Selenium is an essential trace mineral for humans, meaning we should all be getting enough from our diets every day through the consumption of selenium foods.
What is selenium good for in the body? It has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, especially because it’s required for the creation of glutathione, considered your body’s master antioxidant. For this reason, research suggests that consuming foods high in selenium can support detoxification and liver function, as well as hormonal and thyroid health.
What types of foods provide selenium? Because it’s naturally found in soil and then transported into plants as they grow through special membranes within their roots, some plants, especially nuts, nuts and beans, can be such great sources of selenium in the diet. Meats, fish and eggs are other rich sources.
Top Health Benefits
- Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects — It has the ability to fight the aging process and help the immune system by reducing free radical damage and oxidative stress. There is evidence that selenium benefits include not only being able cut cancer risk, but also help to slow down existing cancer progression and tumor growth.
- Improved Thyroid Health — Selenium plays a role in maintaining thyroid health since it works together with iodine. In fact, the thyroid is the organ in our bodies with the largest content of selenium. It’s needed to produce a critical thyroid hormone called T3, which regulates metabolism. Selenium deficiency is known to lower the synthesis of thyroid hormones.
- Cancer Prevention — There is a strong correlation between levels of selenium in the blood and a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Selenium may help with DNA repair or may prevent cancer cells from replicating. Since selenium is a powerful antioxidant, it makes sense why foods high in selenium may help to prevent cancer by reducing free radicals in the body.
- Heart Health — Selenium-rich foods prevent oxidative damage to the body’s cells reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some people with low levels of serum selenium have been shown to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Fertility Support — Selenium is required for proper sperm motility and also increases blood flow. Consuming plenty has been shown to be helpful during pregnancy-related thyroid problems like postpartum thyroiditis as well as Graves’ disease.
- Help Treating Asthma — Experts think that selenium supplementation may be a useful add-on treatment to medication for patients with chronic asthma.
Top 15 High Selenium Foods
What foods are rich in selenium? There are a lot of healthy and delicious selenium-rich foods to choose from.
According to the USDA, below is a list of high selenium foods:
- Brazil nuts
- Cottage Cheese
- Navy beans
- Sunflower seeds
- Grass-fed beef
- Beef Liver
1. Brazil nuts
1 kernel (5 grams): 95.9 micrograms (over 100 percent DV)
Brazil nuts’ selenium content is amazing, isn’t it? When it comes to selenium foods for vegetarians and selenium foods vegan can eat, Brazil nuts are without a doubt a top choice. It only takes one or two nuts (depending on their size) a day to meet most people’s daily selenium needs.
In addition, as one of the top healthiest nuts, a small clinical study published in 2013 in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that eating a single serving of Brazil nuts can lower LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and raise HDL (“good cholesterol) in healthy subjects.
2. Wild-caught salmon
3 ounces: 40 micrograms (57 percent DV)
3 ounces: 33 micrograms (44 percent DV)
Yellowfish tuna is especially rich in selenium. When buying tuna, look for tuna caught through Pacific troll or pole and line methods to get the lowest mercury option.
3 ounces: 24 micrograms (36 percent DV)
5. Cottage cheese
1 cup: 22 micrograms (32 percent DV)
In addition to selenium, cottage cheese is a great source of protein and calcium.
3 ounces: 21 micrograms (30 percent DV)
7. Mushrooms, cooked
1 cup: 19 micrograms (27 percent DV)
Mushrooms make a great vegetarian- and vegan-approved source of selenium and many other essential nutrients.
8. Halibut, cooked with skin
3 ounces: 17 micrograms (24 percent DV)
1 large: 15 micrograms (22 percent DV)
10. Navy beans
1 cup: 15 micrograms (22 percent DV)
1 ounce: 15 micrograms (21 percent DV)
Sardines are a great source of selenium as well as essential fatty acids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. Essential fatty acids also play an important role in the body when it come to cell signaling, immunity, mood and brain health.
12. Sunflower seeds
1 ounce: 15 micrograms: (21 percent DV)
Another plant-based source of selenium is sunflower seeds, which are great to snack on by themselves. You can also add to them to salads, homemade veggie burgers, meatballs and more.
13. Grass-fed beef, ground
3 ounces 12 micrograms (18 percent DV)
14. Oats, old-fashioned, not fortified
1 cup: 13 micrograms (18 percent DV)
15. Beef liver
1 ounce: 10 micrograms (14 percent DV)
Is liver good for you? If you can learn to enjoy (or mask) the taste, many people love beef liver for its high nutrient content.
What fruits and vegetables are high in selenium? You can see from the list below that some of the top plant sources is mushrooms. Other food sources include spinach, bananas, peaches, carrots, green beans and potatoes.
In order to be sure you get enough selenium in your diet, aim to incorporate a variety of foods with selenium into your meals. Here are some mouth-watering recipes that include plenty of selenium:
- Grilled Burgers and Vegetables Recipe
- Creamy Cauliflower, Carrot and Brazil Nut Soup
- Baked Eggs and Spinach Recipe
- Turkey Stir Fry Recipe
Precautions and Side Effects
You may be wondering how much selenium you need per day? Needs vary depending on your age and health status. For adults and children four years of age and older, the current daily recommendation is 55 micrograms per day. For pregnant and breastfeeding women, the recommendation is 70 micrograms per day.
Can you have too much selenium? Eating selenium foods is not a concern in regards to overdosing. However supplementing can be problematic if you take too much.
Chronically high intakes of selenium from supplements can lead to unwanted side effects. Some early signs of of excess intake include bad breath (specifically a garlic odor) and a metallic taste in the mouth, while other symptoms may include skin lesions and rashes, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, irritability, and nervous system abnormalities.
As long as you eat a variety of foods with selenium regularly, there is probably no need to supplement. However, if you suspect you may be deficient, speak to your doctor about safely supplementing.
- Consuming selenium foods regularly is the best and safest way to ensure that you are getting enough of this vital nutrient in your diet. Aim to consume about two to three high selenium foods daily to improve detoxification, immunity and thyroid function.
- Selenium foods include Brazil nuts, eggs, a variety of meats, fish, some plants and other seeds/nuts.
- Health benefits of eating selenium foods include a boost to your immune system, metabolism, fertility and thyroid health. These benefits are linked more to dietary intake of selenium rather than selenium supplements.