If you’re starting off thinking “selena-what?” you’re probably in the right place! Se·le·ni·um is on the periodic table of elements (yes, that periodic table) with the atomic number of 34. It is a trace mineral that we need in our diets and the best food source of it is in a brazil nut! I’m a big advocate of a (raw, unsalted) brazil nut a day, here’s why:
- Maintaining proper levels of selenium will help keep your free radicals at bay: Antioxidants aren’t as efficient in those who are selenium deficient. Even severe deficiency doesn’t usually show obvious symptoms. You may never know and it would be difficult to diagnose without specifically testing for it. Long term selenium deficiency may contribute to Keshan and Kashin-Beck diseases. (1)
- There has been much research on the relationship between selenium and cancer: It has been shown in “More than two-thirds of over 100 published studies in 20 different animal models of spontaneous, viral, and chemically induced cancers found that selenium supplementation (to at least adequate intake levels) significantly reduces tumor incidence, especially in comparison to selenium-deficient diets. (2)
- Keep your selenium intake up and it could protect you from heart disease: “The maintenance of an optimal selenium status has the potential to protect against oxidative stress (including lipid peroxidation) and could eventually prevent chronic inflammation and cardiovascular disorders.” (3)
- Your immune system will be stronger: “Selenium deficiency has been associated with impaired immunity and chronic inflammation.” (4). And we all know that inflammation is the root cause of nearly all dis-ease, right?
- Overactive thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s & Graves disease have both been shown to either be improved by selenium consumption or linked to low levels of selenium in the body. (5) Make sure you’re getting your selenium! Where you ask?
- Brazil nuts aren’t the only place to get your selenium fix. Organ meats (always get them organic!) are the highest in selenium followed by muscle tissue (think steak or chicken breast). Areas where there is a higher level of selenium in the earth may have elevated levels of selenium in the groundwater, but drinking water isn’t considered to be a major source of selenium in North America. Garlic and Brazil nuts as well as brassica vegetables such as broccoli and kale tend to accumulate selenium making them generally higher in the element. If the soil they are grown in is nutrient deficient however, there’s no way that there will be much benefit to what’s grown there. Brazil nuts for example can have up to ten times more selenium content if they’re grown in an area that is rich in selenium versus selenium poor soil. (6)
- Although we need this mineral in our diets, too much can be toxic. If you choose to supplement your diet with selenium, be conscious of how much you’re taking! Excess supplementation could contribute to selenosis or type II diabetes. Always consult your M.D. or N.D.