We may be familiar with amino acids as the building blocks for proteins, but are we familiar with sulfur amino acids? And what do they have to do with antioxidants? You have most likely heard of these terms, but did you know that they are crucial to helping your body maintain health and vitality? Let us talk about the relationship between these nutrients and how to incorporate them into the diet.
First, let me introduce sulfur amino acids (SAA), which are exactly how they sound: amino acids containing the mineral sulfur. These include methionine and cysteine. Methionine is an essential amino acid, meaning that it cannot be produced by the body in sufficient quantities and needs to be obtained through the diet. On the other hand, cysteine can be synthesized by the body and does not need to come from the diet. However, in order to produce sufficient amounts of cysteine, your body must consume enough sulfur to build the molecule. What does adequate sulfur intake look like? Sulfur can be found in the following foods, as they are rich in methionine:
· Meat/animal products: chicken, beef, turkey, eggs, fish, milk/milk products
· Nuts/Legumes: beans, walnuts, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, cashews, seeds, soybeans/soy products
· Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, radishes, onion, garlic, cabbage
Next, let us discuss antioxidants. Both internal and external factors can contribute to oxidative stress, or cell damage. This happens when cells are exposed to free radicals, which can come from smoking, radiation, pollutants, sun exposure, and alcohol. Free radicals can also be produced in the body as waste products from exercise, inflammation, or even normal metabolic processes. This cell/DNA damage contributes to aging, and excessive damage can lead to different types of cancer. Antioxidants help protect cells by reducing this stress. They can be produced by the body and obtained through the diet.
You may be wondering how amino acids and antioxidants are related. Sulfur amino acids help produce the body’s most abundant intracellular antioxidant, known as glutathione (GSH). Research ha0073 shown that diets low in SSAs lead to decreased levels of GSH in the body. As well as being produced by the body, GSH can be obtained through the diet or supplementation. The following foods are rich in GSH:
· Brussels sprouts
Although it can be found in foods, storing and even cooking these items may decrease their glutathione content, as heat can destroy GSH. For this reason, a diet rich in sulfur amino acids is important in order to build this molecule. By balancing your diet with food from each category (meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.), you can supply your variety with a variety of antioxidants.
For more information on GSH supplements, function, and foods, visit https://coremedscience.com/blogs/wellness/glutathione-the-master-antioxidant#:~:text=A%20handful%20of%20foods%20naturally,nutrient%2C%20including%20storage%20and%20cooking.
· Alexander MS, Cullen JJ, Klene P, Stejskal V, Kucerova M, Kostiuk P, Kotlarova L, Prochazka Z. “The benefirst of antioxidants ascorbate and glutathione to protect healthy cells in the prevention and treatment of oncological diseases.” University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
· Nimni ME, Han B, Cordoba F. “Are we getting enough sulfur in our diet?” Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 4, no. 24, 2007.