Selenium: 7 health benefits and why you need it everyday

This nutrient supports your body in a number of ways.
Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
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Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
7 Scientific Selenium Health Benefits | Kin Fertility
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Not yet familiar with selenium? You very soon will be.

This nutrient supports your body in a number of ways, from protecting against free radical damage to keeping your thyroid and brain in good nick. And if you’re trying to conceive (or even thinking about it), selenium becomes even more vital.

Here are 7 selenium benefits and why it’s an absolute must to get the right dose every single day.

What is selenium?

You probably already know your body needs a bunch of vitamins and minerals to stay in tip-top shape. Among the vitamins crucial for your health are vitamins A through E, and some of the minerals you need include iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, sodium and, you guessed it, selenium [1].

Selenium is a mineral found naturally in soil, water and in several foods. It’s also added to some foods to improve their nutritional value and is available as dietary supplements.

Selenium is what’s called a trace mineral, meaning your body only requires a small amount of it to function well [2]. Other trace minerals include copper and iodine. (Macrominerals are the other type of essential mineral, which means your body needs more of them. Examples include potassium and sulphur)[3].

Why do we need selenium?

So, what makes this mineral so important?

Selenium is an essential part of proteins known as selenoproteins. These are vital to your health because they help control oxidative stress (when there are too many free radicals floating around your body), aid your immune system and support DNA creation [2][4].

They also nourish your intestinal gut, assist with thyroid regulation, aid brain function, can help relieve the consequences of many cardiovascular diseases and play a role in reproductive health[5][6][7]. Phew.

After you ingest selenium and process it in your liver, it gets to work delivering its benefits in selenoprotein form.

What are the benefits of selenium?

Now to dive a little deeper into some of selenium’s benefits once it enters your body.

1. It’s got antioxidant powers

Your body contains a number of unstable molecules known as free radicals. These molecules can get into your body through things like smoking, UV radiation and pollution, too [8].

In an ideal world, your body also produces enough antioxidants to keep free radicals in check. But when it doesn’t, it can lead to oxidative stress. This occurs when your body has an excessive amount of free radicals and isn’t able to get rid of them. 

Oxidative stress is problematic because your cells become damaged and sometimes even die. The result is an increased risk of conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and several metabolic disorders [9].

Selenoproteins — which we know are created from selenium — are effective antioxidants, which means they can actually protect your body from cell damage caused by free radicals.

2. It supports your immune system

There’s plenty of evidence that, much like every other essential mineral, selenium is necessary for keeping your immune system in good working order.

This is because it can bolster the number of white blood cells in your body, which are needed to combat illnesses and infections.[10]

3. It’s fundamental for thyroid health

Selenium is predominantly stored in your muscle tissue. But, your thyroid gland actually has the biggest concentration of the stuff [2]. That’s because, as we know, selenium is a vital part of thyroid function.

Most selenoproteins are distributed in the thyroid and are essential for different tasks, including the metabolism of thyroid hormones, regulating the balance of free radicals and antioxidants, and keeping cells in a steady state [14].

4. It’s good for your brain

Selenium helps reduce oxidative stress [15] and studies have also shown that, along with other antioxidants, selenium may improve memory.

In a 2011 study, patients were given a number of vitamins and minerals — including vitamin C, zinc and selenium — to assess their impact on cognitive function. 

The result? Those who adopted active antioxidant supplementation actually demonstrated better memory scores [16].

5. It nourishes your gut

There are still many unknowns around the gut, but one thing researchers do know is that selenium can enrich gut health.

One review mentioned the importance of selenium for balancing the microbial flora in the gut and helping it to avoid health problems [17].

6. It’s can play a role in reproductive health

Lastly, selenium is a crucial part of reproductive health in both females and males. 

In all women, selenium’s antioxidant powers can support uterine health, and in pregnancies, it can maintain the growth and gene expression of the foetus, the development of the mammary glands and the growth of the placenta [19].

A lack of selenium has also been found to contribute to adverse fertility and pregnancy outcomes [20].

In men, selenium is essential for testicular development along with the production of healthy sperm and overall sperm function and motility (its ability to move around)[21].

All of this is why many prenatal vitamins contain selenium — including Kin’s very own Male Prenatal. This once-a-day vitamin is packed with bioavailable antioxidants and nutrients for dads-to-be and their sperm to support the chances of conception.

On average, it takes 74 days for new sperm to be produced in the body, and about 3 months to grow healthier sperm after making improvements to lifestyle and nutrition.

Signs of selenium deficiency

Selenium deficiency isn’t overly common, but people who live in areas where the soil lacks ample amounts of it, as well as those on a vegetarian or vegan diet, are at a greater risk [2].

There are several signs of selenium deficiency to look out for. They include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea, possibly with vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion or brain fog
  • Muscle weakness
  • Infertility
  • In severe cases, seizures and coma

On the flip side, it’s also possible to have too much selenium in your body. This is known as selenium toxicity. The symptoms of selenium toxicity include hair loss, brittle nails, nausea and/or vomiting, skin rash and muscle tremors [2].

That’s why it’s crucial you stick to the recommended daily intake — more on that below.

How much selenium do people need per day?

This all depends on your age and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Regardless, you should be getting selenium every day.

If you’re aged 14+, it’s recommended you get 55 mcg each day. If you’re pregnant, you should be getting about 60 mcg every day. And if you’re breastfeeding, up your intake to 70 mcg daily [22].

What are the best sources of selenium?

There are several selenium-rich foods.[23] These include:

  • Brazil nuts (544 mcg per serving – about 6-8 nuts)
  • Yellowfin tuna (92 mcg per 85g serving)
  • Canned sardines (45 mcg per 85g serving)
  • Ham (42 mcg per 85g serving)
  • Prawns (40 mcg per 85g serving)
  • Beef liver (28 mcg per 85g serving)

Other kinds of seafood and organ meats are also pretty high in the stuff, but grains, poultry and eggs can also deliver an adequate amount.

There may be some benefits to selenium supplementation, especially if you’ve got low selenium levels. However, not if you’re pregnant. Because it’s possible to quickly surpass the safe intake limit, experts recommend only sticking to dietary selenium during pregnancy [24].

That being said, you can consider taking selenium supplements for overall health. If you’re looking for a general supplement that offers selenium — as well as a premium blend of ingredients to boost your energy and support your health — Kin’s Daily Essentials is a great option.

Can I take selenium while breastfeeding?

Absolutely. In fact, as we’ve already seen, your selenium needs become even greater if you’re breastfeeding. Selenium is delivered to your baby through your breastmilk, which is why you need to up your intake.

This is where Kin’s Postnatal Vitamins come in. Kin's Postnatal is designed to address postpartum depletion and support the nutritional needs of new mothers 6 months after birth and while breastfeeding.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Male Prenatal - 1 Month Supply

Supports sperm health - the cause of 40% of infertility issues
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Postnatal - 1 Month Supply

Designed to address postpartum depletion and support the nutritional needs of new mothers
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