steam or bake. I’m a big fan of baked cauliflower tossed with turmeric, curry powder, cayenne, salt, and olive oil.

Brussels Sprouts

Although I’m sure the “best” way to cook sprouts (like all the other brassicas) is to quarter and steam them for five minutes, I can’t help but think you’re missing out on the perfect opportunity for some prime caramelization in the oven. So yeah, I’ll steam Brussels sprouts and toss with butter or olive oil and enjoy them just fine, but every once in awhile I’ll finish those suckers off in the oven on high.

Everything Else

Slicing, sitting, and steaming is always a safe bet.

For all these foods, try to embrace the bitterness. Love the bite, because that bite and that bitterness means you’re getting those interesting compounds. Enjoy the crispness of lightly cooked brassicas from time to time. It may take some getting used to, and you might have to play with different flavor combinations so that the bitterness will work, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Avoid the mush.

As I mentioned in the greens post, three cups a day are probably unnecessary. Just try a bunch from the ones I’ve listed, see what you like, and try to get some sort of sulfur-rich vegetable into your mouth at least a few times a week. Or, go all out and give the three cups a day routine a shot. You might really like it and thrive on it.

What’s your favorite sulfur-rich vegetable? How do you eat it? Let me know in the comment section!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Great summary. Happily, I love all these sulfury foods. Raw even.

    Harry Mossman wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Me, too. But please be aware that raw brassica foods have goitrogens that have a negative impact on the thyroid.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Yes. I eat raw cabbage like an apple.

        R.R. wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • yes! so I struggle on that.

        cgk wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • I have been eating fairly massive quantity of cabbage almost daily for more than a year. I too was worried about thyroid issues. I’ve had full blood work done recently and learned that I do not have any thyroid problems. My doctor went as far to say that I can have as much cabbage as I want and it still shouldn’t be an issue.

          Beat wrote on February 18th, 2012
    • I totally agree!! I think that as far as maintaining nutritional value goes (in non-animal foods), raw is most effective. While I love many of the recipes and totally respect Mark for his insight and contribution to the healthy lifestyle, I would be totally **stoked!!** to see more raw recipes, and a discussion of the advantages (and disadvantages) of raw food. I would totally eat that up!

      Joseph wrote on February 8th, 2012
    • Great read, Thanks Mark… However, I would not use a microwave for anything…

      Marco wrote on February 9th, 2012
      • I have not used microwave for over a year, and noticed a difference in the food: tastier and juicer when prepared in a steamer.

        Richard wrote on March 2nd, 2013
  2. What about for those following FODMAP eating guidelines? My stomach can’t handle most of these vegetables (especially onions).

    Jules wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • This is true for a lot of folks. I think that once you avoid FODMAPS for a long time and heal your gut, then you can re-introduce them one by one. You may be able to consume them then just fine.

      Someone please tell me if I am wrong!

      Primal Toad wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • I’m in the same boat on the FODMAPs. I was thinking as I read this, these things are all FODMAPS! Maybe the staulks of vegies like chard are things we can eat and get sulphur from? I’ve been looking into it but the FODMAP lists are inconsistent; I think we have to experiment. Onions have way too much fructose for me too; I noticed a huge improvement when I cut them out of my diet. Carry on FODMAP/Primal friend!

      DThalman wrote on February 8th, 2012
    • also i ate a bunch of kale after the leafy greens post and my gut’s been sorta rocky then i saw that it’s on the do not eat for FODMAPs list. watercress too and i love that stuff! it’s so hard to know what we can eat and frustrating to try to improve one’s nutrition, only to find out my gut is happier without these greens

      DThalman wrote on February 8th, 2012
      • The rocky gut may have been from too much too fast. I’d hate to see you give up on kale for that reason. When I first started eating kale I had the same response, it has a ton of fiber and takes getting your system used to it. Maybe start out with no more than a leaf or two stemmed.

        a.j. wrote on February 14th, 2012
  3. LOL at the link to feathered hair.

    rabbit_trail wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • LOL I agree.

