When it comes to essential nutrients that your body needs for optimal health, selenium is a true workhorse and multitasker. It plays a role in a variety of functions throughout your body, supporting good health and well-being in many different ways.
Selenium is a trace mineral, which means your body only contains a tiny amount of it. You probably have a grand total of less than 1mg of selenium in your body, most of which is contained in your liver, kidneys, pancreas, and thyroid gland.
In men, selenium is also found in the testes and the seminal vesicles, the glands that produce most of the components that make up semen. This makes selenium an especially important nutrient in men's health, as it supports fertility by improving sperm production and sperm motility.
Antioxidant properties support anti-aging and cardiovascular health.
Selenium is considered an anti-aging nutrient, due to its antioxidant properties. It promotes the health and longevity of cells by reducing age-related cell damage caused by free radicals. Working within a larger nutritional antioxidant system, selenium helps to prevent or slow down the process of tissue membranes degenerating and hardening, enabling your tissues to retain more of their youthful elasticity over time.
The antioxidant effect of selenium also supports cardiovascular health. When fats, cholesterol and other substances build up in your artery walls, plaques are formed that can clog your arteries. This clogging and narrowing of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and as it worsens, blood flow through the affected arteries may be impeded or fully blocked. The antioxidant effect of selenium helps decrease this clogging and narrowing of the arteries, while soothing and protecting the lining of the artery walls from irritation and inflammation.
Good selenium levels = reduced cancer rates.
Selenium is known to have an anticarcinogenic effect, although the mechanism behind this isn't entirely clear. What is known, however, is that selenium levels correlate more closely with cancer risk than any other substance.
Selenium is found in soil; but levels can vary greatly from country to country, and even across regions within a country. Areas with low levels of selenium in the soil tend to have higher rates of cancer in the population; whereas soil-rich areas have repeatedly been found to have below-average cancer rates.
Maintaining healthy thyroid function.
Selenium concentration in the thyroid gland is higher than it is anywhere else in the body. Adequate levels of selenium are needed to support healthy thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormone. This is especially important for women, who tend to suffer from thyroid issues more frequently than men do.
A deficiency in selenium can contribute to low thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormone is directly tied to metabolism and how quickly you burn calories, so problems in this area can lead to persistent weight gain, even when you're watching what you eat and exercising regularly.
Promoting healthy immune function.
The immunostimulating function of selenium makes it useful in the treatment of many immuno-suppression diseases. Restoring and/or maintaining adequate selenium levels increases the body's resistance, giving the body an edge in dealing with autoimmune diseases, recurrent illnesses/infections, and inflammatory issues.
Selenium seems to speed up the body's recovery from many basic disease processes, likely due to its immunostimuating and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to get enough selenium in your diet.
Selenium is found in many foods, but typically in low to moderate amounts. Some of the best food sources are: Brazil nuts, tuna, halibut, sardines, shrimp, shellfish, ham, beef, turkey, chicken, whole grain products (barley, oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice) and eggs. Onions, garlic, and leafy green vegetables may contain decent amounts of selenium, but only if grown in selenium-rich soil.
Recommended selenium intake for adults is 55 mcg daily. Most people will achieve this if they consume a healthy diet that includes a variety of wholesome foods, including the aforementioned foods. Supplementing is also an option for those who are unable to consume adequate amounts of selenium through diet alone.
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