What is selenium?
Your body relies on selenium, an important mineral, for many of its basic functions, from reproduction to fighting infection. The amount of selenium in different foods depends on the amount of selenium in the soil where the food was grown. Rain, evaporation, pesticides, and pH levels can all affect selenium levels in soil. That makes selenium deficiency more common in certain parts of the world, though it’s relatively rare in the United States.
Regardless of where you live, certain factors can make it harder for your body to absorb selenium. For example, you may have difficulty absorbing selenium if you:
In addition, those with Graves’ disease or hypothyroidism need to pay special attention to their selenium intake as it serves a protective role for the thyroid.
How much selenium do I need?
While too little selenium can cause serious health problems, too much selenium can also be toxic. Follow these guidelines from the National Institutes of Health to determine how much selenium is right for you:
|Age||Recommended daily amount of selenium|
|Over 14 years||55 mcg|
|9 to 13 years||40 mcg|
|4 to 8 years||30 mcg|
|7 months to 3 years||20 mcg|
|Birth to 6 months||15 mcg|
Women who are pregnant or lactating need up to 60 mcg of selenium per day.
Keep reading to learn which foods provide the most selenium.
1. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. One ounce, or about six to eight nuts, contains about 544 mcg. Make sure you only eat a serving of Brazil nuts a few times a week to avoid selenium toxicity.
Yellowfin tuna contains about 92 mcg of selenium per 3 ounces (oz), making it an excellent source of selenium. This is followed by sardines, oysters, clams, halibut, shrimp, salmon, and crab, which contain amounts between 40 and 65 mcg.
Many health-conscious eaters avoid ham due to its high salt content. However, it provides about 42 mcg of selenium per 3 oz serving, or 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults.
4. Enriched foods
Some products, including pastas, whole wheat breads, and whole grain cereals, are enriched or fortified with selenium and other minerals. The amount of selenium in these products will vary, but you can typically get up to 40 mcg per 1 cup serving of noodles or cereal, and about 16 mcg from 2 slices of whole grain toast. Just make sure you balance enriched foods with plenty of whole, plant-based foods for optimal nutrition.
Three ounces of lean pork contain about 33 mcg of selenium.
The selenium content of beef depends on the cut, but a bottom round beef steak will provide you with about 33 mcg. Beef liver provides about 28 mcg, and ground beef offers about 18 mcg.
You can get 31 mcg of selenium from 3 oz of boneless turkey. Eat a turkey sandwich on fortified whole wheat bread for extra selenium.
Chicken will give you about 22 to 25 mcg of selenium per 3 oz of white meat. This translates to a serving that’s similar in size to a deck of cards, making it an easy way to add some selenium to your diet.
9. Cottage cheese
One cup of cottage cheese provides about 20 mcg, or 30 percent of your daily recommended intake of selenium.
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.
11. Brown rice
One cup of cooked long-grain brown rice will provide you with 19 mcg of selenium, or 27 percent of the recommended daily amount. Enjoy this grain with your favorite 3 oz portion of chicken or turkey to get up to 50 mcg of selenium — almost the entire recommended daily amount for adults. You can also substitute rice for barley which provides 23mcg per 1/3 cup serving.
12. Sunflower seeds
A quarter cup of sunflower seeds provides almost 19 mcg of selenium, making them a great snack, especially if you don’t eat animal products, which tend to have higher levels of selenium.
13. Baked beans
Enjoy a cup of baked beans and you’ll get about 13 mcg of selenium along with some important fiber.
Mushrooms are fungi that contain many nutrients, including vitamin D, iron, and about 12 mcg of selenium in a 100-gram serving. Try these 16 vegetarian-friendly recipes with mushrooms.
One cup of regular oatmeal, cooked, will give you 13 mcg of selenium. Enjoy it for breakfast with two eggs to get 53 mcg.
Spinach, cooked from frozen, will provide you with about 11 mcg of selenium per cup. It’s also packed full of folic acid and vitamin C.
17. Milk and yogurt
Milk and yogurt each contain about 8 mcg of selenium per cup, or 11 percent of your needs per day. Add some milk to your enriched cereal to up your intake.
One cup of cooked lentils provides about 6 mcg of selenium, plus a healthy dose of protein and fiber. Add them to a soup with mushrooms for a vegan-friendly meal full of selenium.
Dry roasted cashews offer 3 mcg per ounce. That may not seem like much, but every bit helps, especially if you follow a vegan diet. Snack on some dry roasted cashews and you’ll get a small amount of selenium, at 3 mcg per one ounce serving.
One cup of chopped banana offers 2 mcg of selenium, or 3 percent of your daily recommended intake. Again, this might not seem like much, but most fruits offer only minimal traces of selenium or none at all. Add bananas to a smoothie with yogurt or your favorite oatmeal for more selenium.