      Onge wrote on February 7th, 2012
  4. I (and my mother and some of our friends) must be amongst the “few people” who know about sulphur. While it may not be as well know as calcium, I didn’t think that it was so obscure. If that’s the case, then you might want to consider covering silica, too.

    Anyway, looks like there is a lot of good leads to follow in this article. And, I am glad to see my preferred cooking methods confirmed. I assume that means that they are safe for removing goitrogens from the brassicas (aka cole crops).

    rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  5. Love that stinkycabbage!

    Abel James wrote on February 7th, 2012
  6. Oh, and now that I think of it – if you want to make a case for eating plant sources of minerals, silica is your guy! The primary sources are plant based – and fish is generally the only animal source on that list. Raw honey is also a source.

    Silica plays an important role in many of the body systems that are mentioned here in relation to sulphur, is beneficial to all healing processes in the body, and slows down the aging processes.

    rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Humans don’t contain silicon in any of our biomolecules. We’re not diatoms and we don’t grow shells.

      There was the idea that alien life might use silicon like we use carbon, but that probably wouldn’t work in an atmosphere containing oxygen. This is because oxidised silicon becomes silicon dioxide (sand) and is hard to get out of the body, unlike carbon dioxide.

      Tim wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • There were some studies in the 1970’s that indicated that silicon was an essential mineral in rats, but recent attempts could not replicate these findings and instead saw only minor changes in bone growth. See for example:

        “Increased longitudinal growth in rats on a silicon-depleted diet.” Bone. 2008 Sep;43(3):596-606.

        A free-access review on this topic is:

        “Silicon and bone health.” J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr;11(2):99-110.

        Tim wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Rat studies? Well, we are probably gonna end up agreeing to disagree – and that’s OK.

          And, after the last comment I made with an active link took DAYS to make it through moderation here, I refuse to provide links.

          If you haven’t seen it already, I made an additional response to your comments elsewhere.

          Take it or leave it – and I really don’t care which it is – here’s what I have to offer (below) that’s readily available online and can be referenced by anyone. And, as I said before, its only the tip of the iceberg where silica is concerned:

          At Yahoo! Answers:

          “What role does silicon play in human body?”

          “Silicon is a major ion in osteogenic cells, which are the bone-forming cells in young, uncalcified bone.

          The silicon in tissues is usually bonded to glycoproteins such as cartilage, whereas the silicon in blood is almost entirely found as either free orthosilicic acid or linked to small compounds.”

          “Research at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center (GFHNRC) has shown that low dietary silicon decreases the bone and blood concentrations of substances that stimulate cells to form joint and bone cartilage and initiate bone calcification in experimental animals.

          Low dietary silicon also has been shown by the GFHNRC to increase the excretion of products resulting from collagen and bone breakdown and loss, which are used as markers of osteoporosis risk. The recent research confirms that silicon stimulates the formation of collagen, a protein that gives bones their strength and flexibility, joint cartilage its cushioning ability, and a scaffold upon which bone mineralization occurs.”

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Last stop on my (current) foray into the science of silica – I have other things to obsess over.

          Available as an abstract at PubMed.gov

          J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr;11(2):94-7.

          “The chemistry of silica and its potential health benefits.”

          Martin KR.

          Abstract

          “There is considerable interest in the effects of silica on human health in contrast to prior research which focused solely on the toxic effects of inhaled crystalline silica. However, multiple forms of silica exist in nature and silicon, a component, is the second most prevalent element after oxygen. Silica has widespread industrial applications including use as a food additive, i.e., anti-caking agent, as a means to clarify beverages, control viscosity, as an anti-foaming agent, dough modifier, and as an excipient in drugs and vitamins. Chemically, silica is an oxide of silicon, viz., silicon dioxide, and is generally colorless to white and insoluble in water. When associated with metals or minerals the family of silicates is formed. There are several water soluble forms of silica referred collectively to as silicic acid (ortho, meta, di, and tri-silicates), which are present in surface and well water in the range of 1–100 mg/L.

