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You have never heard of selenium, right? But this mineral is vital for your health. This amazing nutrient is a trace mineral, meaning that your body needs it only in small amounts. But why?
Let's learn more about the importance of selenium and what types of foods act as selenium supplements.
One of the seven essential minerals, it is a reactive non-metal that is generally found in soil and naturally in water, some foods and selenium supplement. Our bodies rely on selenium for many of its essential functions that range from reproduction to fighting infections.
As our bodies cannot make it on their own, it is important to add it to our diets.
It acts as a powerful antioxidant
As you are aware of the damage that free radicals can do, selenium acts as a potent antioxidant and keeps the body's oxidative stress in check. In addition, it works to prevent cell damage in your body caused by factors such as ageing, lifestyle choices, and environmental conditions like pollution.
Promotes thyroid health
The thyroid, a small gland, is responsible for producing hormones that regulate our body's metabolic process. When it's not performing correctly — such as an underactive thyroid — people may experience fatigue, weight gain, depression, and muscle aches. Over time, thyroid risks can contribute to chronic diseases.
Selenium is effective in maintaining healthy thyroid function.
Helps prevent mental decline
Selenium can help in improving memory loss in people with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is a devastating condition that negatively affects thinking and behaviour. It leads to memory loss and might even lead to death.
Boosts immune system
Our immune system keeps your body healthy by identifying and fighting off potential threats. These include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Selenium plays an important role in the health of your immune system. This antioxidant helps lower oxidative stress in your body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity.
May help reduce asthma symptoms
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways that carry air in and out of the lungs. These airways become inflamed and begin to narrow, causing symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Asthma has been associated with increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Due to selenium's ability to reduce inflammation, some studies suggest that this mineral may help reduce asthma-related symptoms.
Now that you have understood the importance of adding selenium to your diet, the next question that you might ask is - how to add it to your diet? One way is to go for selenium capsules (given that you are diagnosed with its deficiency) or you can simply add the following foods to your diet:
Brazil nuts - They are one of the best sources of selenium. About 5-6 nuts contain about 544mcg of selenium.
Eggs - One hard-boiled egg provides about 20 mcg of selenium. Don't like hard-boiled? No worries, go for eggs cooked any way you like, and you'll still get a dose of selenium.
Brown Rice - One cup of cooked long-grain brown rice will provide you with 19 mcg of selenium.
Sunflower seeds - A tasty snack that packs all the goodness of selenium. Especially if you are a vegetarian, then this is a great option for you.
Baked beans - Enjoy a cup of baked beans and you'll get about 13 mcg of selenium along with some important fibre.
Spinach - Packed full of folic acid and vitamin C, add this green leaf to your diet for a dose of selenium.
Lentils - They act as a healthy dose of protein and fiber and also act as a selenium supplement.
Cashews- Snack on some dry roasted cashews and you'll get a small amount of selenium at 3 mcg per one-ounce serving.
Bananas - One cup of chopped banana offers 2 mcg of selenium or 3 per cent of your daily recommended intake. Add bananas to a smoothie with yoghurt or your favorite oatmeal for more selenium.
Dangers of excessive selenium
Like any other essential nutrient or mineral (or anything in life), too much of selenium can also turn out to be toxic. So although it is necessary for good health, you must tread with caution, especially if you take selenium vitamin tablets, as they can turn out to be fatal.
It is recommended to include around 55 mcg of selenium per day and never exceed the tolerable upper limit of 400 mcg per day.
Signs of selenium toxicity include:
It is also important to note that the amount of selenium people need to consume everyday changes as they age. Hence, get in touch with your physician to know whether your body needs some extra dose of selenium or not. Do not self-medicate.