Selenium is an essential mineral, which we must obtain from our diet; being a trace mineral, our bodies only require a small amount. Selenium plays an important role in many enzymes and processes within the body. We can obtain all of the selenium we need by consuming an appropriate amount of selenium rich foods, however if you feel you are not getting enough from your diet, a selenium supplement could help safeguard your intake.
What is selenium?
Selenium is an important trace mineral that occurs naturally in the soil. It is considered essential for nutritional purposes, and it plays a number of vital roles in the body. Selenium is found in certain foods, such as brazil nuts and fish, and can also be taken in the form of a selenium supplement.
What does selenium do?
Selenium plays an important role in a range of enzymes and proteins in the body, including selenoproteins. It helps to support many bodily processes, including immune and thyroid function, as well as helping to protect cells from oxidative stress.
Benefits of selenium
Selenium is involved in a number of important biological processes in the body, including supporting the normal function of the immune system, as well as normal thyroid function. Selenium also contributes to normal hair and nails, and the protection of cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Some key benefits of selenium are:
Benefits of selenium for thyroid
Selenium contributes to the normal thyroid function. The thyroid is an important hormonal gland that helps to control metabolism, chiefly the complex process that your body uses to transform food to the energy your body uses to function.
Selenium and the immune system
Selenium contributes to the normal function of the immune system. The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to help keep us healthy. Along with selenium, there are a range of other immune system vitamins and minerals that help to support normal immune function, including vitamins C and D, as well as zinc.
Selenium benefits for nails
Selenium, along with the mineral zinc, contributes to the maintenance of normal nails.
Selenium benefits for hair
Selenium contributes to the maintenance of normal hair. The mineral zinc, and the vitamin biotin, also help to support normal hair.
Selenium benefits for spermatogenesis
Selenium contributes to normal spermatogenesis. Spermatogenesis is the process of sperm cell development within the male reproductive organs, the testes.
How much selenium do you need per day?
Being a trace mineral, the body only requires a small amount of selenium. The recommended daily allowance in the UK for selenium is:
- 75μg a day for men (19 to 64 years)
- 60μg a day for women (19 to 64 years)
Selenium rich foods
Selenium is found in a range of plant-based and animal-based foods. It’s possible to obtain all of the selenium we require from eating selenium rich foods. As some of these, especially certain nuts, are high in selenium, it’s important to monitor your intake, to ensure you are not going over the recommended daily allowance.
Selenium in brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium. 28 grams, or about six to eight nuts, contains about 544μg. You should make sure you only eat a serving of brazil nuts a few times a week to avoid going over the recommended allowance.
Selenium in eggs
One egg provides about 20μg of selenium. Eggs are also a good source of choline and vitamin B12.
Selenium in tuna
Yellowfin tuna contains about 92 μg of selenium per 85 grams, making it an excellent source of selenium.
Selenium in oysters
Six raw oysters, weighing 85 grams, provide nearly 54 μg of selenium. Oysters are also rich in other important nutrients, such as the mineral zinc, which is of course why oysters are infamous for their contribution to keeping normal testosterone levels in the blood!
Selenium in sardines
A 100-g portion of canned sardines in oil contains 52.7 μg of this mineral. The bones in sardines are also an excellent source of calcium.
Selenium in rice
One cup of cooked long-grain brown rice will provide you with 19 μg of selenium. Brown rice is also a rich source of dietary fibre.
Selenium in chicken
Chicken provides 22 - 25 μg of selenium per 85 grams of white meat.
As you can see, although only needed in small amounts, selenium plays a role in a wide variety of important bodily functions. If you don't think you're getting enough selenium from your diet, consider selenium supplements to support your intake.