Vitamins and minerals are very essential for a healthy body. One such mineral that benefits the human body is selenium. Although this mineral is mostly used in electronics and glass making, a small amount of it is required by the human body as well. Selenium deficiency can lead to many possible health hazards.
Studies have revealed that selenium consists of antioxidant properties that improve the health of the cells in the human body.
It prevents cell damage, provides defense against various infections, and contributes to the proper functioning of the thyroid gland by regulating the thyroid hormone—thyroxine (T4).
The common source of selenium is the soil; therefore, the amount of selenium received through plant-based produce depends on the amount of selenium present in the soil.
If the soil is found to be without selenium or in traces, farmers can add selenium fertilizers to the soil to meet the required quantity. Food sources of selenium are red meat, fish, seafood, and Brazil nuts.
How Much Selenium is Essential to Avoid Selenium Deficiency?
It is important to include selenium in an appropriate amount in the diet. Less of it will affect the metabolic rate, cause tiredness, gastrointestinal disorders, or malabsorption syndromes (including food allergies) that hamper the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, diarrhea, bad breath, and induce mood swings. Studies have related a disease called Keshan with selenium deficiency. This disease can cause heart failure or low immune system, and at times can be fatal.
On the other hand, an excess of it will also do no good. One might experience selenium toxicity, hair loss, and other health hazards with excess intake of selenium supplements.
The amount of selenium required by the human body or the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) differs with age group. According to the National Institutes of Health (ods.od.nih.gov), starting from birth up to 51 years of age and beyond, RDA for selenium ranges between 15 mcg and 55 mcg, in males and females. RDA for pregnant women is 60 mcg, and for breastfeeding mothers, it is 70 mcg.
According to USDA, the daily selenium dosage is:
|Children 1-3 years||20 micrograms/day|
|Children 4-8 years||30 micrograms/day|
|Children 9-13 years||40 micrograms/day|
|Adults and children 14 years and above||55 micrograms/day|
|Pregnant women||60 micrograms/day|
|Breastfeeding women||70 micrograms/day|
It is essential to follow the recommended quantity of selenium in relation to your age for better benefits.
Health Hazards Due to Selenium Deficiency
Symptoms of selenium deficiency include physical and mental fatigue, hypothyroidism, and reproductive disorders. Selenium deficiency is recorded more in people with restricted diets like vegetarians and vegans, whose diets depend on the selenium concentration of the soil of their regions. Also people with HIV or those on dialysis are likely to suffer from selenium deficiency.
Top 5 Selenium Foods from Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Sources
Here are a few selenium-rich vegetarian and non-vegetarian food sources:
1. Brazil nuts:
These exotic nuts are considered as one of the best sources of selenium. In fact, 1/2 oz. contains about 272 mcg, or 388% of daily requirement. Studies show that one Brazil nut per day can provide 75 mcg of selenium.
Eggs are also rich in selenium. It is estimated that one large egg contains 15 mcg (21 % DV) of selenium.
3. Sunflower, sesame and flax seeds:
Plant seeds are quite rich nutritionally. They contain omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, protein, and fiber, and as if that wasn’t enough, seeds like sunflower, sesame and flax are abundant in selenium as well.
Studies reveal that 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds contains 19 mcg of selenium, for 34% of daily requirement and 204 calories, 1/4 cup of sesame seeds contains 12 mcg of selenium, for 23% of daily requirement and 206 calories, and 2 tsp. of flaxseed contains 4 mcg of selenium, for 7% daily requirement and 75 calories.
The liver of lamb or beef is another good source of selenium. 3 oz of beef liver contains 28 mcg of selenium for 40% of daily value.
Fish also provide a good amount of selenium. 3 oz of tuna contains 92 mcg of selenium for 131% of daily value.
Health Benefits of Selenium-Rich Foods
The human body needs selenium in minute quantity, but that’s not to say that we can ignore it. Including selenium in your food has many health benefits.
In fact, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH), selenium has anti-cancer properties. It can help balance thyroxine levels and control the overall thyroid function.
It may also control cognitive decline and cardiovascular diseases. However, this cannot be concluded as it is still under research and lacks sufficient evidence.
There are a number of health benefits of consuming selenium-rich foods we have listed:
Selenium has antioxidant properties present in it. These antioxidants have the potential to protect the cell from damage, and further contribute to their good health.
Thus, it slows down the process of aging and protects from a number of degenerative disorders. Selenium also shows probability to limit the growth of cancer cells.
Immune system boost:
Selenium, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, and glutathione, protects the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
In addition to this, it also acts as immune system booster by increasing the effectiveness of the white blood cells. Doctors recommend selenium supplements to patients with HIV/AIDS as it can impede the progression of the virus by improving immunity.
Treat infertility in men:
Another very important condition that can be treated with selenium is male infertility. Studies have found that selenium has the ability to boost fertility in men as it enhances the sperm production and its motility.
Action against inflammation:
The mineral selenium is anti-inflammatory, and thus helps in defending the body from numerous diseases arising from inflammation. It also treats joint inflammation like arthritis.
Improve heart health:
It may improve the overall health of the cardiovascular system by increasing the good cholesterol level and decreasing the bad cholesterol level.
Blood pressure regulation:
Selenium also helps to activate prostaglandins, which helps in blood pressure regulation.
Thyroid hormone regulation:
Studies suggest it helps in proper functioning of the thyroid gland by regulating the thyroid hormone T4.
Other health benefits:
Selenium can also help in treating a number of conditions like asthma, dandruff problems, and skin inflammations like acne, eczema, and rosacea, etc. and also protects the body from the harmful effects of heavy metals like copper, mercury, and arsenic, by binding to them.
So, we can conclude that selenium is an important mineral required by the human body. From cell protection and regeneration to boosting the immune system, selenium is an excellent nutrient contributing to better health.
Include the adequate amount of selenium in your daily diet for overall health benefits. Take selenium supplements according to your body requirement, but do not exceed the prescribed dose as it will lead to toxic side effects.
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