Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food. ...Hippocrates

Selenium: Benefits, Toxicity and Food Sources of Selenium

What is Selenium?

Selenium is an essential mineral required in small amounts. It is a micronutrient. Selenium is naturally found in plants, seafood, meat and meat products.

Health Benefits of Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant (scavenger of free-radicals) and a component of several essential enzymes. Health benefits of selenium are partly due to its antioxidant effects. Selenium may delay or prevent the onset of cancer and may also have anti-aging effect. Selenium is also an important mineral needed for proper thyroid function. It also promotes immunity system.

Selenium deficiency is associated with reduced immune cell counts and higher risk of death for HIV patients.

Selenium Toxicity

If selenium is consumed in high dosage, it may have toxicity effect. For detailed recommended selenium dosage per day, read here.

Some of the symptoms of selenium toxicity are fatigue, hair loss, and white blotchy nails.

Natural Food Sources of Selenium

Foods with selenium include cereals (eg. corn, wheat, and rice), nuts (brazil nuts and walnuts), legumes (soybeans), animal products (beef, chicken, egg, cheese), seafood (tuna). Brazil nuts are among the very rich food sources of selenium. In fact, it is advised to exercise caution with consumption of brazil nuts, as the selenium intake may reach to toxic level. Other selenium rich foods are fish, turkey and oats. For a long list of selenium food sources and their content, ordered high to low, see the tables below.

Table 1: List of foods high in selenium content.

Selenium food sources Selenium content (µg/ 100 g food)
Nuts, brazilnuts, dried, unblanched 1917.11
Nuts, mixed nuts, oil roasted, with peanuts, with salt added 421.16
Fish, roughy, orange, cooked, dry heat 88.35
Fish, tuna, light, canned in water, drained solids 80.35
Fish, tuna, light, canned in oil, drained solids 75.96
Wheat flour, whole-grain 70.67
Mollusks, oyster, eastern, cooked, breaded and fried 66.47
Fish, tuna, white, canned in water, drained solids 65.65

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