Nutrient to Know: Selenium

I once learned to remember the important antioxidant vitamins and minerals with the acronym “A.C.E.S.” -- vitamins A, C, E, and the “S” is for the mineral, Selenium. Find out what makes this nutrient worth remembering.

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I once learned to remember the antioxidant vitamins and minerals with the acronym “A.C.E.S.” – vitamins A, C, E , and the “S” is for the mineral, selenium. Find out what makes this nutrient worth remembering and how much might be too much.

What Is It?

Selenium is classified as a “trace” mineral along with nutrients like iron, copper and zinc. "Trace" doesn't mean that these minerals are less important, just that the body requires them in smaller amounts -- generally less than 100 milligrams per day.

Why Is It Good For You?

The major benefit of selenium is to prevent damage to cell structures like red blood cells. The mineral is also involved in our hormone metabolism and immune function and may protect against some forms of cancer. While important, too much can actually be toxic. Symptom of overdoing it include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and hair loss. But unless you're downing supplements or selenium-rich foods left and right, you should be safe. Keep reading for more on how much you need.

Where Can I Find It?

Selenium comes from both plant and animal sources like whole grains, nuts, meat, fish and poultry. A food's selenium content can vary depending on the soil in which the plants were grown or where the animals were raised. Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium; in fact, they have so much selenium that the National Institute of Health recommends eating them only occasionally to avoid toxic effects.

The daily recommended amount of selenium is 70 micrograms. Since micrograms may not mean anything to you, here are some common selenium-rich foods:

  • 1 ounce of Brazil Nuts = 544 micrograms (780%)
  • 3.5 ounces steamed clams = 64 micrograms (91%)
  • 3.5 ounces cooked crab = 40 micrograms (57%)
  • 3 ounces cooked cod = 32 micrograms (45%)
  • 3.5 ounces cooked turkey breast = 32 micrograms (45%)
  • 3.5 ounces cooked chicken breast = 20 micrograms (30%)
  • 1 medium egg = 14 micrograms (20%)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal = 12 micrograms (15%)
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice = 10 micrograms (14%)
  • 1 ounce of walnuts = 5 micrograms (8%)
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