          Orthosilicic acid is the form predominantly absorbed by humans and is found in numerous tissues including bone, tendons, aorta, liver and kidney. Compelling data suggest that silica is essential for health although no RDI has been established. However, deficiency induces deformities in skull and peripheral bones, poorly formed joints, reduced contents of cartilage, collagen, and disruption of mineral balance in the femur and vertebrae. Very little toxicity data exist regarding aqueous silica consumption due, in part, to the lack of anecdotal reports of toxicity and general presumption of safety. However, a few rodent studies have been conducted, which indicate a No Observed Adverse Effects Level (NOAEL) of 50,000 ppm (mg/L) for dietary silica. In conclusion, many forms of silica exist in nature and compelling data support myriad beneficial effects of silica in water.”

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • You may never be satisfied that it simply is NOT the case that “humans don’t contain silicon in any of our biomolecules” – no matter what information that I may share to the contrary. So be it.

        Just so I can smirk to myself if I care to about “you heard it here first” (geez maybe this feeling is a side effect of the Primal lifestyle)…

        ….as I alluded to in my initial post on the subject, silica is currently a focus of anti-aging health and medicine researchers. Note the journal title of the previous reference that I shared.

        Given the whole Primal-living-is-a-fountain-of-youth, “aging is a myth” philosophy, I’d think that any element that promises to accelerate healing and to decelerate aging would just naturally be of interest here.

        rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • The body does contain silicon ions, just as it contains traces of arsenic, tin, boron and aluminum ions – if something is in soil it will end up in our bodies. However, silicon doesn’t seem to be used in biomolecules, unlike sulfur which is found in many essential molecules such as cystine, methionine and SAM.

          There is some data that silicon might do something, but it is inconclusive and contradictory. Silicon is much like chromium in this respect, it is definably there, but we don’t know what, if anything it does.

          Tim wrote on February 8th, 2012
  7. One of my all time favorite primal dishes is sauteed red cabbage with bacon and leeks. Glad to hear I should be eating it a lot more!

    brooke wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • That sounds delicious- do you mind sharing the recipe for those of us who can’t just “throw things together”? :-)

      spincycle wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Soft ball size head of red cabbage
        6 strips of bacon (I love bacon)
        1 small leek (3 scallions or 1/2 medium onion work too)
        Pepper to taste

        Core and shred cabbage. Cut bacon into half inch strips and cook in a dutch oven until crisp. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add cabbage and toss for a few minutes until the cabbage heats through and it smells heavenly. About 5 minutes for the cabbage over medium heat. Enjoy!

        Brooke wrote on February 9th, 2012
  8. My 5 year old son loves raw brocolli and cauliflower as his “pre dinner snack”

    Ian wrote on February 7th, 2012
  9. My (surprising) favorite of this group is brussels sprouts. But instead of steaming, I quarter and braise them with chopped bacon and a dash of salt. I got the idea years ago from Tyler Florence of the Food Network, but was too chicken to try brussels sprouts thanks to all the stigma surrounding them. Thank goodness going Primal gave me the courage to try new veggies, because i’m IN LOVE with my bacon-y delicious sprouts! =)
    Slightly off topic: we don’t eat a lot of brassicas here at home because my mother has hypothyroidism. I read somewhere that there are compounds in brassicas that could interfere with thyroid function. She’s on synthroid, and we use only iodized salt, but does anyone know of a way we can get the benefits of brassicas without disrupting her thyroid? Any help is appreciated… Thanks! =)

    Siren wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Yes! If you cook the brassica’s the goitrigens are removed. I’m still learning about this topic myself but so far what I’ve learned suggests that the cooking methods that Mark shares here are probably sufficient for ridding goitrogens.

      However, I’m still trying to find out exactly what happens to the goitrogens and whether or not there is any concern about consuming the cooking water. For example, the “pot liquor” from cooking greens like collards is considered nutrient rich and is consumed along with the greens.

      As a fan of brussels sprouts (me too), you might like to try them in cold salads – blanched then chilled not raw. Could be marinated while chilling if desired. One of my favorite cold salads includes both brussels sprouts and grapefruit slices. May sound strange but is a great combo if you’re into the bitter stuff.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • P.S. According to a book (below) that I am currently reading, goitrogens are only a concern if consumed frequently or in large quantities. But, foods other than brassicas have goitrogenic properties so those foods should also be taken into consideration in the total consumption.

