Importance Of Selenium-Rich Diet: Health Benefits Of Consuming Selenium-Rich Foods

Mushrooms, oats, spinach, milk, yoghurt, cashews, lentils, bananas, chicken, brazil nuts, soy products, etc. all have adequate amounts of selenium. 

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograPublished at: Dec 30, 2020
Importance Of Selenium-Rich Diet: Health Benefits Of Consuming Selenium-Rich Foods

What is a selenium-rich diet? Have you heard of selenium before? It is an essential element for the body. Selenium is found naturally in many diets. Our body needs selenium in minimal amounts, but it plays an indispensable role in keeping us healthy. Many essential functions of the body are not possible without selenium, from metabolism to thyroid function. Selenium regulates iodine in the body. A selenium-rich diet includes various whole grains, dairy products and oils, vegetables and fruits etc. It is only needed in limited quantities, but it plays a significant role in essential processes in your body. A cofactor for glutathione peroxidase, selenium functions as an antioxidant that protects the body from damaging the free radicals. Let us tell you about the benefits of selenium and its primary sources.

How much selenium is essential for the body?

Dr Anuj Chaudhary, Founder - Animal Nutrition Booster Company states that "selenium compounds are generally very efficiently absorbed. Dietary intake of about 40ug / day of selenium is necessary to maintain glutathione peroxidase levels and has been recommended as the acceptable intake for Indians. According to WHO, selenium intake of 34ug/day for men and 26ug/day for adult women is recommended. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 micrograms of selenium a day is usually required for people older than 14 years. At the same time, it is vital to consume 20 micrograms for newborns and 30-40 grams of selenium daily for children."

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  • Our body needs selenium nutrient (trace mineral) for many of its essential functions to stay healthy. We need to add selenium-rich foods to stay healthy which is also critical to our reproductive, heart, immune and cognitive health, thyroid gland function, DNA production and protecting our body from the damage caused by the infection. 
  • Selenium rich foods play essential roles in balancing inflammation. Selenium is present as a part of a protein called selenoproteins which play critical to the body. 
  • Selenium is present in two forms - as selenomethionine in plant foods and selenocysteine in animal proteins.  Selenium is necessary for the function of the thyroid gland and the development of DNA. 
  • Selenium is also crucial for the immune system to function correctly and appears to be an essential nutrient for counteracting virulence production and inhibiting the progression of HIV to AIDS.

Five best natural food sources of selenium

Ms Ridhima Batra, Certified Diabetes Educator & Sports Nutritionist says that "selenium is found naturally in many foods. The amount of selenium in plants' food depends on the amount of selenium in the soil in which it is produced. The selenium content of the animals' foods depends on the amount of selenium in animal products." By eating a variety of foods, you can get recommended amounts of selenium:

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  • Eggs: Selenium is good in eggs. By eating just one boiled egg, you get 20 micrograms of selenium. All the eggs dishes are beneficial for you.
  • Tuna Fish/Cod: A right amount of selenium is found in marine foods such as tuna fish, oysters, clams, shrimp, salmon, crab etc.
  • Cottage Cheese: It is also a good source of selenium. One cup of cottage cheese contains about 20 micrograms of selenium.
  • Brown Rice: 1 cup boiled brown rice contains 19 micrograms of selenium.
  • Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds are also a good source of selenium. A quarter cup of seeds contains 19 micrograms of selenium.
  natural food sources of selenium

Why do we need to add selenium-rich foods in our diets?

  • Selenium together with vitamin E protects the body from oxidative damage. Therefore it acts as an antioxidant.
  • Selenium regulates iodine in our body and helps recycle vitamin C, making it possible to manufacture and repair cells.
  • Selenium is also essential for making glutathione, a particular antioxidant produced in the body.
  • Selenium also reduces the risk of many cancers due to lowering oxidative stress. Therefore, eating a diet rich in selenium also keeps your heart healthy.
  • Strengthening the immune system is very important to protect the body from viruses, bacteria and parasites. Selenium is also helpful in boosting immunity.

Health benefits of consuming selenium-rich foods or diet

Selenium is an effective antioxidant that helps protect the body from health illness, such as heart disease and cancer, and fights oxidative stress. By keeping oxidative stress in check and reducing your risk of heart disease, selenium can help keep your heart safe. As people age, blood selenium levels drop, and scientists are researching whether low levels of selenium lead to a reduction in brain activity in the elderly. Any findings show that persons with lower levels of blood selenium are more likely to have a more impaired mental function.

  • Important for Thyroid Health - an essential role in producing thyroid hormones and proper functioning of thyroid glands
  • Acts as a Powerful Antioxidant - perform essential functions, including protecting our body from disease
  • Cognitive Support – reduce the risk of cognitive & maintain healthy brain function
  • Reduce Risk of Certain Cancers - may help lower the risk of certain cancers
  • Reduce Asthma Symptoms - may help reduce asthma-related symptoms
  • Prevent Against Cardiovascular/Heart  Disease – keep our heart healthy
  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease - prevent cell damage in our body

selenium-rich foods or diet

"Selenium is necessary to convert T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (active thyroid) and protects the thyroid gland from oxidative stress. For the wellbeing and proper functioning of the immune system, selenium is crucial. Higher selenium levels can improve people's immune systems with HIV, and hepatitis is C, influenza, and tuberculosis. It prevents hair loss/ hair dry and dandruff, and it magically protects against you with the toxicity of heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and silver" says Dr Anuj Chaudhary.

Potential risks of consuming selenium-rich foods or diet

Acute selenium toxicity can result in intestinal severe and neurological effects, heart attack, renal failure and death in extreme cases. Toxicity of selenium leads to symptoms of selenosis which results in skin and nail brittle, the decay of teeth, neurological abnormalities.

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Sports Nutritionist Ridhima Batra shares signs of selenium toxicity:

  • muscle soreness
  • facial flushing
  • dizziness
  • hair loss
  • vomiting
  • tremors
  • nausea

Selenium deficiency leads to liver necrosis. An endemic disease of cardiomyopathy in children (Keshan syndrome) is attributed to low selenium in the environment. Selenium deficiency is also involved in cancer as a risk factor. Its lack also leads to male infertility. KashinBeck disease, a form of arthritis that causes inflammation, swelling, and lack of mobility in your joints may also be generated.

Who should avoid selenium and why?

By the way, selenium foods are beneficial for everyone. But in certain diseases and conditions, your body may be unable to digest selenium. So if you have any of the following problems, you should eat selenium foods only after consulting your doctor.

  • If you have gastrointestinal problems like chronic disease etc.
  • If you are a victim of hypothyroidism.
  • If your kidney is undergoing dialysis.
  • If you are HIV positive.

The constant and regular high intakes of the organic and inorganic forms of selenium have similar effects. Early indicators include garlic odour in the breath and a metallic taste in the mouth. The most common clinical signs include hair and nail loss. Other additional symptoms include skin and nervous system lesions, nausea, diarrhoea, skin rashes, mottled teeth, fatigue, irritability, and nervous system abnormalities.

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