Introducing Selenium

An Important Mineral for Human Health

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selenium, nourish notesSelenium is an important component of the body’s antioxidant system, protecting the body against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a natural by-product of the body’s metabolism. There is now considerable evidence that selenium plays a key role in the functioning of the immune system, in thyroid hormone metabolism and oxidative reduction reactions of vitamin C. Selenium, along with vitamin E, work to reduce the free radicals that are generated through cellular processes.

The Primary Sources of Selenium

Selenium is found in seafood, meat, whole grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. The selenium concentration of plants is determined by the content and availability of the element in the soil in which they are grown. The selenium content of plant foods, therefore, varies from country to country and there are also regional variations. The amount of selenium in animal foods reflects the feeding patterns of livestock.

selenium, nourish notes

Bioavailability of Selenium

Selenium from food sources is highly bioavailable.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Selenium

Overt selenium deficiency is very rare. Some endemic diseases in parts of Russia and China such as Keshan and Kashin-Beck disease are related to low selenium intakes. Individuals at risk for low selenium intakes are vegans who eat foods grown in low-selenium areas. Selenium is toxic in high doses and causes loss and brittleness of hair and nails, garlic breath odor and nervous system abnormalities.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate selenium into your next evening meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Brown Soda Bread*

brown soda bread, recipe
Photo Credit: Liz Parsons


1-3/4 cups (225g) whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
1-3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
3 tablespoons (50g) mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower, or golden flax seeds (linseeds) (optional)
2 tablespoons (25g) butter, softened (optional)
1 egg
About 1 2/3 cups (375–400ml) buttermilk or soured milk


Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Sift together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix in the seeds (if using). Add the butter (if using), and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Make a well in the center. In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk and pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more of the buttermilk mixture, if necessary. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky. Turn onto a floured work surface and gently bring the dough together into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) thick. Cut a deep cross on top and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 30 minutes more. When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

*Adapted from Rachel Allen Recipes