      “Stop the Thyroid Madness”, (2011), Janie A. Bowthorpe, M.ED. ISBN 978-0-615-47712-1

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Thanks for the advice, I’ll be going to the bookstore today! =)

        Siren wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Welcome :-)

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  10. OK, double checking the facts not relying on memory – what we actually want is silicon not silica. Aluminosilicate and silica are not absorbable. Evidently the most bioavailable form is sodium metasilicate.

    rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Sodium metasilicate is mainly used as a bleaching aid, paint stripper and insecticide. It is severely irritant to skin and has been used to remove hair from pigskin.

      It isn’t a nutrient.

      Tim wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Ewww blech! That sounds tasty LOL! Thanks. Let me double check my silicon sources again…..

        Ok, this time I referenced the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Full text version of the citation (below) is available online:

        “…confirming that food-based, phytolithic silica is digested and absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.” (And, good news for beer lovers, beer is a great source of silicon! LOL)

        “Key Words: Silicon • orthosilicic acid • phytolithic silica • silicon intake • gastrointestinal absorption • bioavailability • cohort study • diet • nutrition • bone formation”

        American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 75, No. 5, 887-893, May 2002
        © 2002 American Society for Clinical Nutrition

        rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Yes, although we don’t know of any reason why the body would need silicon, beer is a harmless, rich (and very enjoyable) source of this element.

          Tim wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Seriously, Tim? I guess you didn’t read my original comment here about silica (silicon – you’ll find it both ways):

          “…if you want to make a case for eating plant sources of minerals, silica is your guy! The primary sources are plant based – and fish is generally the only animal source on that list. Raw honey is also a source.

          Silica plays an important role in many of the body systems that are mentioned here in relation to sulphur, is beneficial to all healing processes in the body, and slows down the aging processes.”

          More specifically, silica balances calcium and magnesium. And, that’s just the tip of the
          “essential trace mineral” iceberg. If you want to know more about the trace mineral silica/silicon use a search engine. Or read the JCN article that I referenced earlier.

          Your not knowing about the role of silica in the human body seems to support Mark’s assertion that minerals like sulphur are not know to many. Comes as a surprise to me – on a nutritional blog – that its so unknown.

          I don’t come here to be spoon fed – but to have my curiosity piqued and to check things out for myself. I also don’t plan to spoon feed anyone else. So, do your own investigating.

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Btw, Tim, – oxalic acid is also used in various restoration processes – cleaning, bleaching, refinishing wood, and so on. And, it also naturally occurs in plants and animals and is (unfortunately in some regards) bioavailable to humans.

        Still looking into bioavailable food sources of silicon. Seems that one of the reasons that beer is such a good source of silicon is that sodium silicate aka sodium metasilicate is also used to clarify beer.

        So forth and so on…and on and on, evidently….

        rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  11. Excellent post as always Mark. Here is another article for those looking for even more depth about sulfur and its positive effects upon our health.

    http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/sulfur_obesity_alzheimers_muscle_wasting.html

    Larry wrote on February 7th, 2012
  12. I love the veggie emphasis of these posts. I have been trying to focus on all the foods to eat in abundance for health rather than focusing on the forbidden ones. It definitely is expanding my eating horizons… Thanks, Mark!

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • That’s such a good way of looking at – “all the foods to eat in abundance…rather than focusing on the forbidden ones”. Seems simple, but i’ve never really thought of it in that way. I guess it makes you feel a lot less restricted, and allows the primal eating journey to be a lot easier!

      Debbie wrote on February 7th, 2012
  13. I too wonder about thyroid problems and the FODMAPS issues for these sulphur sources. Meat, cheeses and eggs would be the first natural source and then my only thought would be to take some MSM in its purest form to add sulphur w/o the food sensitivities. I know supplements aren’t the greatest but with gut and thyroid concerns it can be helpful!

    Jan J wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Yes, good suggestions. I would think that (food grade) MSM could also be valuable as an anti-inflammatory for people with thyroid and FODMAPS issues.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • MSM?

