SELENIUM – Are you getting enough?


Selenium (Se) is a trace mineral that is naturally present in food and is essential to human health.  It is found in all body tissues except fat.  This nutrient (in conjunction with Vitamin E) is considered the longevity nutrient due to it’s powerful anti-oxidative functions.


The Functions of Selenium Include:

  • a component of glutathione peroxidase, a power anti-oxidant
  • forms part of the enzyme (selenocysteine) that prevents tissue degeneration and hardening
  • stimulates antibody production
  • improves sperm production and motility
  • protects from the toxic effects of heavy metals (especially mercury)
  • helps with thyroid function (conversion of T4 to T3)
  • provides some protection from cancer and cardiovascular disease

Because of these functions Selenium is often used for antioxidant therapies (especially for cancer), inflammatory issues such as atherosclerosis, degenerative problems such as arthritis, autoimmune diseases and removal of heavy metals from the body.


The recommended Dietary Allowance for Selenium is 55ug/day for adults (60ug if pregant and 70ug if breastfeeding) with an upper limit of 400ug.

Selenium deficiencies are rare in North America since the daily recomended amount of Selenium is easily obtained through animal based foods.  Seafoods, organ and muscle meats are the richest sources of dietary selenium.  It is also present in grains, eggs and dairy.

  1. Tuna 223% DRI* per 4oz
  2. Shrimp 102% DRI per 4oz
  3. Sardines 87% DRI per 3.2oz
  4. Salmon 78% DRI per 4oz
  5. Cod 58% DRI per 4oz

*Daily recommended intake according the the US National Institue of Health

However, for those that are vegetarian or vegan this may be a little more of a challenge. Since the levels of selenium in food vary based on the conditions of the soil, the amount of selenium taken up by plants may vary from region to region.

Symptoms of Selenium deficiency include a weakened immune system and the loss of shine of hair.  Those with a deficiency in Selenium are at an increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease, heavy metal toxicity and infertility (males).

With 100% of the Daily Recommended Intake of Selenium in 1-2 Brazil Nuts, these are clearly the easiest way to ensure that you are getting the required amount of this important mineral.  I have added a list of other plant-bsed sources of Selenium to incorporate into your diet below.


Since Selenium is a trace mineral we only need it in small amounts.  Restrict yourself to no more than a few Brazil nuts each day if you eat them regularly.  For healthy people supplementation with Selenium is not generally recommended as it may lead to toxicity.

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Eat well, Feel well, Live well

Kristine CNP, HBSc


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