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Reduce Inflammation: Selenium Health Benefits and Foods

Updated on May 3, 2015
Selenium protects the body from free radicals, promotes good thyroid health, and reduces joint inflammation.
Selenium protects the body from free radicals, promotes good thyroid health, and reduces joint inflammation. | Source

What is selenium?

Selenium is a mineral that is essential but is only needed in small amounts. Selenium combines with proteins and becomes a selenoprotein. Selenoproteins are antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off the free radicals that cause cell damage and can cause cancer and heart disease. Selenium basically prevents oxidative stress. If oxidative stress is prevented then free radicals will not challenge our system. Also, selenium promotes the thyroid hormone to be produced and this encourages healthy thyroid function.

What can selenium do?

  • protect the body from free radicals
  • promote good thyroid health
  • reduces joint inflammation

Mushrooms are the best source of selenium.
Mushrooms are the best source of selenium.

Foods with Selenium

Selenium is found in plant foods and is most popularly known to be in mushrooms and eggs. It is also found in a variety of nuts, bread, beef, eggs, a variety of grains, fish, cheese and turkey.

Brazil nuts, walnuts, mustard seed and sunflower seed are sources of selenium.
Brazil nuts, walnuts, mustard seed and sunflower seed are sources of selenium.

Nuts and Seeds

  • brazil nuts
  • walnuts
  • mustard seed
  • sunflower seeds

Meats and Seafood

  • beef
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • turkey
  • cod
  • halibut
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • shrimp


  • cheddar cheese
  • cottage cheese

Grains and Pasta

  • barley
  • egg noodles
  • macaroni
  • brown and white rice
  • oatmeal

What diseases are associated with selenium deficiency?

  • Kashin-Beck Disease: provokes osteoarthropathy (disorder of the bones and joints)
  • Keshan Disease: enlarged heart and poor heart function.
  • Myxedematous Endemic Cretinism: provokes mental retardation

Signs and symptoms of selenium deficiency

There are no real symptoms of selenium deficiency and it is quite uncommon. Its primary concern are the risk factors it may induce. However,

some signs include:

  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • heart conditions
  • hypothyroidism
  • reproductive disorders

Can we get too much selenium?

Yes, and the symptoms of excessive selenium are not comfortable.

Symptoms of too much selenium

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • hair loss
  • skin disorders
  • fingernail loss
  • abnormal fingernail beds

What populations need to be aware of selenium?

Selenium can affect the treatment of HIV/Aids, Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Be sure to advise your doctor if you have these conditions or if you consume a variety of selenium rich foods or supplements.

Additional Health Conditions that patients should be aware of when consuming selenium rich foods:

  • Cancer patients
  • Crohn's disease
  • Kashin-Beck's disease
  • Keshan's disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Treatments for the above conditions may be affected by a diet rich in selenium. You may also want to consult with your pharmacist if you are being medicated for any of the above conditions as there may be interactions.

Note: patients that are fed through a feeding tube are at risk of having low selenium levels.


There are studies that have concluded selenium may aid in reducing high cholesterol levels. Not only does it reduce the bad cholesterol, it increases the good cholesterol.


Studies have concluded a diet low in selenium puts one at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


Selenium is a common supplement with some burn victims. Selenium is good for the skin and helps it maintain its function. This is vital when recovering from burns.

Scalp and skin

The antioxidant properties of selenium and the skin healing nature of selenium make it beneficial for healthy skin and a dandruff free scalp. Also, selenium helps regenerate vitamins C and E, these two nutrients are well known for healthy skin and may aid in slowing down the aging process in our complexions.

Recommended Dietary Allowances for Selenium

According to the National Institute of Health, the recommendation is as follows:

Ages 14 and above: 55 mcg a day

  • 60 mcg if pregnant
  • 70 mcg if lactating

Selenium and negative possibilities

According to WebMD, selenium seems to increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer. People at high risk of skin cancer should not take selenium supplements.

Disclaimer: The author is not a physician or a nutritionist, and does not diagnose or treat health issues. The information provided in this hub should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction.

© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub about selenium and the benefits of adding them to your diet. This was real interesting to know. Voted up!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 3 years ago from Texas

      Nancynurse, thank you very much for your comment. I am sorry to hear about your ailments, I do hope selenium rich foods have provided some relief for you.

    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 4 years ago from Southeast USA

      Thank for you hub . I have lupus, Fibro and osteo arthritis . I will try this. I have written some articles on the lupus. Thanks Nancy

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 4 years ago from Texas

      Zingall, great comment! According to several sites, the top three berries are blueberry, cranberry and then raspberry. Incidently, a variety of beans are also very high in antioxidants. As for acai, there seems to be quite a bit of controversy over its true ORAC levels. Processing seems to play a great role in its potency. Back to selenium, an antioxidant, is beneficial for relieving inflammation, joint pain and thyroid issues. Thank you for reading and commenting. By the way, I do have a couple articles on blueberries and antioxidants if you are interested.

    • Zingali profile image

      Joe Cinocca 4 years ago from Pasadena, CA

      I'm not sure who told me this, but I've always heard that the Acai Berry, followed by Blueberry and Raspberry, were the Top 3 sources for antioxidants. I'm not sure if it relates to your article, but it triggered that in my brain. LOL. I'm bookmarking this for future reference, thanks for writing it!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 4 years ago from Texas

      tebo, I'm right there with you, I am a snacker and it can be hard to stop. Glad I could provide some info for you. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Blissful Writer, good to know! Happy to see you and thank you for sharing your insight.

      red mermaid, thank you very much, I greatly appreciate it.

    • red mermaid profile image

      red mermaid 4 years ago

      A very informative hub. I like the way you've incorporated a daily allowance of selenium, some hubs give a detailed article of foods and their benefits but fail to give any information on what is a safe daily allowance, which could affect any benefits when taken in excess. Well done!

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

      Selenium helps detoxify mercury. Luckily, many of the fish we eat contains more selenium than mercury. So I am not too concern with mercury in eating fish -- the selenium in it will neutralize the mercury.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      I try to eat Brazil nuts or walnuts daily. The trouble is I find it hard to stop at one. I did become slightly hypothyroid and this is when I started eating Brazil nuts in particular. Thanks for the added information.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      Sinea Pies, thank you so much.

      RTalloni, brazil nuts are great. Thank you for your readership and comment.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Brazil nuts are indeed high in selenium. After reading up on them we began eating a daily dose of 1 per day. Glad to see this info on the importance of selenium posted here. You've provided good stuff, as usual. :)

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 5 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Missolive, this is a great hub. I've always been interested in nutrition. Selenium is a very important mineral. Voted up, useful and shared!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      mperrottet, I sure hope it does. Great testimony on how selenium may help regulate our thyroid. Thanks for the votes.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 5 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      I started taking selenium because my TSH has started to creep up, indicating sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Hopefully, the selenium will help to correct it. Great hub - voted up and useful.

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      cclitgirl, did you say you like cheese? :) I have to say I was glad to find out that although selenium is essential it does not seem too difficult to keep it in our system. I'm always glad to see you've stopped by. Thanks!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      It's a good thing there's selenium in cheddar cheese, because I could be a poster child for Chester Cheetah. I mean, gimme some cheese, please. I could never be vegan. EVER! In any case, great write-up about selenium and I'll be sure to keep eating my cheese. Now I don't have to justify my cheese fixes. I like cheese. LOL