Selenium: A Healing Nutrient Profile

What does selenium do?
Selenium is an antioxidant nutrient that counters harmful oxidative stress. It’s a component of more than two dozen proteins involved in maintaining a healthy immune system, reproduction, the production and metabolism of thyroid hormone and DNA synthesis, among other things.

Because of selenium’s antioxidant properties, researchers are studying its possible role in protecting against cancer, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. There’s also ongoing research on selenium supplements for preventing and treating thyroid disease.

How much selenium do you need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for selenium is 55 micrograms (mcg) for both women and men, and most of us get enough through our diets. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 60 mcg and 70 mcg, respectively.

Too much selenium can be harmful, which is why no more than 200 mcg are allowed to be added to vitamin supplements. With this as a consideration, it’s best to avoid taking multiple supplements containing selenium because they may total more than 200mcg.

Where can you get selenium?
Far and away the best source of selenium is Brazil nuts, but it’s also found in meat, seafood, cereals and grains, dairy products and fruits and vegetables. However, the amount of selenium in a specific food depends on the amount of selenium in the soil where the animal was raised or the plant was grown.

Some of our favorite foods that contain substantial amounts of selenium:

FOOD SERVING SIZE AMOUNT OF SELENIUM (mcg)
Brazil nuts 1 oz 544
Halibut 3 oz 47
Sardines (canned in oil) 3 oz 45
Turkey (roasted) 3 oz 31
Beef liver (pan fried) 3 oz 38
Cottage cheese (1%) 1 cup 20
Brown rice (cooked) 1 cup 19
Hard-boiled egg 1 large 15
Whole-wheat bread 1 slice 13
Frozen spinach (boiled) 1 cup 11

You can look up the selenium content of other foods by referencing the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

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