        DThalman wrote on February 8th, 2012
  14. Don’t forget … fermentation! Fermenting vegetables can increase absorption of key phytonutrients and have many other health benefits. Just sayin’.

    Colby wrote on February 7th, 2012
  15. I’m a convert to the Dr. Wahls diet (even if I hate that word) — it’s the most compelling “why” I have ever seen, and a very reasonable “how” as well.

    frugalportland wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • I’ve been calling it the 9-cup diet. (Or challenge, as that’s how I originally started following it — was by setting a challenge for myself.)

      Rozska wrote on February 7th, 2012
  16. What about slow cooking with a crock pot. Will that prevent the alliums from breaking down? I eat a lot of stews with garlic, cabbage, and onion. Now I’m worried that It’s all a waste.

    rolle wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • There’s a simple trick to avoid heat damaging the nutrients of vegetables cooked in a crockpot… all you have to do is add in your key vegetables 15-30min prior to serving/consuming. I actually take it a step further by adding just a 1/4 to 1/2 of my vegetables at the beginning when adding the protein/water/broth & spices (etc) and then save the remaining 1/2 to 3/4 of my chosen vegetables for the final 15/30min of cooking (just prior to serving/consuming). Its of course not rocket science, it just takes some outside the box thinking/breaking-up” with those bad habits we learned from old school cookbooks, our parents and grandparents ;)

      xxwildbillxx wrote on April 15th, 2014
  17. I love Vegetables! :)

    Health buzz wrote on February 7th, 2012
  18. We always keep a big ol’ bowl of cole slaw in the fridge…. chopped red cabbage and carrots with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, and mustard… or a green cabbage and fennel variety… it’s great with poached eggs on it, it’s great on top of a big ass salad (as dressing), it’s great as a side at dinner…

    Meredith wrote on February 7th, 2012
  19. Can’t believe nobody has mentioned kale yet, including Mark.

    Dave Sill wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • He mentioned it in his leafy greens post last week.

      Ashley North wrote on February 7th, 2012
  20. I like cruciferous veggies, but I can’t take most of them cooked. Cooking them produces a compound that makes me gag. I consider it a genetic defect, but get around it by eating them raw. I don’t have problems with raw onions, cauliflower, etc, and eat them daily.

    Damien Gray wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Well there is a genetic variation in taste buds that allows some people (1 in 10,000) to have an enhanced ability to taste bitterness. There is an extra set of “bitter” receptors. Seems that these people may be sensitive to oxalic acid and can have a gag reflex like you describe. It might be worth your while to investigate this possibility.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • I’ve heard of that one before…someone told me I had that…I laughed it off at the time, thought it was a joke.

        I cannot, for the life of Grok, eat steamed cruciferous vegetables. It is so bitter!
        This stuf fhas to be boiled into a mush and slapped with butter and salt to make this bitterness disappear. I never understood people that say ” I love vegetables”….

        Arty wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Oh, no – its absolutely not a joke! I was looking for info about this genetic variation online and came across another explanation for genetic variation in bitter tasting. This website may shed some light on why some people like veggies more than others, among other things.

          Here, just add the “http://”

          learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/ptc/

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • I can eat broccoli, onions, garlic, cauliflower, cabbage, all that stuff just fine, but brussels sprouts… I just can’t do ‘em. They taste so incredibly bitter to me that I just can’t get one past my lips. Even braised with butter…

        Gydle wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • thats weird cabbage can be much harsher than brussels. Try fresh brussels steamed with lem juice and butter. REmove outer leaves and trim off end where they were cut. seek out tiny firm brussels they are sweeter than big ones. cook very well via steaming

          ladycyb wrote on February 8th, 2012
  21. Eat your vegetables! Because ‘The Boss’ said so.

    LOL, I’m so glad I clicked on that feathered hair link. I’ll have to bookmark it for the next time I need motivation to make my cabbage curry…:)

    Ashley North wrote on February 7th, 2012
  22. Dr. David Servain-Schreiber, in his book Anti-cancer, strongly promotes sulphur-bearing vegetables as having cancer-fighting properties.

