While many of us are obsessing over getting our daily protein and iron, selenium often gets overlooked – but this underappreciated nutrient plays a vital role in everything from immunity to fertility. Here’s why you should be keeping an eye on your intake and 4 foods that make reaching that RDI easy.
Selenium is essential for human health and has several important functions in the body. It is an important component of many enzymes, including those that are involved in the metabolism of thyroid hormones and in the body's defence against oxidative stress. Selenium has antioxidant properties that help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. This nutrient is also necessary for the conversion of thyroid hormones, which are essential for regulating metabolism and growth and warding off conditions like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. There are a few other important functions of selenium:
- Immune system: Selenium plays a role in the proper functioning of the immune system, helping to protect the body from infections and diseases.
- Fertility: Selenium is important for male and female fertility, and may play a role in reducing the risk of miscarriage.
- Cognitive function: Selenium may also be important for cognitive function, and studies have suggested that low levels of selenium may be associated with cognitive decline in older adults.
- Cancer prevention: Some studies have suggested that selenium may help prevent certain types of cancer, such as prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer.
One of the best sources of selenium, Brazil nuts are one of the easiest dietary additions to get you reaching your recommended daily intake. In fact, these nuts are so rich in selenium that it’s advised to limit your consumption of these powerhouses to just a few servings a week to prevent overdosing on the stuff. Just one nut can pack up to 90 mcg of selenium – and get this, we only need 55 mcg per day! The upper limit tends to be around 400 mcg, so you can see how easy it would be to soar past that number with just a handful of Brazil nuts.
Milk contains a bit of selenium, but it’s during the process of producing cottage cheese that we see that 8mcg per cup turn into 20 mcg. That’s almost half our daily needs for the nutrient, making it an ideal addition to a meal for a selenium boost. It also doesn’t hurt that cottage cheese is loaded with protein and calcium, so you might consider using it in place of other diary products. For instance, it goes well with a bowl of oatmeal or in a salad or a sandwich.
You probably know that eggs are a powerhouse of protein and vitamin B12, but they also pack a good dose of omega 3, choline, iron and – you guessed it – selenium. Just one egg packs 25% of our daily needs, so add an egg to your morning toast for a boost. These humble guys are also known to keep you feeling fuller for longer as a result of their protein content – say goodbye to those afternoon slumps.
One cup of cooked brown rice packs 20 mcg of selenium, giving over a third of your daily needs. So, if you know you need that extra push to get you across the line for that RDI, consider swapping your white rice with brown rice. You’ll also get a good dose of fibre and protein, along with a reduced blood-sugar spike. White rice is known to hit the bloodstream faster and it’s also lacking the nutrient-density of its less refined counterpart. So, add a bit of brown rice on the side of your soup tonight!
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