Vegetarian Sources of Selenium

Vegetarian Sources of Selenium
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Selenium for Preventing Disease

What role does this mineral play in the body? Why should you make sure you are consuming enough sources of selenium? This nutrient is first and foremost an antioxidant that works to protect lipids from oxidation. It works in conjunction with vitamin E, which also acts to protect fat cells from free radical damage. Along with several other nutrients, including vitamin C, B3, and glutathione, selenium may play a role in preventing both blood vessel damage and damage to cells around the joints by preventing oxidative stress. In this way sufficient selenium may help prevent two major degenerative diseases — heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Including enough selenium in the diet may also help to prevent some types of tumors. Long-term studies have shown that supplementing with this mineral may be linked to a reduced risk of lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer. How can selenium help to prevent cancer? It has been shown that this mineral promotes DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells and it blocks the fast growth of cancer cells.

Working with vitamin E, selenium aids in antibody production, thus supporting a strong immune system. It is also linked to a healthy prostate and male fertility.

Dietary Sources

While extremely important, selenium is only necessary in small quantities. The daily requirement for this mineral is 50 micrograms. Most food sources contain somewhere between 20 and 70 micrograms, although the amount varies greatly in both meat and vegetarian sources of selenium depending on the mineral concentration of the soil that the food comes from. Aside from organ meats, chicken and seafood, great vegetable-based sources include:

  • Brazil nuts (one or two nuts a day is just as good as taking a supplement, at the same time because this food is so high in selenium it should not be consumed regularly in high quantities)
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Kelp
  • Brown rice
  • Molasses
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Oats
  • Mushrooms

Most vegetables and grains contain a small amount of selenium. As mineral levels in the soil continue to deplete however it is possible to live in an area with selenium-deficient soil.

A Well Balanced Diet

Is it a good idea to take supplements or to use food sources of selenium to make sure you are getting enough of this mineral? While only a small amount is necessary, it is also possible to take too much. Over 400 micrograms can become toxic, leading to nausea, hair loss, and fingernail problems. Simply eating a well-balanced diet, rich in whole grains, nuts, and vegetables, will ensure adequate selenium levels. As factors such as a vegetarian diet and living in an area with mineral-deficient soil can contribute to a deficiency, making sure you are including a variety of good food sources is important. Eat well, balance your diet, whether it includes animal products or not, and you will be supplying your body what it requires to thrive.


World’s Healthiest Foods

Balch, Phyllis, CNC. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition.” (The Penguin Group, 2006).

Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).

photo by Nickton