What are the health benefits of selenium?

First of all, you might be asking what on earth is this thing and what are the health benefits of selenium.

Well, selenium is a naturally occurring trace element that is used all throughout the body, concentrated in areas like the liver, thyroid, kidneys and muscles. Your body only needs small, daily amounts of be satisfied, so there is no need to load up on this supplement. Just make you don’t neglect consuming this vital element.

How to know if you have a selenium deficiency?

Figuring out if you have a selenium deficiency is not always easy. Symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue, hypothyroidism and reproductive disorders can be indicative of insufficient selenium. Looking out for these warning signs will help you to prevent more problems.

However, if you experience these symptoms, do not immediately assume that you are selenium deficient, as they can suggest other nutrient deficiencies as well. Taking a look at your diet will help you to determine if you are getting sufficient selenium. Eating plenty of plants and selenium rich-foods needs to be a crucial aspect of your dietary intake.

Eat these to get enough selenium

To make sure that your diet is plentiful with selenium sources that help you get all the health benefits of selenium, reach for foods like fish, seeds and beef. The king of all selenium sources is commonly reported to be brazil nuts, as one ounce (28g) of brazil nuts contains approximately 767% of the recommended daily dose. One ounce is 6-8 nuts depending on the size, so if you eat 3 you’ll definitely get enough.

You can also find 131% of the recommended daily dose per three ounces (100g) in fish, 32% of the recommended daily dose in one ounce of seeds and 54% of the recommended daily dose in three ounces of steak. Lower amounts of selenium (17% of the recommended daily dose) can be found in plant foods like spinach and asparagus.

grilled salmon gives you selenium

Selenium should not be neglected

Let’s be honest here, a lot of people haven’t really even heard about selenium. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore it.

The health benefits of selenium are numerous and impact your overall well-being as selenium:

  • Acts as a an anti-inflammatory (many diseases are results of inflammation in the body)
  • Boosts your immune system by increasing the effectiveness of white blood cells, which are responsible for warding off infection and viruses
  • Helps alleviate dandruff problems
  • Regulates the thyroid by enabling the less active form of thyroid hormone to be converted into the active form that is used by your body
  • Aids in sperm motility, thus enhancing male fertility
  • Protects your heart by decreasing the risk of blood clotting, reducing your bad cholesterol levels and increasing your good cholesterol level
  • Fights against free radical damage and cancer, as studies have shown that the amount of deaths due to cancer are less in those that have adequate levels of selenium.

If you believe you could be selenium deficient, it’s important not to ignore it. Untreated selenium deficiency can result in diseases like Keshan’s disease (a cardiomyopathy) and male infertility. With long term deficiency, you make yourself more prone to developing Hashimoto’s disease, a condition in which your body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid.

Conclusion and action steps

To prevent problems caused by lack of selenium, simply supplement your diet by

  • Taking a multivitamin that is complete with selenium
  • Drink plenty of water, as it contains small amounts of selenium
  • Eat enough of the aforementioned selenium-rich foods

You don’t need to do all of the above, just pick one or two and make sure you get enough of it. Once you’ll get enough of it, you’ll probably feel the health benefits of selenium in few weeks yourself. That is of course assuming that your daily dose is not high enough. The signs you might have selenium deficiency are:

  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Pain in the joints
  • Unhealthy Hair
  • White spots on fingernails

It’s important to keep in mind that we have different needs. Some need more selenium than others. Those most at risk for having a selenium deficiency are people undergoing kidney dialysis, people living with HIV, people with gastrointestinal disorders, as this can mean mal-absorbtion of selenium as well as patients on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) as their only source of food.

Get a blood test with you doctor if unsure about your current selenium levels. If the test results show that your selenium levels are low, make the changes recommended by your doctor and up the intake of the above mentioned foods.

References:
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/
http://www.vitguide.com/selenium-benefits/
http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/vitamins-minerals/4-signs-of-selenium-deficiency.html#b
http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-selenium.php
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10963212

Jesica Salyer
 

Jesica Salyer graduated from Midwestern State University with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. She has experience in assistant volleyball coaching, four years working in fitness training and coordination and experience playing collegiate volleyball for Rutgers University. She also created RunOnOrganic.com and co-founded FurtherFasterForever.com

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