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SELENIUM – A Micro-Nutrient with a Mega-Impact!


Selenium improves the immune system against bacterial and viral infections, against cancer cells and herpes virus, cold sores, and shingles. It also regulates cholesterol and benefits the skin during healing from burn injuries. Selenium contributes to healthy skin and shampoo containing selenium can alleviate dandruff problems. Selenium also plays an important role in preventing and decreasing depression and anxiety.

There has probably been more research on selenium and its relationship to depression and anxiety than any other nutrient. Back in 1991, Benton & Cook’s study, “The impact of selenium supplementation on mood” published in Biological Psychiatry showed a strong correlation between depressive symptoms and selenium in 50 British subjects. In their double-blind study, subjects received either a placebo or 100 mcg selenium daily. A food frequency questionnaire was used to estimate the intake of selenium in the diet. The subjects consuming the highest amounts of selenium had the highest elevation of mood and lower anxiety. The lower the level of selenium in the diet the more reports of anxiety, depression, and tiredness, which were all reversed following 5 weeks of selenium therapy. Ongoing studies have continued to confirm that lower dietary selenium intakes are associated with an increased risk of depression.


Recently, researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada studied 475 pregnant women to see if selenium played a role in preventing postpartum depression. They found that prenatal supplementation with selenium decreased the risk of postpartum depression. A 2011 study of 166 pregnant women in Iran reached the same conclusion; selenium supplementation during pregnancy significantly decreased the risk of postpartum depression. While selenium supplementation reduces the risk of depression, deficiencies in vitamin D, zinc, and selenium all contribute to the development of postpartum depression.


Selenium has improved depressive symptoms among the elderly living in nursing and residential homes. This is very good news since it is estimated that one third of older people in elderly care facilities have significant symptoms of depression, although I suspect that number is actually higher. Since the elderly are no longer able to cook for themselves, they are at the mercy of the facilities for their meals. It is too often the case that dietary regimens in institutions of all kinds are woefully lacking in nutrients necessary for good mental health.


Adequate selenium levels are crucial for the prevention of depression and anxiety. Consuming the recommended amount of selenium has been demonstrated to relieve depression and anxiety caused by major life stressors. Numerous studies have supported its effectiveness at preventing postpartum depression and research on its use in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of cognitive decline is promising.

Sources of selenium:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Tuna
  • Cod
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Brown rice

Adequate selenium levels can be met by incorporating selenium rich foods into the diet. The best source of selenium is brazil nuts. One brazil nut contains over 100% of your daily requirement of selenium!




9 Responses to “SELENIUM – A Micro-Nutrient with a Mega-Impact!”

  1. Dena says:

    I enjoy sunflower seeds on my salads. Not a big fan of Brazil nuts (which are actually seeds but are called nuts.) However, I do like and use quite a bit of either coconut or olive oils in meal preparation. So, I was curious if there was ingestible (non cosmetic) Brazil Nut Oil and, low and behold, I’ve become enlightened once again!

    • admin says:

      Yes, like peanuts being a legume rather than a “nut”. We use words in funny ways sometimes! This looks like a great place to buy the oil. I am curious to try the different flavors too.
      Brazil nuts are not my favorite thing to eat either, BUT, I discovered a way to eat them that has changed that forever! Slice a Medjool date open (not all the way through) and remove the pit. Place a brazil nut in the date. I like to then roll them in some dried unsweetened coconut just so they aren’t so sticky to handle. They are *delicious*! You have the crisp texture with the sort of dry flavor of the nut with the luscious, soft, sweetness of the date. It’s a perfect combination. They are about 100 calories each though, so you have to be careful not to pig out on them, which would be easy to do! I like to make up a few and keep them in the fridge for when I’m looking for a quick treat. They will keep pretty much forever.

  2. linda says:

    A – just to let you know that, coincidentally, I ingest a handful of mixed nuts for breakfast (unsalted) and, voila, those brazil nuts are good part of it. Thank you, Costco. Thanks for the heads up too. L

  3. Anthony says:

    Great article! I just wanted to add one more item to your list of foods high in SE. Canned sardines produce 87% of DV per 3.2 ounces, which I believe falls second in line to Brazilian nuts. If you find it difficult to eat them whole, try searching for skinless and boneless in olive oil first. I prefer Seasons brand canned sardines, which you can find online, as well as in store. The only items on the list I consume, and would recommend for selenium, are Brazilian nuts and sunflower seeds.

  4. What is actually needed is a minimum Se concentration in your blood of 1.6-1.9mcrml/lt. This can be measured at any medi-lab. These figures are published in the “Lancet” and this higher concentration is needed to get glutathion, rejeuvinated after it has done its antioxident work in the blood. One Brazil nut/day may need to be two. has 200 mcg. capsules. A years supply costs~$18 NZ.

  5. Jackie says:

    I love these nuts but problem chewing them I’m going to add to food and boost with herbal helium see how I go

  6. Jenny green says:

    I think it’s the skin on the Brazil nut that’s important, please correct me if wrong ,placebo or fact I eat them when I get blue and they pick me up, but I fund it hard to find supply with skin on .


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