Are you short of selenium in your diet? Selenium, while a trace element that’s needed in small amounts, has some fairly important roles to play in the body. Think DNA synthesis, hormone metabolism, and reproduction. It is even needed to ward off infections and cope with oxidative damage from the environment and diet which brings on aging and wear and tear of the body.1 If you want to up your intake of selenium in your diet, it is easier than you think. We’ve simplified things for you by hunting down some of the best selenium-rich foods that are easily available.
The new updated daily value (DV) for selenium against which foods are tracked has been set at 55 mcg for adults and children over 4 and at 70 mcg for pregnant women and lactating mothers.2 This is a modification from old FDA numbers which had the DV set at 70 mcg for all adults, not just pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Of the food sources, organ meats and meat in general, as well as seafood, are among the richest sources of selenium. Grains, dairy, eggs, and cereals are other good sources. There are plant sources but the count here will depend on the level of selenium absorbed from the soil they grow in, not to mention the amount of selenium that soil has in the first place. The numbers, therefore, can vary a fair bit so you may not be entirely sure how much exactly the brands you’re buying contain. Having said that, some of the natural sources of selenium listed here meet as much as 100% DV or more of the nutrient.
If you enjoy seafood, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Selenium-rich seafood like tuna, halibut, sardines, and even shrimp are quick cooking, making for the perfect last-minute or midweek meal. Just grill or pan fry with some garlic, butter or olive oil, herbs, or a crack of fresh pepper and a twist of lemon. On weekends or for special occasions, use them to make delicious creamy curries, baked fish recipes, or gumbo. Or crumb fry them for something naughty!
- A three-ounce serving of yellowfin tuna has 92 mcg of selenium (167% DV).
- A three-ounce serving of halibut has 47 mcg (85.5% DV).
- A three-ounce serving of sardines canned in oil, eaten with the bones and all, gives you 45 mcg (81.8% DV).
- A three-ounce serving of shrimp gets you 40 mcg of the nutrient (72.7% DV).3
2. Brazil Nuts
A single Brazil nut: 68–91 mcg (120–165% DV)
If you don’t have a tree nut allergy, having a few Brazil nuts now and then can be a change from seafood and meat-based sources of selenium. Roast the nuts with some salt and butter or spices that you enjoy. Or add them to brownies or even couscous for some bite.
Just take care not eat too many even if they’re really more-ish. You may inadvertently end up having much more selenium than you need. Each nut has between 68 and 91 mcg of selenium (120–165% DV), so have more than a couple and, over time, you’ll end up with symptoms of excessive intake of the nutrient.4
A three-ounce portion of roast ham: 42 mcg (76.4% DV)
There’s nothing quite like a good ham! Roast ham has 42 mcg of selenium in a three-ounce portion, which means you’ll get 76.4% DV of it from that serving size.5 Make yours with a mustard and honey glaze, use maple syrup in your glaze instead, or go savory with carrots, bay leaves, and spices. Experiment with tea glazes, marmalade glazes, and more!
Once done, serve some of that delicious ham with a fresh slaw or wilted greens sauteed in a pan or steamed gently. Or just slap some between two slices of bread with mustard or relish for a perfect sandwich!
- A cup of shiitake mushrooms, cooked: 36 mcg (65.5% DV)
- A cup of white mushrooms, cooked: 18.6 mcg (33.8% DV)
On a cold day there’s nothing quite like a beautiful mushroom broth. Equally divine is a well-made mushroom stir fry infused with heavenly Asian flavors. Or a creamy mushroom risotto. So how much selenium will this healthy indulgence get you? Just one cup of shiitake mushrooms has a sizable 36 mcg of selenium (65.5% DV).6 Use them in Asian recipes with green vegetables in stir-fries or use it with pasta for something unusual. The meaty flavor of this mushroom also pairs wonderfully with brown rice. Prefer the familiarity of white mushrooms? A cup of them has 18.6 mcg of selenium (33.8% DV).7
5. Beef And Beef Liver
Beef in its various forms makes for a great (and popular) way to get in selenium. If you have a three-ounce steak, that’s 33 mcg (60% DV) of selenium right there! If you have a taste for beef liver, you get 28 mcg (50.9% DV) out of a three-ounce pan-fried portion. Is a juicy ground beef burger or a hearty meat sauce more up your street? You’ll still get a hefty 18 mcg (32.7% DV) from a three-ounce broiled portion.8
- Three ounces of roasted beef steak: 33 mcg (60% DV)
- Three ounces of pan-fried beef liver: 28 mcg(50.9% DV)
- Three ounces of broiled ground beef: 18 mcg (32.7% DV)
Three ounces of roast turkey: 31 mcg (56.4% DV)
Don’t wait until thanksgiving rolls around to eat some turkey. This healthy lean protein is a great poultry alternative to chicken. A three-ounce serving of boneless roast turkey has 31 mcg (56.4% DV) of selenium.9 Add your roast turkey to a risotto or make enchiladas or turkey tacos with it. You can even make crunchy buttery golden Cornish pasties bursting with turkey or toss the meat through a pasta sauce. Or celebrate all year round with a full Turkey dinner, trimmings and all!
