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.
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:
- live with HIV
- receive dialysis
- have a GI condition, such as Crohn’s disease
This is how much selenium the National Institutes of Health recommends you get on the daily:
|Age||RDI of selenium|
|Birth to 6 months||15 mcg|
|7 months to 3 years||20 mcg|
|4 to 8 years||30 mcg|
|9 to 13 years||40 mcg|
|Over 14 years||55 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Selenium per 1 cup (117 grams), cooked: 40 micrograms
Selenium per 1 egg (50 grams): 16 micrograms
Selenium per 3 ounces (85 grams), cooked: 26 micrograms
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!
Selenium per 1 cup (180 grams), cooked: 5 micrograms
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.
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.
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.
Selenium per 1 cup (96 grams), whole: 9 micrograms
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.