Maybe you're curious about this buzz word that's popping up on favourite health bloggers instagram, or perhaps you’ve never even heard of it at all. Either way, you’ll be happy to find out more about this amazing nutrient and why it's so essential for our health. So what is selenium and why do we need it? Here's all you need to know about this super mineral.
Selenium is an essential trace mineral (meaning you have to eat it to get it), that plays an important role in metabolism and thyroid function. You only need a small amount of it, but there is no shortage of selenium benefits. And we think it deserves a little more attention. Selenium is naturally found in soil and water (don’t worry we’re not going to suggest you eat a bowl of dirt) because it's also found in brazil nuts, eggs, mushroom, tuna, and cod! The RDI is 55mg per day, meaning that you can get it in a single brazil nut, which contains 68 to 90 mg of selenium.
According to a 2017 study, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide have a selenium deficiency. Adults that have inflammation, chronic infection or digestive health issues such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and HIV are most likely to be deficient in meeting their selenium needs. Pregnant and lactating women also have an increased need for selenium. Another thing, when adding selenium rich foods to your diet, try to keep the foods as whole as possible, since this valuable mineral can be reduced or destroyed during food processing. While symptoms of selenium deficiency can vary, they can include a weakened immune system, infertility, muscle weakness, hair loss and more.
So What Does It Actually Do For You?
Selenium and antioxidants are the ultimate power duo. Your body needs selenium to get the most benefits out of specific antioxidants that help combat free radicals and fight against inflammation in your body. Selenium is a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes that neutralise free radicals and protect our body from oxidative stress. In simpler language, it helps get rid of all the bad stuff you don't want hanging around. Therefore it helps protect your body from chronic illnesses, like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimers.
May Help Fight Cancer
If you have a weak immune system or if a history of cancer runs in your family, selenium can be especially helpful. As mentioned above, selenium helps antioxidants do their job so it may be effective in reducing the risk of certain cancers, and reducing the severity of certrains cancers particularly in the prostate, bowel and lungs. Studies show that high doses of selenium (200mg per day) can be successful in protecting DNA, therefore reducing the risk of cell mutation and cancer development.
Boosts Your Immunity
And as if it doesn’t do enough for us already, selenium has also been proven to benefit the immune system. Your immune system helps keep your body in tip top shape, but it doesn’t do it all alone. Selenium is essential for optimum immune response in animals and humans. By lowering oxidative stress in your body, selenium enhances immunity helping to identify and battle bacteria, viruses and parasites. Deficiency in this essential mineral has been shown to have harmful effects on immune cell function, leading to a much slower immune response. Yes our immune systems are awesome, but let’s give credit where credit’s due , they wouldn’t work as well without the help of selenium.
Don’t Overdo It
Yes I know I have been yapping about how much we need this miracle worker, but I’d also like to include a word of caution. Although selenium is necessary for good health, It is possible to consume too much selenium, which can have harmful consequences and even be toxic and fatal. Toxicity is more likely to happen due to supplementation, so if you eat a lot of brazil nuts I wouldn't worry too much. The effects of too much selenium intake can include vomiting, nausea, fatigue, hair loss, dermatitis, nail changes and impaired endocrine function. If you’re getting enough selenium through the food that you eat, supplementation isn’t necessary unless your doctor recommends it. I've already got a bunch of vitamins to gulp in the morning, so I'm grateful for it.