Three ounces of light meat of roast chicken: 22 mcg (40% DV)
Where there’s turkey on a list, could chicken be far behind? This old favorite and family staple can be tremendously versatile and cooks reasonably quickly. Use it any way you like – poached in a delicate broth flavored with whole spices and herbs or grilled to brown crusty goodness with spices of your choice or simply with some fresh salt and pepper. Turn it into crumb-coated fried chicken or dabble with some exotic Moroccan tagines or warming Indian chicken curries. It is quite hard to go wrong with chicken, do what you will! A three-ounce serving of the healthier light meat of the chicken has 22 mcg of selenium (40% DV).10
8. Sunflower Seeds
One ounce of sunflower seeds: 14.8 mcg (26.9% DV)
Sunflower seeds have 14.8 mcg of selenium in a typical one-ounce serving. This is still an impressive 26.9% DV, making it a great source of the mineral.11 Scatter the seeds over your oatmeal or breakfast cereal or add it to homemade granola bars. You can even use sunflower seeds in salads or simply roast them with spices as a healthy nibble.
9. Cottage Cheese And Other Dairy Products
If dairy isn’t off the cards, there’s some good news. Cottage cheese is an absolutely delicious way to up your selenium intake. A cup of it has a not-too-shabby 20 mcg (36.4% DV) of selenium.12 A typical one-ounce portion of cheddar cheese will give you 8.1 mcg (14.7% DV).13 A cup of milk or a cup of yogurt too will get you around 8 mcg of selenium, which is about 14.5% DV.14 You can eat these cheeses on their own or add them to other food for that extra creaminess or cheesy flavor. Yogurt is a convenience food par none. Have it at breakfast mixed into muesli, toss in some fresh fruit or berries for a healthy dessert, or simply dig into a bowl for some guilt-free snacking. Milk needs little introduction – you’ll know exactly how you like it – hot or cold, plain or flavored. Go with your gut!
- A cup of cottage cheese: 20 mcg (36.4% DV)
- An ounce of cheddar cheese: 8.1 mcg (14.7% DV)
- A cup of 1% fat milk: 8 mcg (14.5% DV)
- A cup of low-fat plain yogurt: 8 mcg (14.5% DV)
10. Brown Rice
One cup of long-grained brown rice: 19 mcg (34.5% DV)
Brown rice is emerging as hero of sorts with all the fiber it contains, not to mention the minerals like manganese and selenium it packs in. A cup of cooked brown rice has around 19 mcg of selenium, which puts it at 34.5% DV.15 Brown rice is slightly chewy and has a delicious nutty flavor, making it divine in salads, pilafs, and more. Use it as a staple at mealtimes, combining it with everything from black beans to salmon and chicken or turkey. It goes down a treat and keeps you feeling full thanks to its fiber content.
A large boiled egg: 15.4 mcg (28% DV)
A large boiled egg has 15.4 mcg of selenium which is 28% DV.16 A large fried egg has 15.2 mcg of selenium (27.6%DV).17 Enjoy your eggs at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Have them fried, boiled, baked, or used to cook up other delicious foods like waffles, scotch eggs, or even cakes!
- One cup baked beans: 13 mcg (23.6% DV)
- One cup soybeans (mature), boiled: 12.6 mcg (22.9% DV)
Fancy some baked beans? A cup has 13 mcg of selenium or 23.6% DV.18 If you enjoy beans, you could even try having a cup of boiled soybeans – it has 12.6 mcg of selenium or 22.9%DV.19 Use beans in stews or meat casseroles or even soups to add some filling plant protein to the meal.
Don’t Go Overboard With Selenium Intake
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing – when it comes to selenium anyway. While you do need small amounts of selenium for some important functions in your body, going overboard and having too much might result in some unpleasant side effects. Excessive selenium in the body can cause you to develop bad breath, have a metallic taste in your mouth, feel nauseous, or develop diarrhea. Some people also develop skin rashes. Your hair and nails might turn brittle and you may even lose both. Your teeth might appear discolored and you may also have nervous system problems or feel irritable.20 In other words, there are multiple reasons to avoid overdoing your selenium intake. Stick to the recommended levels, eat a balanced diet without binging too much on any foods, and you should be fine.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑5, ↑9, ↑10, ↑12, ↑14, ↑15, ↑18||Selenium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑2||Labeling Daily Values. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑4, ↑20||Selenium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑6||Mushrooms, shiitake, cooked, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑7||Mushrooms, white, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑8||Selenium. Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑11||Seeds, sunflower seed kernels, dried. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑13||Cheese, cheddar. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑16||Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑17||Egg, whole, cooked, fried. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑19||Soybeans, mature cooked, boiled, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|