Selenium in Foods

Which foods are good sources of Selenium?
Selenium is one of the less well known minerals you will read about on these pages, but in small quantities it is essential to well-being. This page is specifically about selenium rich foods. We provide a list of foods rich in selenium and explain exactly what selenium is.
Although we do touch on the many benefits that this mineral brings to the human body, if you wish to learn more, please visit our page on selenium benefits and sources.

What is selenium?

Selenium is one of the essential minerals needed by our bodies, but only in very small amounts. For this reason it is known as a trace mineral. The human body’s selenium content is believed to be approximately 12-20 milligrams (mg), so it’s not surprising to learn that our recommended daily intake is very small, as you can see from the chart on the right. The average adult needs just 55 micrograms (µg, sometimes written as mcg) of selenium per day – a microgram is one thousandth of a milligram!

Selenium deficiency is rare, although it is believe that smoking cigarettes, excessive alcohol consumption and prolonged use of the birth control pill can affect selenium uptake. However, this mineral is toxic in large quantities (over 400 µg per day). It is therefore advisable to obtain your daily needs of this mineral through selenium rich foods rather than supplements, unless advised by a medical practitioner.

RDI Selenium

  • 55 µg Adults
  • 60 µg Pregnant women
  • 70 µg Breastfeeding women
  • 55 µg Children 14-18 years
  • 40 µg Children 9-13 years
  • 30 µg Children 4-8 years
  • 20 µg Toddler 1-3 years
  • 20 µg Infants 7-12 months
  • 15 µg Infants 0-6 monthss

List of Selenium Rich Foods

Foods which contain Selenium

A great deal of foods contain small quantities of selenium, but there are relatively few selenium rich foods. However, as it is a trace element and only needed in small quantities, the good news is that it is fairly easy to obtain your daily requirement of selenium. The most easily accessible foods high in selenium are brazil nuts. Depending on the selenium content of the soil in which they are grown, just one or two brazil nuts can provide your entire daily dose of selenium in one go.

If you dislike nuts or are one of the growing numbers of people who have a nut allergy don’t worry though because there are several other common foods containing selenium that will provide you with your recommended daily intake. As with brazil nuts though, it is believed that selenium levels in the soil affect the amounts of selenium in land-based foods.

Top Selenium Rich Foods

All amounts are per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Brazil nuts – 1917 µg
Mustard seed – 208 µg
Dried egg, whole – 165 µg
Oysters – 154 µg
Lambs liver (cooked) – 116 µg
Tuna (fresh, cooked) – 108 µg



More Foods High in Selenium

All figures are per 100 g (3.5 oz)

  • Mushrooms, white – 107 µg
  • Mussels – 104 µg
  • Tuna, canned – 103 µg
  • Shrimp, canned – 95 µg
  • Mushrooms, shiitake – 89 µg
  • Egg white, fresh – 83 µg
  • Crab, cooked – 82 µg
  • Sunflower seeds – 79.3 µg
  • Wheatgerm 79.2 µg
  • Amaranth flakes – 70.7 µg
  • Swordfish – 68.5 µg
  • Caviar 65.5 µg
  • Bacon – 65.1 µg
  • Turkey ham – 60 µg
  • Ham, extra lean – 59 µg
  • Egg yolk – 56 µg
  • Asparagus, cooked – 55 µg
  • Pork tenderloin – 51.6 µg
  • Shrimp – 50 µg
  • Cous cous, cooked – 49 µg
  • Chicken liver pate – 46 µg
  • Wheatgerm 44 µg
  • Macaroni, cooked – 42 µg
  • Liver pate – 41.6 µg
  • Wholewheat bread – 40.3 µg
  • English muffin, wholewheat – 40 µg
  • Oat bran, cooked – 39 µg
  • Salmon 39 µg
  • Dinner roll, whole wheat – 37 µg
  • Turkey – 31 µg
  • Cod – 28 µg
  • Chicken – 28 µg

Why might you need selenium rich foods?

So, why might you need to eat more of the foods that we have highlighted in the above selenium rich foods lists? Selenium is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system. Our bodies also require selenium in order for the thyroid gland to function efficiently, and it is also believed to help protect us against free radical damage. It does this by working as an antioxidant in conjunction with vitamin E, vitamin C, glutathione and vitamin B3. If you do not consume enough of this mineral then you are at risk of selenium deficiency. Low levels of selenium can contribute to autoimmune problems and progressive viral infections, as well as leading to reproductive problems and hypothyroidism. Symptoms of selenium deficiency include:

  • Evenly distributed hair loss
  • Discoloured fingernails (whitened nail beds)
  • Skin discoloration
  • Constant tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low immunity

Conversely, high levels of selenium (over 400µg  per day) can lead to hair loss, halitosis (bad breath), diarrhoea and nerve damage. This, as we have already said, is why it is a good idea to choose foods from our selenium rich foods list rather than rely on supplements if at all possible.