Though you may have never heard of selenium, this amazing nutrient is vital to your health. Your body relies on selenium for many of its basic functions, including fighting infections. It aids in the proper functioning of your thyroid gland and plays an essential role in the production of thyroid hormone. It’s also been known to protect against certain cancers.

Selenium is an essential mineral, meaning it must be obtained through your diet. It is found in the soil but don’t let that scare you—we are not asking you to eat dirt! Soils contain inorganic selenites and selenates that plants accumulate and naturally convert to organic forms so it is naturally present in many foods.

While people only need a very small amount, Selenium is a potent antioxidant that protects cells from damage and helps lower oxidative stress in your body. Selenium may help boost your immune system, slow age-related mental decline, reduce inflammation, and even reduce your risk of heart disease.

Fortunately, many healthy foods are high in selenium. One Brazil nut can provide a daily dose of selenium. The current daily value (DV) for selenium is 55 mcg. Consuming high doses of selenium can be toxic so try and stay below 400 mcg per day. (source) For example, Brazil nuts contain a very high amount of selenium so it’s important not to eat a whole handful every day.

Food Sources: Oyster, Brazil nuts, tuna, shellfish, eggs, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and shiitake mushrooms. It is also found in lean pork chops, grass-fed beef skirt steak, and chicken breasts. Here are some numbers to give you an idea:

Oysters: 238% of the DV in 3 ounces (85 grams)
Brazil nuts: 174% of the DV in one nut (5 grams)
Halibut: 171% of the DV in 6 ounces (159 grams)
Tuna: 167% of the DV in 3 ounces (85 grams)
Eggs: 56% of the DV in 2 large eggs (100 grams)
Sardines: 46% of the DV in 4 sardines (48 grams)
Sunflower seeds: 27% of the DV in 1 ounce (28 grams)
Chicken breast: 12% of the DV in 4 slices (84 grams)
Shiitake mushrooms: 10% of the DV in 1 cup (97 grams)

It’s important to consume a variety of foods that contain this mineral, as selenium content can vary depending on the soil where the food was grown or animals raised. Source

A deficiency of selenium has been shown to harm immune cell function which may lead to a slower immune response and increase the pathogenicity of a virus. (Source)

Supplementation: Selenium is available in supplement form, and is often included in multivitamin formulations. (Recommended Supplement) Although this is an option, it is recommended that you get this key nutrient from having foods containing selenium.

Selenium-Strong Salad, Sandwich or Wrap

1/2 cup plain yogurt (or healthy mayo)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
2 5-oz. can tuna
3 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped 
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/4 cup red peppers, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp pickles, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp onion, minced
1 tsp sunflower seeds
Sea salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)

Mix all ingredients together and blend well. Serve over lettuce, or make a whole wheat sandwich or enjoy it in lettuce or whole grain wrap.