Vitamin C and vitamin D get all the love when it comes to vitamins. Everyone knows that vitamin C is essential to a healthy immune system, and vitamin D supports strong bones and teeth.
But what about selenium?
Selenium is one of the many micronutrients that your body needs to function properly. This mineral is essential, meaning the body can’t make it on its own, so it must be obtained through your diet.
Selenium is a trace mineral, so it’s only needed in small amounts. Nevertheless, it plays a vital role in many important processes that support your health.
Read on to learn about the health benefits of selenium.
Antioxidant Properties of Selenium
Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals. Oxidation is a natural process that must occur in the body, but the byproducts of oxidation are free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that in excess can damage cells, causing illness and aging. They’re linked to multiple health conditions, including decreased immunity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
The human body has its own antioxidant defenses to reduce the effects of free radicals. However, antioxidants are also found in food, especially in fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based, whole foods.
Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant in your body. It helps reduce oxidative stress by reducing the number of free radicals. This helps to defend your body from chronic diseases such as heart disease and liver problems.
Strengthens the Immune System
Your immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. These threats include bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Selenium’s antioxidant properties go hand in hand with its ability to boost your immunity. By lowering the level of free radicals in your body, selenium helps reduce inflammation and increases immunity.
Research has shown that higher levels of selenium in the blood are linked to greater immune response. Contrarily, selenium deficiency is believed to impair the functioning of immune cells and slow the immune response.
Evidence supports that regular supplementation of selenium may increase health outcomes in people with severe diseases.
May Aid in Cancer Prevention
Studies have shown that selenium may reduce the risk of developing certain cancers. This is because of its strong antioxidant properties. Selenium decreases oxidative stress, scavenges for damaged DNA, strengthens the immune system, and wipes out cancer cells.
A systematic review of data showed that higher blood levels of selenium consumed from the diet were connected with a lower risk for developing various types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancers.
Supports a Healthy Heart
Many of the health benefits of selenium all come back to its antioxidant properties and its ability to reduce oxidative stress.
Research has shown oxidative stress and inflammation to be linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease. As mentioned before, a diet rich in selenium may lower inflammation and oxidative damage in your body, which thereby supports the health of your heart.
Just as low selenium levels have been linked to higher rates of inflammation, lower immunity, and higher risk of cancer, they are also associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Numerous research studies have shown that a diet rich in selenium supports heart health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Supports Thyroid Health
The thyroid is extremely dependent on the essential mineral selenium. The highest level of selenium in the human body is found in the thyroid. Not only does selenium defend the thyroid against free radicals and oxidative damage, it’s also essential for the synthesis of important thyroid hormones.
A healthy thyroid is necessary for good health. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolic rate-controlling heart, muscle, and digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance.
Researchers have found a correlation between selenium deficiency and thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, causing hypothyroidism.
Some studies have shown that selenium supplementation may improve the health status of those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but more research is needed.
Best Sources of Selenium
Now that you know about the importance of selenium as it relates to your health, you may be wondering how you can get more of it in your diet.
While too little selenium can lead to serious health problems, excess selenium can also be toxic. According to the NIH, adults need about 55 mcg of selenium daily.
There are several foods rich in selenium that you can easily add to your diet. Foods that are rich in selenium include:
- brazil nuts
- cottage cheese
Another way you can make sure you get enough selenium in your diet is with a daily vitamin.
Our multivitamin supplements for men and women contain 40 mcg of selenium, which is just enough to support what you may be missing in your diet without the risk of toxicity.
Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a role in many processes in the body. Its antioxidant properties provide many health benefits including increased immune function, decreased risk of heart disease and cancers, and healthy thyroid support.
You can get selenium from many foods, but you can also take a daily multivitamin to supplement what is missed in the diet.