    Luckily, I love all these foods. If you can handle dairy, roasted Brussels sprouts with a little crumbled bleu cheese is excellent. I also enjoy getting a large sheet pan, roasting chopped cauliflower, onion, and garlic with a little olive oil, S&P, red pepper flakes, and some turmeric, and then pureeing the batch into a spicy cauliflower soup – use whatever broth you have handy, finish with a splash of heavy cream.

    Speaking of soup, Gordon Ramsey once made a broccoli soup that appeared to be “too easy.” Steam broccoli and then just puree it with the steaming liquid and some salt and pepper. Done. Tastes sweeter than you can believe.

    Finnegans Wake wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • That soup sounds like perfect minimalist keep it simple primal fare :-).

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Thank you for those soup recipes, they sound delicious. I’m going to try the cauliflower one tomorrow. I detest Gordon Ramsey, but will overcome my distaste to try his broccoli soup. :-)

      spincycle wrote on February 7th, 2012
  23. Best way to get down some raw onions and garlic? (Not to mention the cabbage, too.) Two words: homemade kimchi!

    Talk about nutrition in a jar! Napa cabbage, garlic, scallions, carrots, and ginger, all raw and fermented. Doesn’t get better than that. If you don’t like spicy stuff, you can make a “white kimchi” with all the same ingredients but minus the chili flakes.

    I’m pretty fortunate that I love most of the veggies mentioned in this post. Most of them are tough to eat raw though, and for various reasons, probably shouldn’t be (goitrogens, etc.). But kimchi is an awesome way to get your sulfur while preserving the live enzymes and getting some good gut flora too.

    Amy B. wrote on February 7th, 2012
  24. Brussels sprouts and bacon, mmmmm….

    Suzanne wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Eating that exact thing with a steak as I read this post. Steam brussels sprouts lightly, saute onion, bit of carrot and bacon pieces add sprouts, throw in steak. Cook all together. Serve with a side of kale chips. Now I wish I had seconds.

      Stefanie wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • That sounds great to me too. We eat a lot of cabbage (usually cooked in bacon fat), cauliflower, onions and garlic. I have tried brussel sprouts in the past but only steamed and with butter. I am going to try the bacon and brussel sprouts method. Sounds great!

      Happycyclegirl wrote on February 7th, 2012
  25. What is the minimum effective dose? Brassicas (along with most other veggies I’ve tried) provoke in me a strong involuntary gag reflex. Those that don’t I find extremely unpleasant, with the exception of carmelized onions and peppers, potatoes, and tomato sauce. I force myself to eat some raw carrots or raw spinach each day, but I don’t want to eat any more than necessary as it just tastes nasty to me. So, what’s the least I can get by with eating?

    Ron wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • [I like the nod to 4HB…]

      I’ve learned I can’t say, “I don’t like XYZ vegetable.” Instead, it’s more along the lines of “I don’t like XYZ when prepared in _____ manner.”

      After growing up in a house that promoted steamed and boiled veg, I had to relearn how to prepare most of them on my own. Like Mark was saying, there is nothing like roasted Brussels sprouts. It’s a totally different animal when prepared that way.

      There’s always another way. Even cabbage… maybe the gagging could be avoided if you shredded and sauteed a head in some lovely bacon grease!

      Primal Texas wrote on February 7th, 2012
  26. I love all these veggies and I can enjoy most of them raw including onions (but not garlic!). If I were forced to pick a favorite from the list I’d have to say broccoli -raw, steamed, roasted, doesn’t matter. I also love roasted cauliflower. On a downer note I gained 2 lbs this week from my Super Bowl feast (I guess). Eh, it was an accepted risk. :~)

    Justin wrote on February 7th, 2012
  27. It looks like I love all sulfur rich veggies. I can’t stand onions and garlic raw after its just been cut. Both cooked in butter are of course awesome. I enjoy steaming the broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, etc.

    I’m going to have to throw the BS in the oven soon!

