A healthy diet is about much more than calories or macronutrients. Your body can only function properly when it has the right number of vitamins and minerals. One mineral in particular, selenium, plays a key role in our health. Take a look at how selenium benefits you!
What is Selenium?
Selenium is a mineral that exists in nature. Usually found in soil, it is also present in water and food too. Selenium plays a major role in our cardiovascular health and is responsible for keeping our arteries and tissues healthy. It is also an antioxidant, meaning it protects our cells from damage, even potentially reversing it too.
Selenium helps us function normally, as certain enzymes within our body require it to perform chemical reactions. Our thyroid needs this mineral to make hormones too. The thyroid uses more selenium than any other organ in the body. Although we do not need to eat much of it, it is important we get enough each day.
Benefits of Selenium
Beyond keeping our bodies functioning normally, the medical community is exploring what other benefits selenium can offer. There is current debate over whether it can lower prostate cancer rates or help with conditions such as asthma and infertility. While early research has been inconclusive in these areas, selenium supplementation is currently used to treat certain gastrointestinal conditions.
How Much Selenium Do You Need?
Unlike other key nutrients like iron, or magnesium, adequate selenium intake is relatively easy to reach. The average person eats about 100 micrograms of selenium each day, which is a perfectly acceptable amount. However, doctors recommend roughly 55 micrograms a day for adults, and 20-40 micrograms for children depending on age. Most medical professionals advise a healthy individual to eat no more than 400 micrograms per day, as having too much selenium in the body can have toxic effects.
It is uncommon to have a selenium deficiency; however, it is not unheard of. Some conditions such as HIV, or Crohn’s disease may result in low selenium levels, but in general, most people who follow a balanced diet get enough of the nutrient.
Selenium deficiency symptoms can be hard to spot, and they often are masked by other conditions. For example, selenium deficiency is linked to a low immune system, so individuals who are sick frequently, may want to have their levels checked.
Other notable symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, and cardiovascular problems. In extreme cases, the bones and joints may be affected, and mental health can deteriorate too. This is often not seen but can become a problem in areas with long-term low levels of selenium in soil.
How Much is Too Much Selenium?
While selenium benefits are numerous, it is important not to get too much of the stuff. Eating more than 400 micrograms consistently, puts you at risk for health problems, and even as little as 5 milligrams can prove fatal. Our bodies will give us a lot of signs when our levels of selenium get too high, and these symptoms can affect us head to toe.
Respiratory issues are a major red flag of selenium toxicity. This can include bronchitis, coughing, or breath that tastes like garlic. Too much selenium can cause problems in the stomach too, resulting in nausea, diarrhea, and a metallic taste in the mouth. Deformation or decay can happen in the nails, skin, hair, and teeth, and in extreme cases, neurological symptoms like tremors and loss of feeling in limbs can occur too.
Side effects of an excess of selenium are difficult to get from food alone. Often toxicity occurs when someone accidentally ingests too much of this mineral in a supplement or in a cleaning (or other poisonous) product. Always be sure you are measuring your selenium intake in micrograms and never milligrams to avoid getting too much.
Risks of Taking Selenium
Selenium, like all vitamins and minerals, should be taken wisely. While side effects are low at normal intake levels, selenium can impact certain medications such as antacids, chemotherapy drugs, and steroids. Ask your doctor what the daily value of your selenium intake should be when combined with your medications.
Using selenium supplements can cause numerous health problems. These supplements have been shown to increase odds of squamous cell carcinoma, and in individuals who consumed more than 200 micrograms per day, type 2 diabetes. Similar problems occur when you have an excess intake of calcium on your body. It is always best to get your selenium right from your food, and only supplement when advised by your doctor.
List of Foods That Contain Selenium
Natural sources of selenium are best for your body, and luckily, they are easy to come by. Almost all dietary staples have some form of selenium in them, which is perfect, as your body cannot create selenium on its own. When you need to boost your intake, reach for these foods!
There are many varieties of fish that can provide your entire daily recommended value of selenium, if not more. One serving of tuna packs 108 micrograms of the stuff- over double your daily value! Other fish that rank high on the charts are rockfish, swordfish, halibut, and tilapia. Remember, do not eat too much of these selenium rich foods too often.
Fish are not the only water-dwelling creatures that can give you selenium. Oysters, muscles, octopus, lobster, clams, and shrimp are all packed with the stuff. Like fish, seafood can quickly increase your selenium intake. Cooked oysters for example, are loaded with 154 micrograms per serving.
The amount of selenium present in eggs changes depending on how you prepare them. Two hard boiled eggs will get you about 100 micrograms, which will help you exceed your goals first thing in the morning.
A serving of 100 grams of oats will give you about 34 micrograms of selenium. If plain oatmeal is not to your liking, simply add oats to a morning smoothie or incorporate them into a tasty treat to meet your goals. Oat is also considered a food that is high in fiber, so don’t hesitate on trying oatmeal for breakfast. It’s really good for your healthy lifestyle.
Cheese often gets a bad reputation in the dietary world. However, cheese lovers can celebrate the fact that one serving will provide 18 micrograms of selenium. Sprinkling cheese on your meals throughout the day will get you to your daily value in no time.
Whether beef, chicken, turkey, pork, or lamb, all meats are selenium rich foods. One serving of beef provides just under 45 micrograms of selenium while the same amount of chicken stands at about 37 micrograms. The amount provided in each serving can depend on the cut but stick with leaner options for an overall healthier dietary choice.
Rye is the whole grain with some of the highest levels of selenium. One serving gives about 13 micrograms. Brown rice and pearl barley are good substitutes too, with their daily values being almost the same. Always opt for 100% whole grain options over highly refined variations of the same foods.
Mushrooms are natural foods packed with many vitamins and minerals, and there is no doubt they are great sources of selenium. Crimini varieties offer 37% of the recommended daily intake, but shiitake, portabella, and white varieties will get you to your goals too.
Nuts & Seeds
Brazil nuts are incredibly high in selenium! 100 grams pack almost 2,000 micrograms of the stuff. To avoid getting too much selenium in your diet, stick to cashews, black walnuts, or macadamia nuts. Sunflower, chia, and sesame seeds are great alternatives too, ranging from 113% to 14% of your daily value depending on type.
As you can see, selenium foods are easy to come by, and chances are that you have already had some today. Selenium benefits our entire body including your heart, cells, and thyroid. Instead of getting what you need out of a potentially dangerous supplement bottle, simply reach for natural foods to get your fix. We also recommend taking a look at some of the best fat burning foods if you are into losing weight and keeping yourself healthy. Remember you are what you eat and when it comes to optimum health, a balanced diet as well as daily exercises can do wonders.