Selenium – Health Benefits and Food Sources

Selenium is a mineral important for many body processes including antioxidant protection against free radical damage. Antioxidants protect the body from cell damage and aging; as well it helps to regulate body inflammation and boost the immune system.

Selenium is a key nutrient in counteracting the development of different viruses and can slow down the progression of some disease. Some scientific evidence also suggests that selenium can reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer. Through its ability to fight inflammation, selenium also improves blood flow and helps lower the chance of heart disease.

A diet rich in selenium has been found to boost fertility in both men and women; as well may help to prevent mental decline and improve memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Through assisting in the production of active thyroid hormones, selenium also has the ability to regulate thyroid function, and protect it from oxidative stress. The thyroid gland controls numerous important body functions including appetite, sleep, temperature, weight and energy.

Characteristics of a Selenium Deficiency

A selenium deficiency can result when food is grown in soil deficient of this essential nutrient. A deficiency can result in a weakened immune system, infertility, hypothyroidism, mental fog and fatigue, muscle weakness, depression, fingernail discolouration and hair loss.

Selenium toxicity can also occur through the regular use of supplements, as well through the interaction of other medications. Too much selenium in the system can be toxic and even fatal. Signs of a selenium poisoning include: bad breath, brittle nails, skin lesions and rashes, hair loss, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, muscle soreness, tremors and facial flushing. In serious cases selenium toxicity can result in intestinal and neurological complications, heart attacks, kidney failure and even death. If considering taking selenium supplements, talk to your family doctor first.

Selenium Food Sources

Good sources of selenium include chicken, fish, eggs, some nuts and seeds, yogurt and baked beans. It is always best to get your essential nutrients from real whole food sources other than supplements.

Nutrient-Rich Whole Food Sources for Selenium

This chart lists the best food sources for selenium, along with that food source’s single serving size and the amount of selenium in that single serving.

Selenium Daily Intake Recommendations for Child and Adult

These figures are referenced from the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) 2005 system; used in Canada and the United States. The DRI system provides the minimum daily intake requirements of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for child and adult; males and females.

To find out what your daily intake requirements are for all of the essential nutrients, see the article Essential Nutrients and Beneficial Foods, posted January 16, 2017.

Try our Muffin-Tin Mushroom Frittatas recipe! Eggs and mushrooms are excellent whole food sources for the essential nutrient selenium.


Written by: J. Marshall


•    Canadian Diabetes Association:
•    The World’s Healthiest Foods:
•    WebMD:
•    University of Maryland Medical Center:
•    Dr. Axe, Food is Medicine:
•    Global Healing Center:
•    Health Canada: Dietary Reference Intake Tables:
•    U.S. Department of Health & Human Services / Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI):

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