Discover These 6 Selenium Benefits For Your Health and Wellbeing

Do you know how selenium benefits you and your health? This trace mineral often flies under the radar in the world of nutrition. Yet selenium is integral to thyroid function, the immune system, and antioxidant defences. Selenium is a superstar nutrient that deserves a moment in the spotlight. In this article, we'll discover 6 selenium benefits for good health and well-being and discuss the best food sources of selenium to include in your diet. If you want to learn about the many benefits of selenium, plus enjoy some delicious and simple selenium-rich recipes, read on for more.

What is Selenium?

Selenium is a natural trace mineral found in soil, water, rocks, and some plants and animals. The Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius discovered selenium in 1817 and named it after the Greek word for the moon, "Selene." In its pure form, selenium is a non-metallic element often combined with other elements to form various compounds. In humans, selenium is a complex of amino acids known as selenoproteins. These are selenomethionine, selenocysteine and methylselenocysteine. These compounds are the active forms of selenium in the body, and despite its tiny presence, selenium is an essential nutrient for a range of bodily functions.


A woman cupping her hands holding sunflower seeds.

The Role of Selenium in the Body

Selenium is crucial for the optimal functioning of several body systems. The selenoproteins mentioned above are essential for antioxidant activity in cell repair and thyroid hormone metabolism. The thyroid gland primarily regulates metabolism, growth and development. Selenium is needed to perform these metabolic tasks correctly. Enzymes in the thyroid called deiodinases require selenium to switch on and off thyroid hormones. Without sufficient selenium, thyroid hormone production can become imbalanced, leading to an underactive thyroid, which impacts overall health.

6 Selenium Benefits For Good Health

Ensuring you have enough selenium from food is critical to cellular health, the thyroid and the immune system. Here are some of the most notable advantages of adequate selenium intake:

Antioxidant Benefits

In human health, selenium is most famous for its powerful antioxidant functions. Selenium helps neutralise free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage, a crucial step in preventing chronic or inflammatory diseases such as cancer, heart disease or neurological disorders. Selenium's antioxidant properties are beneficial for maintaining healthy skin. Selenium helps protect against UV damage and reduces inflammation, promoting youthful-looking skin.

Thyroid Health

The thyroid gland is highly dependent on adequate selenium, iron and iodine in the body. Selenium is a cofactor mineral for producing and regulating thyroid hormones (thyroxine). In subclinical thyroid conditions, such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, adding selenium to the diet, either via food or supplements, can help boost thyroid production and ameliorate this condition. A healthy thyroid has downstream effects on the rest of the body. These hormones are crucial for maintaining metabolism, influencing how the body utilises energy, produces heat, and consumes oxygen. They also control heart rate and blood pressure and promote digestion.

Immune Function

Selenium enhances the immune system and protects against lung, prostate and bowel cancers. Selenium, in the form of selenoproteins, helps reduce inflammation everywhere in the body via an abundant antioxidant called glutathione. Glutathione is a master antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals, reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damage. It also helps with cellular repair and helps recycle other antioxidants in the body.

Cognitive Health

Selenium's antioxidant properties also benefit brain health. As mentioned, Brazil nuts have the highest dietary source of selenium and are also among the top 3 ketogenic nuts. Ketogenic foods have been shown to optimise brain health and cognition.

Fertility and Reproductive Health

Selenium is essential for reproductive health and fertility in both men and women. It is a crucial mineral for healthy sperm motility and production. Sufficient selenium levels are vital for DNA synthesis, integral to embryonic development. Research from a recent systematic review of selenium shows that it supports ovarian follicle function and is protective against pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

Selenium is essential for proper metabolic function. Its benefits extend to glucose metabolism, with some studies revealing that inadequate or excessive selenium may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and excessive weight gain. Getting the balance right via food is always the best way to maintain good overall health.

Natural Sources of Selenium

The most beneficial way to obtain selenium is through food. Luckily, various foods are rich in selenium, offering an easy and delicious way to meet your daily requirements. Some of the top selenium-rich foods include:

  • Brazil nuts: Just one or two Brazil nuts can provide than the daily recommended intake of selenium.
  • Seafood: Fish like oysters, tuna, mackerel, and prawns are great sources of selenium and also zinc.
  • Animal proteins: Chicken, pork, beef and eggs are plentiful sources of dietary selenium.
  • Grains: Brown rice, oats, and whole wheat bread can also contribute to your selenium intake.
  • Nuts and seeds: Sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds are all excellent selenium sources.
  • Dried Fruit: Raisins, dates, and prunes are all high in selenium.
  • Vegetables: Mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli are great choices to help boost selenium levels.

