They say big things come in small packages, and the same goes for selenium. Known as a trace element because it is only needed in small amounts, selenium is found mainly in plants, especially in soils that are rich in elements, as well as in some meat and nut products. Although a lack of trace elements seems to be minor, it can have serious consequences.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that combats the damage caused by free radicals in the body. It can improve cardiovascular health and also fight cancer. It also plays a role in thyroid health and supports iodine metabolism and the production of critical thyroid hormones.
Because the thyroid regulates the body's metabolism, maintaining a slim body is essential to keep it in good condition. Selenium can also affect this lean body by increasing muscle strength. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers measured hip flexion, leg extension and grip strength in 891 subjects and found that those with high selenium levels were more likely to be stronger than those with lower selenium levels.
Ingesting extra selenium is the best way to ensure that you receive adequate amounts. However, it is not essential to add another pill to your supplement regime. Brazil nuts are known to contain 95 μg of selenium per nut. Since the recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 mcg and we recommend consuming 200 mcg daily, you could only use a few Brazil nuts.
Since megadoses of selenium can negatively affect your health, you should not take more than 400 μg per day. This is the upper limit set by the National Institute of the Sciences of Medicine (Washington, D.C.). In another note on Brazil nuts, New Zealand researchers found that eating Brazil nuts boosts selenium levels as effectively as taking a dietary supplement. The scientists gave the subjects either 100 μg of selenium from a soup, 100 μg of selenium by Brazil nuts or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the subjects taking the supplement or eating the nuts had a 60% higher mineral content in their blood. Both groups also showed elevated blood levels of glutathione peroxidase, a critical antioxidant enzyme whose proper function depends on selenium.
Brazil nuts are not the only selenium source, but only one of the best. Make sure you get enough of it wherever you receive selenium.
You are looking for selenium? The best sources of the powerful mineral:
Food Quantity Selenium, Content (mcg)
Brazil Nuts, Dried, Unbleached 1 oz. (about 6) 544
Tuna, light, in oil 3 oz. 63
Beef, cooked 3.5 oz. 35
Cod, cooked 3.5 oz. 32
Turkey, Light Meat, Roasted 3.5 oz. 32
Beef, Chuck Roast, Roasted 3.5 oz. 23
Chicken Breast Roasted 3.5 oz. 20
Macaroni, cooked 1/2 cup 15
Egg 1 medium 14
Low-fat (2%) cottage cheese 1/2 cup 12
Instant oatmeal, cooked 1 cup 12
Brown rice, 1 cook2 cup cooked 10
Wholemeal bread 1 slice 10
Cheddar Cheese 1 oz. 4
* Adapted from the National Institutes of Health Office for nutritional supplements