    Primal Toad wrote on February 7th, 2012
  28. Someone mentioned Fermentation. We as a family go through 2 cabbages a week, making sourkraut. Can someone tell me what effect fermentation makes on these compounds ? I also drink garlick juice, I clove every day ….. its an aquired taste I can tell you !

    Michal wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • I have a related question. Someone mentioned here recently that the Asian countries that consume a lot of fermented and pickled foods have a high rate of stomach cancer. I’m thinking that’s probably because salt is linked with stomach cancer and these foods tend to be salty.

      So, my question is this – does anyone know why these foods would be linked to stomach cancer and what would be considered a safe amount to consume if consumed on a regular basis?

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • I remember watching a special on this on Japanese TV not so long ago; apparently most of the stomach cancer in Japan and other neighboring countries is actually caused by an oft undiagnosed parasite / infection: Helicobacter pylori

        Brandon wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • Thank you. I knew that H. pylori was also implicated in stomach cancer- but not that it was identified as the leading cause in Asian countries in particular. Btw, H. pylori is very common all over the world – and is really not that hard to diagnose and treat, usually. Also causes peptic ulcers. Shame to allow potentially fatal diseases to develop when H. pylori is involved.

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • You are correctin saying that H. Pylori is easy to diagnose. But it’ s actually very difficult to treat. In most cases, it keeps coming back, even after the prescribed antibiotic treatment.

        Sabrina wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • I understand that the treatment now involves treating the whole family as that’s the usual vector for reinfection. May be too soon for stats but I think that the initial views are that its effective. Your take?

          rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
        • H. pylori is an ‘opportunistic’ bacteria. It seems that we all have it (so, it is not infectious), but it thrives on people that are debilitated by disease or on a poor diet, such as the high-carb diet. There is some evidence that it loves carbohydrates! This probably explains why about 40% of the Brits have it – they eat too much bread, pasta, etc. It seems that, when H. pylori growth uncontrollably in our body, it invades all our organs: stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, pancreas… eventually also the brain! If you have bloating, reflux, constipation or diarrhea, pale (colorless) urine, etc. look for H. pylori. I had this opportunistic infection for over 10 years (it got much worse in the last 3 years), and got free of it after the third treatment with antibiotics accompanied by a change in diet. It was when I learned about the PALEO DIET! The bacteria will not return if you do not feed it with carbohydrate. This is another reason why I reccomend Paleo diet to everybody.

          Richard wrote on March 3rd, 2013
      • I don’t remember the source, but I’ve read that some sort of residue that’s left over from the processing of white rice has been strongly indicated in the stomach cancer rates of those countries

        Elizabeth wrote on February 8th, 2012
    • I would suggest checking out the Weston A. Price foundation, but their website appears to be down at the moment, so also do a search for ‘vegetable fermentation bioavailability’. Lotsa stuff there.

      Erok wrote on February 8th, 2012
  29. My holistic doctor has me taking MSM, which is a natural sulphur. I really never knew how essential it is. I also eat vegs; is it possible to overdo it?

    carol wrote on February 7th, 2012
  30. Lack of onions or garlic in the pantry for me, is a cause of an anxiety attack! I put them in just about everything, haha :)
    I do love me some Brussels Sprouts though :)

    Nion wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Great article Mark,
      Glad u are back on the airwaves, I missed you at breakfast time!
      I only eat 2 meals a day,a fry up of whatever is in the fridge in the morning with eggs, and the evening meal. I just don’t know where I could fit all these veggies in!
      We do brussel sprouts by steaming them and then frying in butter with bacon pieces, pepper and mixed herbs, no complaints from my non primal teens. Enjoy life and don’t get too hung up on details ( particularly silica/con!).
      Cheers

      Heather wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • While not getting too hung up on details is often a good idea – and generally good advice – when an owner of a website has just had their website hacked details are pretty important. In fact, attention to details ~may~ prevent hacking in the first place.

        Now is not a good time for Mark to get hung up on extraneous details, I’ll agree with you there. However, my comments about silica were begun before the site was hacked and I wrapped them up as soon as the site was back up.

