Selenium Benefits and Sources
Selenium is perhaps less well-known than many other essential nutrients. It is a trace mineral that is fundamental to human health, though only needed in very small quantities. This page covers selenium benefits, the best sources of this mineral, and what to look out for if you suffer from a deficiency.
What is selenium?
As we have already stated, selenium is a trace mineral. The average human body contains between 12 and 20 milligrams (mg) of this nutrient, but it is vital to good health and important that you keep your selenium levels topped up on a regular basis. Being a trace mineral does not make it less important to your well being.
Selenium is an antioxidant, which means that it works on a chemical level to donate electrons and counteract free radicals. Don’t worry if that sounds complicated; because the important thing to remember is that one of selenium’s main roles in the human body is to help repair cell damage caused by free radicals. If you want to know more about the role of these important nutrients then take a look at our high antioxidant foods page.
Like most minerals, selenium can be toxic in large amounts, but the safe upper limit is 400 micrograms a day in adults. Anything above that is considered an overdose and can have side effects including depression, nausea, hair loss, a bad odour on the fingernails and liver, kidney and heart problems. However, it would be almost impossible to consume anything like this level simply through eating selenium rich foods. It is much more likely that you do not get enough selenium in your diet, and thus can develop a selenium deficiency.
Selenium BenefitsThe role of selenium in the human body
The primary function of selenium in the human body is to help the immune system and also to help activate anti-oxidant enzymes. This makes it very beneficial for your health and also your metabolism. It is used in the kidneys, the liver, your muscles and also the thyroid.
Being an antioxidant, selenium can help to eradicate free radicals in the body that can create cancer cells and increase the onset of the signs of aging. Furthermore, being good for the immune system it is also helpful in preventing disease and infections.
Here is a list of selenium benefits :
- It plays a key role in metabolism
- As an antioxidant, it helps protect cells from oxidation and ageing
- Selenium helps improve the immune system against bacterial and viral infections
- It helps to keep the pancreas working
- Selenium helps to prevent your arteries hardening
- It is believed to help with foetal development and help prevent post-natal depression
- Selenium also helps the body absorb vitamin E, which in turn helps to prevent cataracts from forming
- It helps with protein processing. As hair is mostly composed of proteins, healthy levels of selenium mean healthy hair.
- Selenium helps to regulate your cholesterol levels, which in turn keeps your heart healthy
- It helps activate the thyroid
- Benefits skin healing following burn injuries
Good Sources of SeleniumFoods containing selenium
Foods containing high levels of selenium:
- Brazil nuts
Other than selenium rich foods, you can get a regular supply of this and other minerals by taking daily supplements. These can come on their own or as part of a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. You can buy mineral supplements with selenium in online and also at your local store or pharmacy. This is especially important if you suffer from HIV, Crohn’s disease, or a number of other conditions associated with selenium deficiency, the symptoms of which include muscular weakness and fatigue.