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Top 10 Foods High in Selenium

What is selenium?

Selenium is an essential mineral for humans that supports healthy reproduction, thyroid gland function, DNA production, and protection from oxidative damage and infection. 1

How much selenium do I need?

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) recommends that adults consume at least 55 mcg per day, and that pregnant or breastfeeding women consume up to 70 mcg daily.2

What are the top sources of Selenium?

Table 1: Selenium Content of Selected Foods 3,4

Food

Serving Size

Micrograms (mcg) of Selenium per Serving

Brazil nuts

1oz (6-8 nuts)

544

Couscous, cooked

1 cup

43

Whole wheat pasta, cooked

1 cup

42

Shiitake mushrooms, cooked

1 cup

36

Sunflower seed butter

2 tablespoons

33

Sunflower seeds, dry roasted

1 ounce

23

Wheat germ, toasted, plain

1 oz

18

Chia seeds

1 oz

16

Tortilla, whole-wheat

1 tortilla

15

Oatmeal, regular and quick, unenriched, cooked with water

1 cup

13

Brazil nuts are considered one of the highest and most bioavailable (meaning the body can make the most use of it easily) plant-based sources of selenium.5 The selenium available through other plant-based food depends on the amount of the mineral in the soil and other factors, like soil pH.2,6,7,8 Make sure to vary your selenium sources in order to optimize the intake of several other vitamins and minerals.

Am I getting enough selenium?

Selenium deficiency is rare in the US, but people undergoing kidney dialysis, people with HIV, and people who eat only local foods grown in soils that are low in selenium may need to increase the amount of selenium in their diet. Women with Grave’s, hypothyroidism or other thyroid diseases should also be mindful of selenium intake since the mineral is essential for normal thyroid function.9

Can I consume too much selenium?

It is rare for people to consume too much selenium through their diet alone, but people who take supplements or who eat Brazil nuts regularly might consume too much selenium. Consuming more than 400 mcg of selenium daily can lead to garlic odor in the breath and a metallic taste in the mouth. In more serious cases, high selenium intake can lead to hair and nail loss or brittleness, lesions of the skin and nervous system, nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, spotted teeth, fatigue, irritability, and nervous system abnormalities.6,2

Which of these foods will you try to add to your meals? Pin for later or share with your friends.
Best Food Sources of Selenium

References 

  1. Sunde RA. Selenium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:225-37
  2. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019.
  4. Whitbred, Daisy. My Food Data. Top 10 Foods Highest in Selenium. 2021. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/foods-high-in-selenium.php
  5. Daniells, Stephen. Food Navigator. Selenium bioavailabilty higher from Brazil nuts, says study. 2008. https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2008/02/15/Selenium-bioavailabilty-higher-from-Brazil-nuts-says-study.
  6. Sunde RA. Selenium. In: Bowman B, Russell R, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 9th ed. Washington, DC: International Life Sciences Institute; 2006:480-97
  7. Rayman MP. Food-chain selenium and human health: emphasis on intake. Br J Nutr 2008;100:254-68. [PubMed abstract]
  8. Rayman MP. Selenium and human health. Lancet 2012;379:1256-68. [PubMed abstract]
  9. National Instittutes of Health (2021). Selenium Factsheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/#en2.
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