How Much Do You Know About Selenium?
By Sara Butler
Selenium is an essential nutrient, but many people are unaware of how important it is to optimal health and functioning. Since so few people are informed about the benefits of selenium and getting enough in their diet, the World Health Organization estimates that up to 1 billion people suffer from selenium deficiency. Here’s what you should know about this powerful antioxidant and how to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet.
Selenium: What is it?
Selenium is a mineral naturally found in the soil. It’s considered a micronutrient because the body requires less of it than some other essential minerals and vitamins. It primarily works to help the body’s immune system function, but it also contributes to a well-functioning metabolism, healthy thyroid, and DNA synthesis.
It's considered an antioxidant too, which means it can help prevent cell damage, reducing the risk of cognitive decline as you age as well as the risk for certain types of cancer. The National Institutes of Health recommend adults get 55 micrograms per day while women who are pregnant should get 60 micrograms per day.
Where You Find It
Since selenium is found in areas where the soil is rich, it will produce food rich in selenium too. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, walnuts, and chia seeds are great sources of selenium, as well as crab, tuna, cod, herring, red snapper salmon, shrimp, poultry, beef, and organ meats. Grains are also a great source of selenium.
Selenium is destroyed during the processing of foods, so the best way to get selenium is your diet is by eating whole foods.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Be warned, however, that most people in the United States get enough selenium in their diets to be healthy, so there’s no need to take a supplement unless your doctor recommends it. If you get too much selenium it can cause bad breath, fever, nausea, and even problems with your liver, heart, and kidneys. So, rest assured that as long as you’re eating a balanced diet with whole foods, you’re getting enough of this micronutrient.
It should also be noted that too much selenium may increase your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer, type 2 diabetes, and prostate cancer. That’s why you should never venture out and take selenium supplements without the advice of a medical professional.
Selenium is essential to your good health, so make sure you're getting enough of it.
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