Benefits of Selenium Supplements

Updated on October 15, 2019
angela_michelle profile image

Angela has lived with many inflammatory illnesses. Through the changes in her diet and the use of supplements, her life has turned around.

Mushrooms, egg yolks, poultry, kidney, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and whole grains are just a few foods that contain selenium naturally.
Mushrooms, egg yolks, poultry, kidney, onions, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, and whole grains are just a few foods that contain selenium naturally. | Source

What Is Selenium?

The Boring Facts: Selenium is an element that was initially discovered in 1818 by the famous scientist Berzelius. It is a trace element found in the soil. The soil transfers this mineral to the food planted there; therefore, the amount within a portion of food is primarily determined by how much is in the ground where it grows.

The Essential Facts: This element is essential for our bodies due to its antioxidant properties. Selenium is found in every cell within our body, but is found in abundance in our kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas, and the male testes.

Since soil is the determining factor of how much of this mineral is within the food, many factors will affect the soil and food levels. One determining factor is how close the crop is to volcanic activity. Volcanic ash contains large quantities, so much that some areas can have too much, which can lead to ingesting a dangerous amount of selenium. High levels are unsafe because this mineral is very similar to arsenic. In general, there are very few foods that you could overdose on selenium. The one exception is Brazil nuts.

Aside from volcanic ash, another excellent way for selenium to penetrate our foods is if seawater floods the soil. For this reason, crops that grow in California tend to be rich in selenium.

Other foods where you will find this element, regardless of soil are:

  • mushrooms,
  • egg yolks,
  • seafood,
  • poultry,
  • kidney, as well as
  • liver and muscle meats.

Some of the vegetables with healthy levels are:

  • onions,
  • garlic,
  • tomatoes,
  • broccoli,
  • asparagus, and
  • whole grains or seeds.

Unfortunately, since the amount of selenium in a given vegetable or grain depends on the selenium content of the soil where it grows, it is tough to determine how much selenium someone has in their diet.

Should We Use Supplements?

Do you believe we should be using a supplement, to get the vitamins we are missing in our diets?

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Brazil Nuts

Click thumbnail to view full-size
One Brazil nut is full of selenium. This is a single Brazil nut.
One Brazil nut is full of selenium.
One Brazil nut is full of selenium. | Source
This is a single Brazil nut.
This is a single Brazil nut. | Source

Selenium Deficiency

Selenium deficiencies are not very common in people who have average health. Although most people are not deficient, research has shown that the average person is on the low end of normal, which means they may benefit from increasing their selenium levels. Those who are most apt to have a selenium deficiency are people who have an autoimmune thyroid disease or an intestinal disorder.

If there is a deficiency in youth, a child can develop Keshan disease, which leads to a weakened heart. For this reason, a child must get enough of this mineral. In adults, the symptoms are less severe but present. Here are the most notable:

  • Muscular weakness and physical fatigue.
  • Hypothyroidism, which exhibits itself through heart palpitations, moisture on the skin, emotional issues, and sensitivity to light.
  • Mental Fatigue.
  • In women, changes in the menstrual cycle.
  • In a pregnant woman, miscarriage.

It is important to note that a selenium overdose is possible. If you have an overdose, it will have a toxic effect on the body. You may feel depressed or anxious, have nausea or may vomit, and possibly lose hair or get brittle nails, as well as have a strong breath odor.

Volcanic Ash

Volcanic ash in the soil causes it to be high in selenium.
Volcanic ash in the soil causes it to be high in selenium. | Source


For your body to function correctly, your body needs at least 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium a day. Brazil nuts have 120 mcg, which is why it is a choice food for anyone needing to increase their selenium intake. An average male should take a supplement of 70 mcg, while women should take 55 mcg. Some studies suggest taking 600 mcg, although it can be problematic to take too much. A more conservative supplement amount is 100-200 mcg a day. If you choose to take a supplement higher than 200 mcg, then it is advisable to have your levels checked periodically to make sure you are within a healthy range.

Some benefits that you will find by taking this supplement are:

  • Reduces your risk of cancer, especially if combined with Vitamin C and E.
  • Improves your mood.
  • Protects against free radicals that damage your DNA.
  • Protects against heart disease and stroke by decreasing your risk of clotting.
  • Decreases signs of aging.
  • Maintains a healthy thyroid, which assures all your cells are correctly functioning.
  • Improves the immune system, which will help prevent cold sores and shingles, as well as other viral infections.
  • Slows progression of AIDS/HIV
  • Increases male sexual potency.
  • Helps have healthier hair and skin.
  • Increases eye health, and possibly prevents cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Increases good cholesterol (HDL) and decreases bad cholesterol (LDL).
  • Promotes normal liver functioning.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E and selenium work together to be a great anti-oxidant and believed to improve cancer.
Vitamin E and selenium work together to be a great anti-oxidant and believed to improve cancer. | Source

With Vitamin E

Vitamin E enhances selenium's benefits, to be more precise, the anti-inflammatory benefits. These anti-inflammatory benefits extend to improving rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, and eczema. There have been studies that suggest that if a person is low in either selenium or vitamin E, it will turn a latent virus into an active one, such as cold sores, shingles, and inflammatory diseases.

They also enhance the immune system by combating free radicals. Free radicals are what often cause cancer. Vitamin E is one of the cell's primary defenses, which is why it is believed to decrease the cancer-causing free radicals. Unfortunately, food rarely contains Vitamin E. You would need to eat three pounds of lettuce to get enough. Fortunately, fortified cereals, nuts, sunflower seeds, turnip greens, tomato paste, vegetable oil, and avocados contain slightly more. Even with these foods, it is often recommended to supplement as well.

With health benefits, often come anti-aging benefits. These vitamins combined will add to your skin and hair health by increasing the elasticity and collagen in your skin. Through better flexibility and more collagen, the progression of wrinkles decreases. These also help your acne.

There are so many great reasons for taking a selenium supplement, although it is essential to be mindful of not taking too much. By combining this mineral with vitamin E and Vitamin C enhances these great benefits, which is why it is so essential to make sure you have enough.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      2 years ago from United States

      Interesting. I have never heard of getting a hair analysis to learn about toxicity.

    • profile image

      Isabella Davis 

      2 years ago

      One of the best writeups on selenium I have seen. I used organic selenium yeast to detox for mercury when a hair analysis showed toxicity. I was able to excrete all the mercury safely from my body and the hair analysis showed it worked. Thank you for all the useful information :-)

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is very interesting and useful. I brazil nuts had some minerals that were good for us, but had forgotten it was selenium. The information that you can overdose on selenium is new to me, and very useful.

      Great hub, voted up.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      7 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Very interesting. I'm glad you gave details, too, regarding how much selenium is good as a daily intake amount. Voting up and useful.

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 

      7 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Great stuff - Thanks

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great information. I knew that selenium was a good supplement, but didn't know how much to take. Glad to hear about what veggies contain the most selenium. Voted up and useful! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Interesting fact about the volcanic ash enriching the soil with selenium. Another great hub post. Voted up!

    • jimmythejock profile image

      Jimmy the jock 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      Great information on a lesser known supplement that has many benefits to health .....jimmy

    • angela_michelle profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      7 years ago from United States

      Thank you all very much!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Always good to learn new information. Thanks for sharing all this.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Anything that improves my mood has to be a MUST. Voting useful and Up. Nice Hub.

    • jennyjenny profile image


      7 years ago from Somewhere in Michigan

      Nice job on this one! Selenium is not widely recognized like other supplements are. Thanks for sharing!


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