Welcome everybody to More Than Healthy as we continue to share our weekly health tips. Today, we’re going to talk about Tip #60, the health benefits of getting the right amount of selenium.
What is selenium?
Most of my clients don’t know much about selenium and its role in their health. Selenium is an essential trace mineral, which means that the body only needs a small amount of it, and just like other minerals we’ve discussed, you need the right amount to get the health benefits. Too much can cause just as many problems as not enough.
Selenium is found naturally in the soil, and it appears naturally in your food and water. While you only need a very small amount, selenium plays a key role in your metabolism. It’s an essential component of various enzymes and proteins, called selenoproteins, that help to make DNA and protect against cell damage and infections. These proteins are also involved in the reproduction and metabolism of thyroid hormones.
Most selenium in the body is stored in muscle tissue. But the thyroid gland holds the highest concentration of selenium due to those selenoproteins that assist with thyroid function.
Selenium as an antioxidant
Selenium also has some antioxidant properties. By now you know that here at More Than Healthy, we talk a lot about how important antioxidants are in protecting cells from damage. Antioxidants are scientifically proven to help us stay ‘young’ as long as possible! They also stave off disease. Selenium works as an antioxidant to help reduce oxidative stress by neutralizing excess free radicals.
Four benefits of getting the right amount of selenium in your body
Let’s talk about four important benefits of the right amount of selenium.
Benefit #1: Selenium keeps the thyroid gland healthy
The first benefit of selenium that’s important to me is that selenium is critical for the proper function of your thyroid gland.
What does the thyroid do?
Let’s talk for a moment about what the thyroid gland does. Many of us know that the thyroid helps regulate metabolism. And that’s important. But it does much more than that.
The thyroid manages specific hormones that travel through the body. These hormones regulate several vital bodily functions, including:
- Regulate breathing
- Heart rate
- Menstrual cycles
- Body temperature
- Blood pressure
So, an imbalance in thyroid hormone levels can negatively affect these body functions. It can also negatively affect your mood. It also controls growth and development.
Thyroid hormones interact with almost every cell in the body. One of their most important jobs is to regulate the speed of many processes. An imbalance in these functions can slow down or speed up a function. For example, if certain hormone levels are high, it results in increased heart rate and metabolism. Low levels of these hormones decrease them.
Thyroid and selenium
Thyroid tissue contains more selenium than any other organ in your body. It helps protect the thyroid against oxidative damage and is essential in producing thyroid hormones.
An observational study including over 6,000 people found that low serum levels of selenium were associated with an increased risk of autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). The most common form of thyroiditis is Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease most common among middle-aged women. Some of my clients with Hashimoto’s disease have benefited from supplementing with the right amount of selenium.
Benefit #2: Selenium may help lower the risk of certain cancers
Studies show that selenium can help prevent certain cancers. This is because selenium has the ability to reduce DNA damage and oxidative stress, boost the immune system, and destroy cancer cells.
A review of 69 studies that included over 350,000 people found that having a high blood level of selenium was associated with a lower risk of cancers like breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers.
Since David is a cancer survivor, we are always looking for ways to decrease his risk of it returning. It’s important to note that these studies showed that the main cancer-preventing benefits came from eating high-selenium foods and not supplementation. We’ll talk about what foods provide selenium later in the post.
Benefit # 3: Selenium may help reduce your risk of heart disease
A diet rich in selenium can help keep your heart healthy. Heart health is a big topic these days, because it is still the leading cause of death around the world. Low selenium levels have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In an analysis of 25 observational studies, a 50% increase in blood selenium levels was associated with a 24% reduction in the risk of heart disease.
Selenium also lowers markers of inflammation in your body. We talk a lot about inflammation at More Than Healthy. That’s because not only is it one of the main risk factors for heart disease, it causes a whole host of other problems. In fact, researchers now believe that inflammation is associated with and may even cause all chronic diseases.
We didn’t test David for selenium deficiency during those challenging years when he had so much inflammation in his body, so we don’t know if he had low levels or not. But, now that we can do a quarterly hair analysis testing, we’re grateful we can catch any deficiencies early and address them before they become a serious problem.
Another reason the right amount of selenium helps protect against heart disease is because it increases levels of glutathione peroxidase, a powerful antioxidant. Both inflammation and oxidative stress are linked to atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in the arteries. That plaque leads to frightening things like strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease.
Benefit #4: Proper levels of selenium may prevent mental decline
I don’t know anyone who isn’t interested in holding on to their mental faculties! Many of you know through personal experience of caring for a loved one that Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition. It causes memory loss and negatively affects thinking and behavior. And, did you know that it’s the fifth-leading cause of death for adults 65 and older in the U.S.? Plus, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease is growing.
