The Health Benefits of Selenium
What is Selenium?
Selenium (Se) is an essential nutrient that has amazing health benefits, so we should all be getting enough of it in our diet. It’s an important mineral that can be found in many foods and it’s also available as a supplement. However, it’s crucial to take this nutrient in the right amount because the overdosage can be harmful.
In this article, we’ll share with you the amazing benefits selenium has and foods in which you can find it so that you make sure you don’t miss out on this key mineral.
What are the benefits of Selenium?
First, let’s start with the health benefits you will get if you take enough selenium.
A Powerful Antioxidant
Selenium works as a powerful antioxidant because it fights free radicals and this way it helps prevent oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. We need to fight free radicals because they damage our cells and lead to different diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Selenium works in conjunction with vitamin E and prevents oxidative damage in our body, reducing the chances of suffering from one of these diseases.
Selenium is very important for the healthy functions of your thyroid as well. It helps to balance hormone levels and the thyroid is actually the organ in our bodies that contain the most selenium. The thyroid needs selenium in order to produce the crucial thyroid hormone called T3 which regulates metabolism. If you suffer from selenium deficiency, the synthesis of thyroid hormones is reduced. This is why it’s recommended for patients struggling with Hashimoto’s disease or other thyroid conditions, to increase their selenium intake as that’s proven to improve the structure of the thyroid gland.
Because it’s such a strong antioxidant, selenium reduces the damage to cellular DNA and this way, it reduces cancer growth. A lot of research has been shown that selenium in good healthy levels can not only reduce tumor growth and reduce metastasis but it can also prevent these different types of cancer. It’s proven that there is a strong correlation between the levels of Selenium and the chance of getting cancer. Selenium may help prevent especially prostate, breast, colon and thyroid cancer.
Protection from mercury poisoning
Selenium binds with mercury so it can help you detoxify if you have a mercury poisoning. Mercury is a toxic metal naturally found in the environment and in everyday foods and products. Mercury poisoning can cause serious health problems so it’s another good reason to make sure you get enough selenium.
Foods that contain selenium
There are selenium supplements available but it’s always best to get your nutrients from your food. Luckily, there are a lot of healthy and delicious selenium-rich foods you can incorporate in your diet. The food that is highest in selenium is Brazil nuts. However, you need to be careful about how much of these nuts you take because overdosage can be bad for you. 1-2 Brazil nuts daily would be more than enough. They are so rich in selenium that you don’t even need to have them every day. Besides them, other good sources of selenium are the following:
- Sunflower seeds
- Wild-caught salmon
- Pinto beans
It’s best to consume two to three of these foods that are rich in selenium daily. If you make sure you have selenium in the right amount, you can only do yourself a favor, improve your thyroid function and boost your immunity.
How to know if you suffer from selenium deficiency?
If you don’t take enough selenium, you will definitely have a few signs telling you that. Some of the symptoms include:
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Weakened immune system
- Mental fog
- Muscle weakness
Selenium deficiency is pretty hard to be diagnosed and is quite rare. However, if you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor and get tested. You can try including more selenium-rich foods in your diet to see if that will make a difference in how you feel. The recommended daily value for selenium is 55 micrograms per day for adults. Pregnant and lactating women should take a little more – about 60 micrograms per day. Having in mind that 1 brazil nut contains 68-91 micrograms per nut, you don’t even have to take them every single day.
What are the possible health risks?
The possible downside of selenium is taking too much of it which leads to toxicity. Excessive selenium levels can be very harmful to you and in extreme ways can lead to even death. And even though selenium toxicity due to overdose is rare, you should know the symptoms that show intoxication.
Some of the early signs of excess intake are the following:
- Bad garlic-like breath and metallic taste
- Skin rashes and lesions
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
You should be very careful with how much Selenium-rich foods you are consuming or how much supplements you are taking so that you get the amazing benefits this mineral offers and be healthy.
Final Thoughts on Selenium
Selenium is a very important and healthy nutrient. You can be safe and have great benefits from it if you take it in the right amount. Remember that it’s always better to get your recommended amount from food and not from selenium supplements. Consuming healthy and delicious foods regularly is the best and safest way to make sure you get enough selenium and other vital nutrients your body needs. If you have problems like a weak immune system or hormone imbalance, selenium can become your best friend and the answer you’ve been looking for. However, always make sure you do your research thoroughly and that you get just as much as you need. We all know that too much of anything can be bad, so don’t ignore the recommended daily intake you should follow.