        Moreover, and more to the point, I think that Mark is a big boy and can (and probably does) pick and choose amongst suggestions, requests, comments, observations, etc. as to what he feels deserves his attention and what doesn’t.

        rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  31. Eating sulfur-rich vegetables cured my goiter

    rob wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Great! How does that work?

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  32. Hi Mark, with regard to Dr Terry Wahl’s diet plan can the green veggies be juiced each morning instead of eaten and still deliver same effect?

    Jina wrote on February 7th, 2012
  33. This will be somewhat helpful information for me on a related front. My wife has a respirator allergy to sulfur, like the kinds that get used in poor quality dried fruit as a preservative. Been trying to see what to tinker with to see about improving her symptoms, now I’ve got at least some more of a starting place, though the fact she’s finally starting to warm to the whole primal thing helps as well.

    Robert wrote on February 7th, 2012
  34. Any suggestions for addressing the not so pleasant side effects from eating too much sulfur rich food….erm gas?

    Heather wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • I’d like to know about this as well. I love the taste of all of these foods and can eat most of them without issue but CANNOT eat onions nor garlic raw or cooked without paying dearly for it later (those around me will pay as well – oh no!)

      I would really like to know how to alleviate this problem and eat these wonderful foods.

      deenpac wrote on February 15th, 2012
  35. Stephanie Seneff at MIT believes sulphur plays a role in Cholesterol Sulphate.

    http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/why_statins_dont_really_work.html

    She posits sulphur deficiency might be a factor in obesity, heart disease, alzheimer’s and chronic fatigue syndrome

    http://people.csail.mit.edu/seneff/sulfur_obesity_alzheimers_muscle_wasting.html

    Eric Anondson wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Great news for a lot of people if she’s right! Thanks for sharing the links. Will check it out.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Wow – just skimmed the article at the second link. Profound implications there – with explanatory power for why a sulphur rich primal diet far surpasses a high carb, grain heavy diet. Not to mention other modern ills. Really looking forward to reading this one in depth!

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  36. Coleslaw…fantastic way to eat raw onion and cabbage, and delicious with some homemade mayo and red wine vinegar!

    Rachel wrote on February 7th, 2012
  37. What about people that genetically have intolerances to sulpher rich veggies?
    Man it’s bad. It’s like a disability. Garlic and onion are found in EVERYTHING! If I ingest these things there’s a high probability of nausea and vomitting (depending on the amount). I just avoid the stuff. Any ideas about supplementation would be great and welcomed.

    Dub wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Sounds like a bad situation, indeed. You might want to read the article at the second link (above) shared by Eric Anondson.

      At this point, the impression that I have is that the only essential sulphur is methionine – an amino acid that we must have in our diet.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
      • Great article. Thank you. It shouldn’t be a problem then getting all my essential aminos via other sources. I guess I’m just a bit sour that it’s so difficult to find foods or recipes sans Garlic, egg, and onion. I wanna play too! Probably how a diabetic feels looking at cupcakes. lol

        Dub wrote on February 17th, 2012
  38. Great information, thanks.

    Speaking of cooking method, are steamed carrots more nutritious than raw ones?

    I eat carrots, lettuces, onions, garlic, and green peppers raw, while other vegetables like spinach, cabbage and broccoli cooked. I’m wondering if I’m missing something by eating this way.

    Bong Kim wrote on February 7th, 2012
  39. Love the Brassicas and eat them a couple times a day. Today I steamed brussel sprouts and drizzled them with lemon infused olive oil. That is the first time I tried that and it was wonderful.

    After giving up sugars and starches, all these vegetables taste very sweet to me.

    Anne wrote on February 7th, 2012
    • Yes, I discovered the same thing about the sweet taste. I sorta expected it – like when I cut way down on salt and I could taste salt in everything. Still, when it first happened it caught me by surprise how pronounced it was.

      rarebird wrote on February 7th, 2012
  40. Well thank goodness I love everything on that list! My favorite dish to make is sauteed brussel sprouts with bacon and purple onion. And yes I know it’s weird, but I actually have a love addiction with streamed broccoli and garlic with some butter. Eat on my friends, eat on :)

    Stephanie M wrote on February 7th, 2012

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