Oxidative stress is believed to be involved in both the onset and progression of many neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Several studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s disease have lower blood levels of selenium.
One study found that supplementing with one brazil nut (we’ll talk more about these below) per day improved verbal fluency and other mental functions in patients with mild cognitive impairment. That seems like a pretty easy thing to do on a daily basis to have that kind of improvement!
Another study showed that the Mediterranean diet, which is typically rich in high-selenium foods like seafood and nuts, has been associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Foods with high amounts of selenium
Now that we’ve listed some of our favorite benefits of selenium, let’s talk about the best foods to eat to get more of it in your diet.
Brazil nuts, mentioned in the study above, are the food with the highest concentration of selenium. In fact, they are basically selenium powerhouses! Just 6-8 nuts contain 544 mcg (micrograms) per serving, which is 989% of the recommended daily amount! One nut contains 174% of the daily recommended amount. I actually tell my clients to start with 1 per day to up their selenium. It’s that powerful.
Here are some other good food sources of selenium:
|Food||Selenium (in micrograms)||% of DV|
|3 oz Yellowfin Tuna||92 mcg||167%|
|2.5 oz Oysters||116 mcg||238%|
|6 oz Halibut||94 mcg||171%|
|3 oz Sardines||45 mcg||82%|
|3 oz Ham||42 mcg||76%|
|3 oz Shrimp||40 mcg||73%|
|3 oz Beef Steak||33 mcg||60%|
|3 oz Turkey, boneless||31 mcg||56%|
|3 oz Beef Liver||28 mcg||51%|
|3 oz Chicken||22 mcg||40%|
|1 cup Cottage Cheese, 1% milkfat||20 mcg||36%|
|2 Large Eggs||30 mcg||54%|
|1 oz Sunflower seeds||22 mcg||27%|
|1 cup Long-Grain Brown Rice||19 mcg||19%|
Other foods that provide 25% or less of the daily recommended value of selenium include baked beans, oatmeal, mushrooms, milk, yogurt, lentils, spinach, marinara sauce, cashew nuts, peas, bananas, and potatoes. It’s interesting to note that the amount of selenium in plant-based foods will vary depending on the selenium content in the soil where they’re grown.
David and I love and eat many of these foods regularly, so it isn’t hard to increase our selenium intake through natural foods. You can get a lot of nutrients from your foods if you eliminate processed foods from your diet. Eating whole foods provides so many essential vitamins and nutrients!
Signs of low selenium
A selenium deficiency in the U.S. is rare, but if it appears on your hair analysis, you will want to address it. We always suggest starting with selenium-dense foods, which we talked about above. However, you will want to contact your doctor if you show any serious symptoms. Some of the symptoms of low selenium include: nausea, vomiting, headaches, altered mental state, confusion, and lethargy. More serious signs would be seizures and coma.
Selenium and hair analysis
In my latest hair analysis, I’m slightly deficient in selenium. This information is available on the Minerals Indicators page. I have a dark line around the selenium. This means I’m a little deficient. It’s not colored in, which would mean it is a major area of concern. Because I’m barely deficient in my selenium, I haven’t taken any supplements for it. I’m adding one brazil nut daily to my diet to see if that will increase my selenium enough.
If that doesn’t work by my next hair analysis, I will start to supplement to see if I can bring it up. Since I already eat so many other high-selenium foods, I think daily brazil nut will do the trick.
If you don’t know if you’re deficient in selenium, then a great way to find out is with hair analysis testing, an amazingly informative service now offered at More Than Healthy. With just a few strands of your hair, you receive a full report that looks at toxins, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, electromagnetic frequency exposure, chemicals, radiation, parasites, immune factors, and which foods you should avoid. Go to our website to schedule a local hair analysis or order it online to be mailed to you today.
With this simple, quick, and painless technology, we can see if what we’re doing for our health is working. In 90 days, I will do a follow-up hair analysis. The report will tell me if I’m getting enough selenium. It will also tell me exactly what I need to work on for the next quarter. Hair analysis makes achieving optimal health so much easier!
Let us help YOU become More Than Healthy
Getting the right amount of selenium is essential for our bodies to function properly. Making sure you’re getting enough will help you maintain good health. Do you have any questions about selenium? We always enjoy hearing from you. Please reach out on any of our social media pages (@morethanhealthyliving). We try to respond to all questions.
We’d love to become your health coaches as you work to become “more than healthy” and achieve optimal health. Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you next week.