It is our duty to explore all the gifts that Mother Nature has blessed us with. Selenium is one of the minerals that is considered a gift by health enthusiasts around the world. A rare mineral in itself, it carries immense health benefits. Let’s get to know it more:
What is Selenium and where does it come from?
A rare mineral mostly found in Brazil is Selenium (Se). People who eat dirt or soil due to any reason do not face the deficiency of Selenium as the soil is the richest source of selenium mineral. Any food or crop that is grown on that rich soil will be rich in this mineral. Though its deficiency is uncommon due to its anti-oxidative properties, it is gaining popularity for regular use.
Reasons people take selenium
This mineral is gaining attention nowadays because of many beneficial reasons and among these benefits, the most important is the presence of antioxidants which are found to prevent the risks of certain cancers. In a small research, it was found that people suffering from Crohn’s disease, HIV and others are seen to be deficient in selenium and doctors recommend them to take selenium supplements.
Food sources of selenium
The variety of food that contains selenium depends upon the soil on which it is grown or cultivated. The most common foods that contain selenium are:
- Brazil nuts, walnuts
- Meats, beef, and poultry, fish like tuna, cod, red snapper, or herring
- Grains, brown rice, etc.
Food in its natural form is the most precise and best source of selenium because processing the food items may destroy the minerals.
The below-mentioned food items are some of the richest sources of selenium:
|Brazil nuts (1 ounce)||544 mcg|
|Tuna (3 ounces)||92 mcg|
|Shrimp (3 ounces)||40 mcg|
|Macaroni (1 C)||37 mcg|
|Turkey (3 ounces)||31 mcg|
|Beef (3 ounces)||28 mcg|
|Chicken (3 ounces)||22 mcg|
|Brown rice (1C)||19 mcg|
|Egg (1 large)||15 mcg|
|Whole wheat bread (1 slice)||13 mcg|
|Milk (1C)||8 mcg|
|Spinach (1/2 C)||5 mcg|
|Cashew nuts (1 ounce)||3 mcg|
Recommended dietary allowances for Selenium
The RDA for selenium mentioned here can be from natural foods or supplements. Most people prefer to use natural foods for fulfilling their daily dietary allowances.
Following are the RDAs for different age groups:
|Children 1-3 years||20 mcg/day|
|Children 4-8 years||30 mcg/day|
|Children 9-13 years||40 mcg/day|
|Pregnant women||60 mcg/day|
|Breastfeeding mothers||70 mcg/day|
Benefits of selenium mineral
Now, come let’s look at some surprising benefits of this tremendous mineral which aids in many health welfares:
- Powerful Antioxidant: Antioxidants are required to prevent any cell damage which might cause cancers or other cell-related problems. Antioxidants also control the number of free radicals in the bodies and release only a certain amount which is essential for our body but habits like drinking alcohol, smoking or stress can increase these radicals which leads to oxidative damages as well as healthy cell damages. This oxidative damages further lead to chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s or cancer. Selenium is the mineral that is categorized as a perfect antioxidant that keeps a check on these free radicals and ultimately protects cells from damages. By warding off these cell damages, the chances of cancers can be eliminated. Selenium releases selenoprotein, therefore, this protein is important in antioxidant defense. This mineral also shuts off the activation of NF-kB which is the main cause of inflammation in bodies.
- Thyroid Disorders: Our bodies contain selenium naturally in small amounts. The thyroid gland has the highest amount of selenium than any other organ of the human body. Also, selenium mineral is a protector of the thyroid gland and plays an important role in thyroid hormone production. A research was conducted on a small number of people and this research resulted that low levels of selenium serum are directly linked with autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. Another research found that the supplements of selenium also ward off Hashimoto’s disease. A regular intake of selenium supplements also improves mood or general wellbeing in people suffering from this Hashimoto’s disease.
- Immune System Booster: Many researches have been carried out on the importance of selenium and these researches have proved that this amazing mineral is very helpful for our immunity system. The strong immune system leads to protection against influenza, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C, while it was widely observed that the deficiency of selenium results in a weak immune system and people become vulnerable to several infections or diseases. Levels of selenium higher in our bodies lead to less hospitalization of patients suffering from HIV.
- Asthma Symptoms: Mostly people face breathing problems especially in winters like asthma, which greatly affects the airways of the lungs in carrying air in and out. Due to inflammation, airways become narrow which leads to shortness of breath, wheezing, chest congestion, or coughing. Various studies found that asthma is related to the low level of selenium within the body and this low level causes inflammation and oxidative stress on the lungs leading to asthma-related problems. A small study found that people who are taking 200 mcg of selenium supplement on a daily basis experience a decline in the intake of corticosteroid medication which is used to treat breathing problems. This concludes that levels of selenium should be maintained in the body for the proper functioning of the lungs and its airways.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: A research conducted on around 433,000 people having heart problems showed that if they are taking selenium supplements, it greatly reduces the risk of C-reactive protein (CRP) which is very fatal for any heart or cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress or inflammation causes a buildup of fats or plaques within the arteries and also atherosclerosis. This atherosclerosis can lead to strokes, heart attacks, etc. By adding selenium-rich diets in our daily routines, it helps in reducing inflammation and oxidative reactions which ultimately prevents any sort of heart-related problems.
Though selenium is gaining popularity day by day due to its numerous beneficial properties, excess of everything can be dangerous and the same goes for selenium. Overdose of this mineral can be toxic or even fatal. As Brazil nuts are the ultimate source of selenium, if taken in large amounts could lead to toxicity and also cause the following issues:
- Hair loss
- Facial flushing
- Muscle soreness
- Serious intestinal and neurological symptoms
This potential and essential mineral are of prime importance for our health. Selenium is critically important for proper metabolic functioning as well as protecting the body against oxidative stress like age-related mental decline or heart diseases. Because of all these benefits, diets that are rich in selenium should be part of our daily routine in order to maintain a healthy body.