Let’s play a word association game. Ready? What do you think of when you hear selenium? There’s a 50/50 chance it’s either a nutrient or one of Zenon’s catchphrases. (Psst, it’s a nutrient!)

Here’s why you need selenium + the top 21 ways to get it into your diet.

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Selenium is a trace mineral. Your body needs it for lots of important functions like:

  • baby making
  • DNA synthesis
  • proper thyroid function
  • protection from free radical-related cellular damage

Animal foods tend to be the best sources of selenium — particularly meat and seafood. But lots of grain-based foods like bread, pasta, and cereal are enriched with selenium, making it easier for you to get what you need.

Selenium deficiency is fairly rare in the United States these days. You might be at a higher risk for deficiency if you:

What if I’m not getting enough?

Studies showed that selenium deficiency is sometimes associated with male infertility and may worsen iodine deficiency. So, you should def keep your levels in check with a balanced, healthy diet.

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This is how much selenium the National Institutes of Health recommends you get on the daily:

AgeRDI of selenium
Birth to 6 months15 mcg
7 months to 3 years20 mcg
4 to 8 years30 mcg
9 to 13 years40 mcg
Over 14 years55 mcg

FYI: Pregnant peeps should get around 60 micrograms a day. Breastfeeding folks need the most with a suggested 70 micrograms a day.

1. Brazil nuts

Selenium per 1 nut (5 grams): 96 micrograms

A single one of these tiny, buttery-tasting nuts contains nearly 2 days worth of selenium. That makes them a solid selenium supplement. Just pop one of these bad boys a day and you’re good to go.

Poison PSA: Experts warn against eating a full serving of Brazil nuts on the reg. It can lead to selenium toxicity because they’re so potent.

2. Plain yogurt

Selenium per 1 cup (245 grams): 9 micrograms

Yogurt is a decent source of selenium. One cup of yogurt can provide around 10 percent of your daily needs. Plus it’s vegetarian-friendly!

3. Tuna

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams): 60 micrograms

Seafood is one of the richest sources of selenium. Tuna is a great choice because it’s versatile AF and packed with protein, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. You can use the canned stuff or get fancy with a fillet.

4. Oats

Selenium per 1/3 cup (27 grams), dry: 8 micrograms

Oats are a wholesome, vegan-friendly source of selenium. Unlike flour-based grains, oats don’t require additional enrichment. Regular and quick oats have equal amounts.

Bonus: There are countless yummy oat-based recipes to try.

5. Shrimp

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 31 micrograms

Shrimp are naturally loaded with selenium. But that’s just one of this ‘lil crustacean’s perks 🍤. They’re also low in calories and rich in nutrients like phosphorus, iron, niacin, and zinc. Try shrimp in pasta, salads, or grilled on skewers.

6. Baked beans

Selenium per 1 cup (253 grams): 12 micrograms

OK, so you either love or hate baked beans. But they’re actually a decent source of selenium, especially for a plant-based food. Even the canned kind can do the trick. Just don’t overdo it because a lot of baked beans are loaded with sugar.

7. Pasta

Selenium per 1 cup (117 grams), cooked: 40 micrograms

Macaroni and other pastas tend to be enriched. That just means selenium and other nutrients lost during preparation get added back into the flour.

Opt for whole-wheat pasta to make your meal healthier and to get more fiber.

8. Eggs

Selenium per 1 egg (50 grams): 16 micrograms

This kitchen superstar is an excellent source of selenium, protein, healthy fats, and choline. Pair your eggs with oatmeal to make your meal a bit more substantial and filling. 🥚

9. Turkey

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 26 micrograms

Turkey is a super-lean protein. Ground turkey is a less-fatty alternative to beef and can feel just as hearty. A single serving contains nearly half your selenium needs for the day.

10. Spinach

Selenium per 1 cup (190 grams), cooked from frozen: 10 micrograms

At this point, can we just assume spinach is the true food MVP? Really tho, this dark leafy green deserves a spot in the micronutrient hall of fame. Use it in a fresh salad or cook it up with garlic for a delicious side dish.

11. Beef liver

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 30 micrograms

Among its many purposes, the liver also serves as a storage area for nutrients. So, it’s no surprise that beef liver is a great source of selenium.

Can’t stomach the idea of eating a chunk of liver? Mix ground liver into your homemade meatballs. You won’t even know it’s there!

12. Lentils

Selenium per 1 cup (180 grams), cooked: 5 micrograms

Lentils are another vegan-friendly source of selenium. They’re waaay versatile. You can use them to make soups, stews, salads, and curries. You can even make homemade veggie burgers with them. 🍔

13. Halibut

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 49 micrograms

Halibut is a type of flatfish (aka flounder). It’s got flaky, white flesh that’s really mild-tasting. So, it’s a great alternative to stronger-tasting fish like salmon.

14. Brown rice

Selenium per 1 cup (195 grams), cooked: 11 micrograms

Brown rice is a whole grain and has more fiber and protein than white rice. It can also help you stay fuller longer. Pair it with lentils for a simple, selenium-rich meal.

Pro tip: Swap out noodles for brown rice in your fav soup.

15. Cottage cheese

Selenium per 1 cup (226 grams): 27 milligrams

Cottage cheese is another one of those ‘‘love it or hate it foods’’. But if you’re a fan, you’re in luck! A single serving contains about half your daily selenium needs. It’s also a great source of protein. It’s extra tasty when paired with fruit 🍍.

Fun fact: You can use cottage cheese to add thickness and creaminess to sauces without adding lots of extra fat.

16. Chicken

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 21 milligrams

Chicken is the quintessential lean meat and — like other meats — it’s packed with selenium. Just a single serving can provide nearly half your selenium needs for the day.

17. Whole-wheat bread

Selenium per 2 medium slices (72 grams): 20 micrograms

Whole-wheat bread is a great vegan- and vegetarian-friendly source of selenium. For a filling, balanced, and selenium-rich meal, try a sandwich made with eggs and spinach on whole-wheat bread.

18. Sardines

Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), canned in oil: 45 micrograms

Sardines are an acquired taste to say the least. But they’re a great way to pack in some selenium — along with uber-healthy omega-3 fats. You can eat them straight from the can as a salty snack, or use them as a condiment on pizza, sandwiches, and more.

19. Sunflower seeds

Selenium per 1 ounce (28 grams) of kernels: 18 micrograms

Sunflower seeds are a vegan-friendly source of protein, healthy fats, and — of course — selenium. These little seeds are absolutely loaded with the stuff. Sprinkle them on everything from soups to salads to add a little extra crunch. Or eat them alone as a satisfying snack.

20. Mushrooms

Selenium per 1 cup (96 grams), whole: 9 micrograms

Mushrooms are a super-versatile, vegan-friendly fungi. Their meaty texture makes them a fab alternative to steak. You can even make a pretty tasty vegan jerky with ’em!

21. Ham

Selenium per 1 ounce (28 grams): 6 micrograms

Rounding out our list of high selenium foods is plain ol’ ham. Ham tends to be hella processed and high in salt. But in moderate quantities, it’s a great way to add some flavor to your food. It’s also got a nice stash of selenium.

Selenium is an essential mineral that performs lots of vital functions. You’re prob getting enough from a balanced, healthy diet. But adding in some (or all!) of these selenium superstars can help you stay on track. And as a reminder, def talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.