Selenium is an essential mineral that is only needed in minute amounts. But this trace element is small but mighty. Selenium plays a significant role as an antioxidant and keeps you protected from oxidative damage.
This article will show you the foods and recipes that contain the most selenium using the tools and charts used by Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass.
- Selenium Food Chart
- Selenium Rich Foods (Per Serving)
- Selenium Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
- Selenium Rich Recipes
- Why is Selenium Important?
- What Does Selenium Do in Your Body?
- Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency
- Factors That Increase Demand for Selenium
- Satiety Response to Selenium in Food
- Selenium Toxicity
- Optimal Selenium Intake
- Availability of Selenium
- Synergistic Nutrients
- How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Selenium?
- Nutrient Density Starter Pack
- Nutrient Series
Selenium Food Chart
The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of selenium (per calorie) vs selenium (per serve). Foods towards the right will provide more selenium per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more selenium in the serving sizes we typically eat them.
For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.
Fortunately, selenium is usually found readily within the soils, so plants and animals can get enough to selenium-rich foods for human consumption. As a result, selenium foods are scattered throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, although they’re most abundant in foods from the sea. Here, it is usually found alongside its synergist, iodine.
Although selenium is found consistently in seafood, it is found in its highest concentration in Brazil nuts. This makes it easy to get selenium if you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Selenium Rich Foods (Per Serving)
The popular foods listed below will give you more selenium in the typical serving sizes we consume them in.
- Brazil nuts
- pork chops
- beef steak
- chicken thigh
- chicken breast
- chicken drumstick
- chicken wing
- egg (whole)
- ground beef
Selenium Rich Foods (Per Calorie)
- Brazil nuts
- broccoli seeds (sprouted)
- lamb liver
- chicken liver
- egg whites
- egg (whole)
- beef liver
- beef steak
- egg yolk
- Greek yogurt (non-fat)
- pork chops
Selenium Rich Recipes
The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of selenium vs protein %. Recipes towards the right will help you boost your selenium with fewer calories. Note that selenium and protein % trend together, so if you get adequate protein, you’ll likely also get a solid amount of selenium.
To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer). Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe. Some examples of our NutriBooster recipes that contain the most phosphorus are shown below.
Why is Selenium Important?
- Antioxidant: Selenium is a potent antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress is linked to various chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
- Immune function: Selenium plays a critical role in the immune system, helping fight infections and diseases. It does this by stimulating the production of white blood cells and antibodies, which help to identify and destroy harmful pathogens.
- Thyroid function: Selenium is necessary for producing thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and are essential for growth and development. Low selenium levels have been linked to an increased risk of thyroid disorders, including hypothyroidism and goitre.
- Reproductive health: Selenium is important for both male and female reproductive health. In men, it is necessary for the production of healthy sperm, while in women, it may help to reduce the risk of miscarriage and improve fertility.
- Cognitive function: There is some evidence to suggest that selenium may help to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
What Does Selenium Do in Your Body?
- We need selenium to convert T4 thyroid hormone into its active form known as T3. Lower selenium levels have been associated with autoimmune thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- Selenium is thought to be protective against cancers. Studies have shown an inverse relationship between selenium levels and someone’s risk for colon, prostate, lung, bladder, gastric, skin, and oesophageal cancers.
Because of its role as an antioxidant, selenium has been shown to prevent heart disease and cognitive decline, minimise asthma symptoms, and support the immune system.
- Selenium helps orchestrate apoptosis or the regulated cell death of old and defective cells.
- We also need selenium to produce the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione.
- Men need ample amounts of selenium to support the healthy motility and development of sperm.
- The body needs selenium to make tiny proteins that protect against cell damage and infection and help to make DNA.
- Selenium is often plentiful in seafood and is known to help you detoxify the mercury found in some fish.
Symptoms of Selenium Deficiency
A lack of selenium is associated with:
- lowered immunity,
- impaired immune responses,
- muscle weakness,
- muscle pain,
- symptoms of asthma,
- poor cognition,
- Autoimmune (Hashimoto’s) thyroiditis,
- heart failure, and
- coronary heart disease.
Factors That Increase Demand for Selenium
You may need more selenium if you’re:
- Immune compromised,
- diagnosed with HIV/AIDS,
- on dialysis,
- dealing with kidney failure,
- live in a region where selenium is low in the soil,
- following a plant-based diet,
- taking corticosteroids for a long time,
- experiencing premenstrual tension (PMS), or
Satiety Response to Selenium in Food
Our satiety analysis indicates that people who consume more selenium per calorie tend to eat up to 34% fewer calories than those who consume the least selenium.
The median selenium intake for Optimisers was 125 mcg per 2000 calories, with an 85th percentile value of 300 mcg per 2000 calories.
This is significantly greater than the Estimated Average Requirement of 50 mcg per day and the Recommended Daily Intake of 70 mcg per day for men.
In addition, the recommended minimum selenium intake for pregnant women remains set at only 60 mcg/day and 70 mcg/day for breastfeeding women.
Although selenium is required for health, high doses of selenium can be toxic and even fatal. To avoid toxicity, an Upper Intake Level of supplemental selenium has been set at 400 mcg/day.
If you’re getting too much selenium in your diet, you might experience GI upset, hair loss, nausea, breath that smells like garlic, a metallic taste, skin rashes, lesions, fatigue, irritability, and muscle tenderness.
Although selenium toxicity is often achieved by taking supplemental selenium, eating too many selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts too frequently can result in toxicity, too. More is not always better!
Optimal Selenium Intake
Based on the robust satiety response data, we have set a stretch target of 300 mcg/2000 calories.
Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition. For more details, see:
Availability of Selenium
Selenium content depends on the selenium content of the soil in which the food is grown.
In certain parts of China, where large proportions of the population are vegetarian and soil selenium levels are low, inhabitants have one of the most inadequate intakes. These selenium-deficient areas correspond to a 69% higher risk of thyroid disease. Average selenium intakes are also low in some European countries. The risk for deficiency increases significantly in populations following a vegan diet.
As we can see in the chart below, selenium content in our food system declined over the past century until selenium fortification ramped up in the mid-1970s (data from USDA Economic Research Service).
Selenium is not a one-person show. Instead, it works synergistically (or together) with vitamins B3, C, and E, cysteine, glutathione, methionine, zinc, and iodine.
For this reason, it’s best to eat foods containing selenium because they often have a complete vitamin and mineral profile. In contrast, supplements are usually in isolated form.
There is little known about the bioavailability and absorption of selenium.
How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Selenium?
If you’re interested in determining if you’re getting just the right amount of selenium in your diet, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps, including selenium.
Nutrient Density Starter Pack
We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible. So to help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including selenium, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
When you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:
- Food Lists – optimised for each essential nutrient, goals, preferences and conditions.
- The Healthiest Meal Plan in the World – see what a week of nutrient-dense eating looks like.
- Recipes – check out samples of each of our NutriBosoter recipe books.
- 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge – identify your priority nutrients and the foods and meals that contain them.
- Biotin (B7)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1
- Vitamin K2