What is Selenium?
Selenium is one of the nutrients that people only require in small quantities. As such, the fact that lots of people still aren't getting enough is that much more unfortunate. Historically and in many parts of the world today, people have had to count on nutrients like selenium being present in the soil in which they grow their crops. Some water and food sources are naturally fortified with this nutrient. However, a lot of people today will get their selenium through supplements and foods that have been artificially fortified with selenium.
Selenium as an Antioxidant
Vitamins and minerals that can act as antioxidants have all gotten more attention in recent years. Many people are interested in ways that they can protect cells from damage or defend against cellular damage. Nutrients like selenium andglutathione may have their role to play in acting against this sort of cellular damage.
Glutathione is considered one of the most potent of all antioxidants in fact, since it has implications for treating and preventing all sorts of illnesses and seems to have a powerfully positive effect on the immune system. While selenium is not exactly in that league, its antioxidant properties are still worthy of notice and study.
There is some evidence that consuming selenium can help people counteract cancer, especially prostate cancer. It's potential for treating autoimmune disorders like arthritis and asthma has also been studied. A good portion of the illnesses that people take for granted as part of life are, in fact, disorders that are caused by cellular damage of the sort that can be addressed through the consumption of antioxidants.
Selenium may be able to help people who are struggling with depression, especially if they were deficient previously. The consumption of selenium may help to prevent cardiovascular diseases. People who are suffering from hypothyroidism may be able to alleviate some of their symptoms through the consumption of selenium. However, overall, a lot of the health benefits of selenium can be traced to the fact that it can help improve immune function. A good portion of people's problems in general are traced to immune system abnormalities, and selenium can help straighten out those problems.
It should also be noted that antioxidants work together. Being deficient in one nutrient can put people at risk for a deficiency in other nutrients. Getting the full range of antioxidants is necessary for human health in general, which is why it is important not to neglect even the nutrients that are only needed in trace amounts.
It should be noted that it remains to be seen whether or not getting too little selenium can actually raise a person's risk of developing cancer. However, it is still a good idea for all people to avoid selenium deficiency, since the long-term consequences of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are all avoidable in the modern world and they are all unnecessary. People need not be alarmed if they are concerned about their selenium levels. Dietary changes and supplementation will suffice.
Dietary Sources of Selenium
It is a nutrient that vegans and vegetarians might be lacking unless they take supplements. It is true that it is present in certain soils, which means that plants are going to absorb them and the vegans and vegetarians in question will be able to benefit from those nutrients. However, the selenium content of soils is very inconsistent.
It is difficult to make generalizations about the selenium content of plants specifically because it can be so inconsistent. The selenium content of meat is much more consistent, since animals consume plants in such large quantities, and they are much more likely to have absorbed enough selenium than stationary plants. Vegans and vegetarians will need to take supplements, since even vegetarians who eat dairy products and eggs will probably not be getting enough selenium.
Cow's milk and eggs do contain selenium, but they are not the best sources in the world. Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, brown rice, spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, garlic, and mushrooms are natural vegan sources of selenium. However, vegans will have to eat a lot of these foods regularly in order to get everything that they need.
Tuna is one of the best sources that is available today. One of the most overlooked health benefits of fish like tuna would be their selenium content. Some people might be concerned about the mercury content of tuna, which is indeed above average for fish. However, as long as people avoid eating it every day, they should be fine.
Sardines, salmon, and shrimp all contain high levels of this nutrient. Many of these fish are lower in mercury, which can make them good alternatives to tuna. Cod and scallops are other good seafood sources of selenium.
Individuals who prefer land animals can get plenty of their daily selenium from beef, lamb, turkey, and chicken. Essentially, people who eat daily servings of meat will probably get enough selenium, especially if they specifically eat fish.
Taking selenium supplements may still be a good idea for lots of people. The selenium content of almost anything in nature is going to be somewhat unpredictable, while the selenium content of supplements is going to be guaranteed. People can also more easily control the selenium content of their supplements compared to the selenium content of what they eat.
It is also true that cooking can potentially damage the selenium content of a given dish. Lots of chemical reactions occur during the cooking process. When people consume selenium supplements, they are getting a more pure form of the supplement. Taking too much of this nutrient can lead to toxicity, and people will not get additional health benefits from taking more than what they need. A balance is required, and it is easier to achieve that balance for the people who have a sense of the selenium content of food and the supplements they take.
Ultimately, there are plenty of ways to get selenium, and people should choose the methods that work for them. However, some methods are going to work more effectively than others.