The saying “a little bit goes a long way” can apply to all types of issues: hand lotion, chili powder, hair gel.

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It’s additionally an apt method to describe selenium, a vital mineral that helps whole-body well being. You solely want a small quantity of it — however its well being advantages are huge by comparability.

Registered dietitian Kayla Kopp, RD, LD, explains what selenium is, why you want it and the best way to get sufficient of it in your food plan. 

What is selenium? 

Selenium is a vital mineral, which signifies that your physique wants it to perform nicely however can’t produce it by itself. You should get it via food plan. 

“Selenium plays a role in protecting our cells from damage, promoting thyroid function and reproductive function and playing a role in DNA synthesis,” Kopp says.

Let’s delve deeper into a few of these key advantages. 

Supports thyroid well being 

A small gland known as the thyroid has a giant function to play in maintaining your physique at peak perform. It’s answerable for producing and releasing hormones, together with those that management your metabolism (how briskly your physique transforms meals into power). And selenium helps it do its job.  

“Your thyroid gland holds the highest concentration of selenium in your body,” Kopp explains. “Selenium is converted into selenoproteins, which help regulate your thyroid hormones.” 

Protects reproductive well being  

When unstable molecules referred to as free radicals trigger injury to your cells, the outcome known as oxidative stress. It’s thought to contribute to all kinds of persistent ailments, including infertility. But selenium could possibly assist. 

“Selenium offers protection from oxidation damage and infection,” Kopp notes, “and some research has shown selenium supplementation to be beneficial in people who are trying to conceive.”  

May assist with bronchial asthma 

Selenium may play a task in managing persistent bronchial asthma. But don’t go speeding out to purchase dietary supplements, as this doable profit hasn’t but been proven by research.

“Selenium plays a role in oxidative stress in tissues like the lungs,” Kopp says, “but research on this subject in humans is still inconclusive.”

May shield towards most cancers 

Studies have shown an inverse relationship between selenium ranges and the chance of sure sorts of most cancers. That signifies that folks with low ranges of selenium had increased most cancers dangers, whereas folks with increased ranges of selenium had decrease dangers of:

  • Breast most cancers. 
  • Lung most cancers. 
  • Esophageal most cancers. 
  • Gastric (abdomen) most cancers. 
  • Prostate most cancers. 

“Lower selenium intakes have been associated with increased cancer diagnoses,” Kopp says. “Selenium has been known to decrease cancer risk, as it helps to repair DNA damage that occurs in our bodies.” 

How a lot selenium do you want?   

For adults ages 19 and over, the really useful every day quantity of selenium is 55 micrograms (mcg) per day. If you’re pregnant, try to be getting 60 mcg per day; for those who’re lactating, that quantity will increase to 70 mcg per day.  

Thinking about selenium dietary supplements? Depending on the place you reside, you in all probability don’t want them.

“Even though selenium is essential, we only need small amounts of it,” Kopp states. “In North America, it’s very rare to need selenium supplementation because foods grown here typically provide plenty of it through the soil.”  

Foods which might be excessive in selenium 

Get this: A single Brazil nut accommodates about 68–91 mcg. That signifies that only one or two of them will fulfill your every day selenium consumption!

Organ meats and seafood (particularly yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines and shrimp) are additionally excessive in selenium. Other good sources embrace: 

  • Beans. 
  • Beef. 
  • Chicken. 
  • Cottage cheese. 
  • Eggs. 
  • Fortified cereals. 
  • Lentils.  
  • Turkey. 
  • Whole-wheat bread. 

It’s sometimes not dangerous to get some further selenium in your food plan, so long as you’re not consuming greater than 400 mcg a day (that’s the Tolerable Upper Intake Level, or UL, which we’ll get into momentarily). 

Just take into account that excessive ranges of selenium could be harmful, and it will probably additionally work together with some medicines. And it’s best to at all times converse with a healthcare supplier earlier than beginning a brand new complement (so perhaps simply follow a Brazil nut a day as a substitute). 

The dangers and unwanted effects of an excessive amount of selenium 

Let’s return to previous adages for a second: “A little bit goes a long way” is an effective method to describe selenium, however so is “too much of a good thing.”  

Because you solely want such a small quantity of selenium, going over the really useful every day quantity normally isn’t a giant deal. But you begin to face some severe dangers when you hit the Tolerable Upper Intake Level, or the utmost quantity that you may devour with out being prone to expertise damaging results.

The UL of selenium is 400 mcg a day. Beyond that, doable unwanted effects embrace: 

  • A metallic style in your mouth. 
  • Brittle hair and nails. 
  • Diarrhea. 
  • Discolored tooth. 
  • Fatigue. 
  • Garlicky breath. 
  • Hair loss. 
  • Muscle tenderness. 
  • Nausea. 
  • Rashes. 

Very excessive selenium consumption can result in selenium toxicity, which is related to extreme points, like: 

  • Breathing issues. 
  • Tremors. 
  • Kidney failure. 
  • Heart assault. 
  • Heart failure. 

Risks of selenium deficiency 

Because our our bodies require so little of this hint mineral, it’s sometimes not exhausting to devour sufficient of it in your food plan for those who stay in a spot with selenium-rich soil. But you will have a tough time getting sufficient for those who: 

  • Have HIV. 
  • Are going via kidney dialysis. 
  • Mostly eat regionally grown meals, which may come from soil that’s low in selenium. 

Selenium deficiency could cause: 

If you will have considerations about your selenium ranges, converse with a healthcare supplier to determine secure subsequent steps for you. 

Are you getting sufficient selenium? 

If you reside in North America, you doubtless don’t should assume (or fear) an excessive amount of about your selenium ranges. Selenium deficiency is uncommon, and until you’re consuming organ meats for dinner each single day, you’re in all probability not getting an excessive amount of of it, both.

So skip the dietary supplements and munch a Brazil nut or two as you see match. Your physique will thanks, and your tastebuds will, too!   

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