Importance of Selenium
Selenium is one of the minerals needed by the body in very small amounts. It is considered as a trace mineral together with zinc, copper, iron, and manganese, among many others.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant inside the body. As an antioxidant, it helps in preventing free radicals, which are products of oxygen breakdown, from causing damage to the cells. The effects of free radicals are frequently associated with aging, heart disease, and cancer development. The immune system and thyroid gland also need selenium in order to function properly.
Individuals with selenium deficiency may manifest certain symptoms. These include growth retardation, heart enlargement, muscle cramps, and abnormal nail beds.
The daily requirement of selenium for males and females, 15 years old and older, is about 55 mcg per day. Selenium toxicity may occur when the level of selenium intake has reached 20 to 30 times the daily requirement. An individual experiencing selenium toxicity may present symptoms such as skin inflammation, hair loss, loss of nails and teeth, fatigue, paralysis and even death.
In children, the daily requirement for selenium is much less. Only 15 mcg is needed for newborns up to six months of age. From six months to six years old, children may be given 20 mcg of selenium per day. Children seven to ten years old can have 30 mcg per day, and those between 11 and 14 years old, require 40mcg of selenium daily.
The major sources for selenium are plant foods that can be found throughout the world. The amount of selenium in these foods, however, may vary depending on the soil’s content of selenium. Several meats and seafood also contain selenium, but amount varies depending on what the animal has eaten. The following are lists of selenium rich foods and the amount of selenium usually present in each serving.