Consuming sufficient nutrients and minerals in our everyday lives is important for long-term health and wellness. However, getting all the nutrients we need each day is easier said than done. One nutrient that often goes under the radar is selenium. There are a slew of selenium benefits that may be able to enhance one’s health and improve the overall quality of life. Not only that, but a lack of selenium can lead to issues with your thyroid function, a weak immune system, and a higher risk of cancer and other diseases.
While selenium can support a variety of health-related functions, most people don’t really know much about it. This is in part due to the fact that we only need tiny amounts of selenium compared to some other more well-known nutrients and minerals. While it may seem like a minimally essential component of everyday health, selenium benefits can play a significant role in the long run.
If you are wondering whether or not you have enough selenium in your diet, follow along as we break down everything you need to know about selenium.
What Is Selenium?
Let’s start by discussing exactly what selenium is, as it is often overlooked when it comes to dietary needs and nutrition. Selenium is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs a small amount of it. It is found naturally in foods, or you can take it as a dietary supplement.
In the human body, selenium is an integral component of selenoproteins. This unique group comprises 25 proteins that present as enzymes working to speed up biochemical reactions in the body. Selenoproteins have two primary functions, which are to support thyroid hormone metabolism and to provide antioxidant defenses.
These are essential functions of the body, which is why it’s important to ensure a sufficient amount of selenium in your diet. The thyroid gland requires selenium for normal development, growth, and metabolism, while the body’s antioxidant defense system needs selenium to safeguard your mitochondria, DNA, and cell membranes.
As you can see, selenium should not be swept under the rug of your everyday dietary needs. But how can you make sure that you are getting an adequate amount of the mineral? Let’s dive into it.
What Are Good Sources of Selenium?
Selenium can be found naturally in the foods we eat, or it can be taken as a supplement. The amount of selenium in any given food can vary depending on the content of the soil it is grown in, as plant foods get selenium from soil and soil content differs from region to region. In turn, this also affects the animals eating those plant foods. Therefore, animal protein foods are generally also a good source of selenium. The foods that are the highest sources, as well as the most common sources, of selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Fish and shellfish
- Fortified cereals
- Whole-wheat bread
- Beans and lentils
If you feel that you’re unable to add these foods into your diet, then you may want to consider a supplement of selenium. This may come in the form of vitamins or pill supplements, which can likely be purchased at your local health foods store.
What Is a Healthy Amount of Selenium?
Considering that it is a trace mineral, humans only need a very small amount of selenium in our bodies. However, that does not mean it is any less important than other minerals and nutrients. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adult men and women ages 19 and up is 55 micrograms per day. For women who are pregnant and lactating, this amount slightly increases to approximately 60 to 70 micrograms per day.
How can you know if you’re eating enough selenium in your daily diet? Here are some signs and symptoms of a selenium deficiency or toxicity:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Altered mental state or confusion
- Metallic taste or bad breath
- Hair loss
- Nail brittleness or discoloration
- Skin rash or lesions
- Skin flushing
- Muscle tenderness
What Are the Benefits of Selenium?
As previously stated, the top benefits of selenium are supporting healthy thyroid functions and antioxidant defenses in the body. Selenium can also play a key role in enhancing overall immune function, and it can even help with cancer and disease prevention. Some research also suggests that selenium can help with other conditions like acne, hair growth, and weight loss due to its effect on the thyroid. Notably, selenium can also help prevent the following health risks:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Prostate problems
- Liver disease
- Memory loss
- Male infertility
With this valuable information in mind, it may be time to assess whether or not you need to eat more selenium. Whether you ingest selenium through daily vitamins and supplements or you consume it naturally through the foods you eat, the trace mineral is a small yet imperative component of longevity and health.