A table covered in various grains.

The Impact of Farming Practices on Selenium Levels

Selenium is typically abundant in healthy, rich soil and organic matter. However, over the last century, modern farming practices have desolated the soil quality of farmland, and crops have suffered as a result. Industrial pesticides and conventional farming methods like monocropping have a huge impact on growing plants and the broader ecosystem as well.

The trace mineral content of the food we eat largely depends on soil quality and its growing conditions. In regions where soil selenium levels are low, like in Australia and New Zealand, local food sources may also be deficient. Agricultural protocols have been used in recent years to combat the localised selenium deficits in soil, which impair the health of plants and animals that feed on them.

This promotes the importance of sourcing foods for diverse regions and supporting local farmers and producers. Include animal-based protein as well as plants for a balanced intake of all minerals, including selenium. Organic farming practices emphasise soil quality, biodiversity, and sustainability. Supporting organic farmers and their produce is better for your overall health and will help improve ecological health in the long term.

Recommended Daily Intake of Selenium

Selenium is a trace mineral, so minimal amounts are needed to support your health. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of selenium varies depending on age, gender, and developmental needs.

  • The RDI for selenium for men and women aged 18-70 is 60-70 micrograms per day.
  • The RDI for selenium increases slightly to 75 micrograms daily for pregnant and breastfeeding women to support the growth needs of both mother and baby.

Importantly, there is an upper limit to be aware of when considering selenium intake. Adults shouldn't exceed 400 micrograms per day, as this amount has been shown to cause hair loss and nail brittleness. 

Fortunately, you're unlikely to reach this selenium level if you simply consume selenium-rich foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure to check the labels of any supplements for selenium levels. Or, ideally, consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist to ensure the product is right for you.

Selenium Deficiency and Its Implications

Acute selenium deficiency can be challenging to detect. The symptoms are commonly shared with other potential nutrient deficiencies or disease states. However, the main symptoms of selenium deficiency include:

  • Fatigue and muscle weakness
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Hair loss and brittle nails
  • Cognitive decline and memory issues
  • Hypothyroidism and related symptoms
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Reproductive issues and subfertility

Chronic selenium deficiency can lead to a condition known as Keshan disease, which is a disease affecting the heart. Underlying intestinal issues such as Crohn's disease can also be a risk factor for selenium deficiency.

Overall, selenium deficiency in healthy adults is rare. The most important life phases to ensure sufficient selenium levels are during periods of intense growth, brain development, and immune system maturation. These include childhood, trying to conceive, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.

Enjoy Better Health With These Amazing Selenium Benefits

Getting enough selenium is crucial for general health and well-being. Some significant selenium benefits include a more robust immune system, optimal thyroid health and improved fertility. The good news is that selenium-rich foods are easy to include in your diet, provided you consume a balanced mix of protein, nuts, seeds, and fresh produce. Enjoy a mix of Brazil nuts, sesame seeds or dates for a boost of selenium at breakfast or as a snack.

Selenium-Rich Foods and Recipes

Incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet can be both simple and delicious. Check out these recipes using Brazil nuts for some quick and tasty meal ideas.

Meanwhile, here are three mouthwatering recipes that are packed with selenium:


Brazil Nut and Spinach Salad


  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup Brazil nuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, combine spinach, Brazil nuts, cherry tomatoes, and avocado.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss gently and serve immediately.

Middle-Eastern Chickpea and Date Tagine


  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or tagine over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are soft and translucent.
  2. Stir in the garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger. Cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.
  3. Add the chickpeas and dates, stirring to combine with the spices and onions.
  4. Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes, or until the dates are soft and the flavours are well incorporated.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving. This dish pairs well with couscous or quinoa for a complete meal.

Seared Tuna with Sautéed Broccoli


  • 2 tuna steaks
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season tuna steaks with salt and pepper, then sear for 2-3 minutes on each side or until desired doneness.
  2. In another skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add broccoli and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes until tender-crisp.
  3. Drizzle soy sauce over the broccoli and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve alongside the seared tuna.

Article References

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Huang, Y. C., Combs, G. F., Jr, Wu, T. L., Zeng, H., & Cheng, W. H. (2022). Selenium status and type 2 diabetes risk. Archives of biochemistry and biophysics730, 109400.

Hu, Y., Feng, W., Chen, H., Shi, H., Jiang, L., Zheng, X., Liu, X., Zhang, W., Ge, Y., Liu, Y., & Cui, D. (2021). Effect of selenium on thyroid autoimmunity and regulatory T cells in patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis: A prospective randomized-controlled trial. Clinical and translational science14(4), 1390–1402.

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