What foods contain sulfa?

Sulfa is a sulfur-containing molecule that is commonly found in many foods, medications, and other products. While it plays an important role in various functions of the body, some people may experience allergies or intolerances to sulfa-containing foods or drugs. If you’re curious about which foods contain sulfa or want to avoid them for personal reasons, keep reading! We’ve got all the juicy details you never knew you wanted.

What is Sulfa?

Before we dive into the food portion of this article, let’s quickly review what exactly sulfa is (because we know how much everyone loves chemistry). Sulfa refers to any compound containing a sulfonamide group (-SO2NH2), which consists of sulfur bonded with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. These compounds are often used as antibiotics due to their antibacterial properties.

Common Sources of Sulfa

While medications are perhaps the most common sources of sulfa (think antibiotic prescriptions), there are plenty of natural food sources that contain these sulfonamide groups as well. Some common sources include:

  • Eggs
  • Legumes (such as beans and lentils)
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and Brussels sprouts)
  • Dairy products
    • Milk
    • Cheese
    • Yogurt

These foods can contribute small amounts of naturally occurring sulfonamides to your diet on a daily basis.

Processed Foods

However – if you’re worried about avoiding large amounts of additional/unnecessary artificial ingredients such as synthetic flavors/colors/preservatives – take heed: processed meals can contribute significantly more significant traces than unprocessed whole-foods-based diets (we couldn’t do one whole article without mentioning processed foods once! Take THAT Big-Agro & fast food industries…)

Here’s several examples where those consume higher-than-average rates due largely to production additives and process:

  • Condiments (including ketchups, mustards, mayonnaise)
  • Processed meat (such as ham or sausages)
    • Note: While natural proteins typically will contain only modest traces of sulfa antibiotics , this is a different matter in processed meats.
  • Jams
  • Candies
    • The food industry loves to add preservatives and colors here too!

These foods can contribute large amounts of sulfonamides which are often used for preservation purposes.

Sulfa Allergies

Some people may have allergies to sulfa-containing compounds, which can lead to adverse reactions including hives, itching (itchy skin that makes you wanna RIP YOUR ARM OFF), difficulty breathing/swallowing (hey oxygen – how about we just stop being friends altogether?) AND… DEATH! If you experience any symptoms like those mentioned make sure to immediately call an ambulance !

However,allergy symptoms are rarer than Google searches might suggest. According 170 patient studies by deShazo et at some people believing they had an allergy actually don’t… it’s simply the medication making them feel unwell leading them down the wrong diagnostic pathway so unless these symptoms occur with immediate effect then most likely do not represent ‘true’ allergic symptomology.

People who should look out for Sulfa

Most individuals can safely consume small amounts of sulfonamides found in naturally occurring sources (unless allergic). However; individuals taking certain medications should be cautious around consuming additional sulphur containing molecules for fear compound interactions & potential overdoes ramped up doses (we’ve all heard the stories on weird “unexpected” drug interaction profiles right?)
If any individual is suffering from Chronic kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, or Gastrointestinal disorders generally have to be more alert (aka “paranoid”) about consuming additional sulfonamides.

How responsible is the Oil and Gas Industry for soil Sulfa Residue?

Seriously, we couldn’t tell you – Because TBH there’s no real connection. Any suggestion of oil industry expositing elevated sulfo compounds into food products came rely entirely on pure unadulterated conjecture! A great go-to study are by Orloff et al which forcefully demonstrates that while sulfa deposition can occur from contaminants produced during natural gas drilling but chemical treatments of crops definitely aren’t considered to prominent contributors to such contamination rates!


It’s impossible to completely avoid sulfonamide-containing compounds in your life as they’re derived from multiple sources across your daily diet and even used industrially! But it’s important for those with underlying medical conditions- like kidney failure, gastrointestinal disease – should carefully monitor their consumption levels. While severe allergy cases are seldom diagnosed through peer reviewed medical journals; you may still ’feel’ off after consuming select foods high in sulfa feeds (P.s -at least our definitions of humour anyway)!
With awareness regarding all these facts at hand…smirk because knowledge rocks & now so do you!

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