Mineral of the Month: Selenium

Over the years, I’ve warned you how conventional agriculture’s reliance on pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other toxins is relentlessly sucking nutrients out of the crops we eat.

But factory farming is doing worse than that. Poor stewardship of farmlands is actually depleting the soil itself.

And that’s a big deal when it comes to selenium—an essential, key nutrient found in soil.

Plants get selenium from soil, and animals get selenium from eating those plants. We, in turn, get selenium from consuming plant and animal products in a balanced diet.

Of course, different soils contain different amounts of selenium. Not to mention, naturally occurring pH and organic material influence selenium amounts in the soil—meaning that, along with agricultural toxins, geography is also a factor in how much of this trace mineral you can get from plant and animal sources.

(I learned this early in my career, when I was awarded a grant by the National Cancer Institute to study the role of selenium supplementation in reducing the risk of cancer in a region of China where the soil was extremely low in the mineral.)

Brazil nuts, seafood, and meat are the richest sources of selenium. Whole grains, dairy products, poultry, and eggs are also good sources.

But I also advise supplementing with selenium to ensure you get optimal amounts. I recommend 100 mcg per day to help reduce your risk of the following health conditions…

Viruses. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to boost immune-cell function. That’s why it’s often included in immune-boosting supplements (like for the common cold and flu). It’s even been called “birth control” for viruses, as it blocks a virus’ ability to multiply—which allows your immune system to catch up and eliminate the infection.

Cancer. As I and other researchers have found, selenium’s natural ability to reduce oxidation in cells helps it fight certain cancers. Studies have found that people with high blood levels of selenium have a lower risk of breast, lung, colon, rectum, and prostate cancers.

Heart disease. Selenium has anti-inflammatory effects, and research shows it lowers the amount of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in your body—a key indicator of heart disease. Studies show that selenium can also reduce your risk of cardiomyopathy (abnormality of the heart muscle) that leads to heart disease and heart failure.

Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some evidence suggests that selenium can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss.

And finally, as I reported in the August 2021 issue of Insiders’ Cures, research shows selenium can even boost your longevity. Which is really no surprise when you consider all of the ways this essential mineral can protect your health!