Best Sources of Zinc and Selenium, and Why You Need Them

Zinc and selenium are both micronutrients that are essential to our health. Zinc and selenium have various roles in the body, but they’re particularly important in supporting the immune system. 

This article will explain the roles of zinc and selenium, why you need these micronutrients in your diet, and some of the best ways to ensure you are meeting your body’s needs.


Why You Need Zinc 

Zinc is an essential nutrient that we must get from food or supplements. 

Zinc is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. In fact, it’s found in every single cell.  Zinc is required for many processes such as enzyme reactions, creating proteins, healing wounds, and forming DNA, for example. 

Many of these processes are essential in aiding metabolism, digestion, nerve function, and supporting the immune system (1).

Here are some specific areas where zinc is crucial to our health:

  • Supports the immune system: Zinc helps immune cells develop and function properly. Specifically, zinc boosts infection-fighting cells which protect the body from bacteria and viruses (2).

  • Supports healthy skin:  Zinc is needed to synthesize DNA and produce proteins that are needed for the formation of new, healthy skin cells.

  • Allows for taste and smell: Zinc helps form the enzymes that allow us the pleasure of these two key senses. In fact, a deficiency may impair our ability to taste and smell.

  • Reduces inflammation: With adequate zinc in the body, Inflammation is reduced. With less inflammation, we have less overall disease risk (2).

Why You Need Selenium

Like zinc, selenium is also considered an essential nutrient, meaning we must get it from our diet, or supplements. 

Even though we only need it in very small amounts, it doesn’t make it any less important. Selenium plays a key role in various body processes, especially as it relates to the functioning of our metabolism and thyroid gland.  

Selenium is actually considered to be an antioxidant as it helps fight off oxidative stress and protects the body from inflammation and diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

Here are some specific areas where selenium is crucial to our health: 

  • Reduces inflammation: Selenium plays an important role in reducing the body’s inflammatory response, which in turn protects the immune system.

    • Supports heart health: Thanks to selenium’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, some research suggests it may protect against heart disease (3). 

    • Sharpens memory and mental acuity: Those that consume a diet rich in selenium may gain sharper memory and be better protected against age-associated mental decline (4).

    • Protects the thyroid gland: Perhaps one of the most widely touted benefits, selenium is necessary for the production of thyroid hormone, which controls the metabolism.

    • Boosts immune health: Selenium is vital to the immune system. Higher levels of selenium have been associated with better outcomes for various infections (5).

    Why You Might be Zinc Deficient 

    A zinc deficiency is quite rare for most individuals, however, it can still occur in some people. 

    People may be more susceptible to a zinc deficiency if they have a gastrointestinal disease like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, are pregnant, have an eating disorder, or anyone with an already suppressed immune system.

    With inadequate zinc intake, the body is unable to produce new cells. This can lead to symptoms such as hair loss, a reduced sense of taste and smell, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, or a weakened immune system. 

    Some people with a more severe zinc deficiency can have impaired growth and development, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea, and poor wound healing. 

    How much zinc and selenium do I need each day?

    To determine the appropriate intake for any vitamin or mineral, it’s best to refer to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA. The RDA is the average daily level of intake needed to meet the nutritional needs of most people. 

    The amount of each nutrient you need will depend on your age and gender. 

    According to the RDA for zinc, adult males require 11 mg of zinc daily, while females require 8 mg of zinc daily (6).

    It’s important to note as well that it’s required to consume adequate zinc on a daily basis because the body is unable to store this mineral (6).

    According to the RDA for selenium, adult males and females require 55 mcg daily (7).

    There are many types of foods that contain selenium and most individuals are consuming adequate amounts of selenium on a daily basis. 

    The following sections will explain some of the best ways to get zinc and selenium in your diet. 

    Foods Rich in Zinc

    By eating a balanced and varied diet, it’s relatively easy to consume adequate zinc.

    Here is a list of foods that are rich in zinc (8).

    • Shellfish: oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, and clams
    • Meat: beef, lamb, and pork
    • Poultry: chicken, turkey, and duck
    • Fish: flounder, halibut, and salmon
    • Dairy: milk, yogurt, and cheese
    • Beans and legumes: chickpeas, lentils, and black beans
    • Nuts and seeds: peanuts, cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds

    How do you know if you’re getting enough zinc in your diet? Let’s take a look at an example meal plan that provides adequate zinc. 

    • Breakfast: 8 ounces of yogurt (1.7 mg of zinc) with 2 ounces of pumpkin seeds (4.4 mg of zinc)
    • Lunch: Mixed green salad with ½ cup chickpeas (1.3 mg of zinc) and 3 ounces of chicken (2.4 mg of zinc)
    • Dinner: 3-ounce burger (5.3 mg of zinc)

    The above sample meal plan provides a total of 15.1mg of zinc, which exceeds the needs of both men and women. 

    While there are a variety of foods that contain zinc, zinc is best absorbed and is found highest in animal products. Certain plant-based foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, and certain vegetables still contain some zinc, but it’s not absorbed as efficiently.

    Individuals who follow vegetarian or vegan diets may benefit by taking an additional supplement to cover any gaps in their diet. For example, Naked Multi provides 15 mg of zinc per serving, which exceeds the needs of most adults.

    Foods Rich in Selenium 

    Similar to zinc, selenium is found in a wide variety of foods.

    In general, some of the best sources of selenium are protein foods – especially seafood, organ meats, and brazil nuts. However, most individuals meet most of their selenium needs from daily staple foods such as bread, cereals, meats, and eggs.

    Here is a list of foods rich in selenium (9):

    • Seafood: oysters, tuna, halibut, and sardines
    • Nuts and seeds: brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and cashews
    • Meats and poultry: chicken, turkey, beef, and ham
    • Beans and legumes: black beans, lentils, and baked beans
    • Grains: whole wheat bread, rice, and oats
    • Vegetables: mushrooms, spinach, and peas

    The selenium content of different foods can vary quite a lot depending on the geographic location of which it was grown. Plant foods obtain their selenium from the soil, and because different regions have different nutrients in their soil, selenium in plant foods therefore varies. 

    Despite these disparities, most individuals are not falling short of their selenium needs due to the fact that it’s found in a variety of plant and animal foods.

    However, taking a supplement can help cover any nutritional gaps to ensure you are consuming adequate selenium to support your health. Naked Multi not only provides the body with adequate zinc, but it also contains 40 mg of selenium. 

    Along with the selenium that is already coming in from dietary sources, this supplement will help cover the gaps to ensure your needs are met. 

    What’s more, Naked Multi is 100% vegetarian and gluten-free, so it’s suited for a variety of dietary needs and preferences.

    Final Thoughts on Zinc and Selenium

    Zinc and selenium are both necessary micronutrients to human health. We must consume adequate amounts through food and supplements. 

    Zinc has many roles in the body including forming DNA, supporting the immune system, healing wounds, as well as aiding in proper metabolic and nerve function.

    Selenium is a key nutrient that is particularly important in metabolic health and supporting the thyroid gland. 

    Although both zinc and selenium are found in a variety of foods, a busy lifestyle can make it challenging to ensure you are always meeting your needs. 

    For this reason, adding in a multivitamin such as Naked Multi can be a great way to cover any nutrient gaps and keep you in optimal health.