Several foods are naturally rich in selenium. The best sources of selenium include:
In addition, selenium is present in grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables grown in selenium-rich soils. Animals that eat plants or grains that were grown in soil rich in selenium have higher levels of selenium in their muscle.
Examples of certain foods and the amount of selenium (in micrograms) they contain include:
*Source: Office of Dietary Supplements (National Institutes of Health)
For instance, Brazil nuts contain 544 mcg, an unusually high level of selenium that provides 780 percent of the daily value of the nutrient. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recommends eating Brazil nuts occasionally because of their high selenium content.
The ODS encourages people to get selenium from dietary sources instead of taking selenium supplements. For example, selenium obtained through the diet appears to be much more effective in protecting against certain types of cancer than selenium obtained through supplements.
However, in some cases, patients may require selenium supplements. For example, patients receiving total parenteral nutrition (TPN) for extended periods of time sometimes require supplements. TPN is a method of feeding nutrients to a person through an intravenous (I.V.) line when their digestive systems do not function. Patients with gastrointestinal problems (e.g., Crohn’s disease) that prevent proper absorption of nutrients also may require supplements.
Most forms of selenium supplements are available without prescription, although an injectable form of selenium is available by prescription only.People should never take selenium or any other drug or supplement without first consulting a physician. In particular, people with certain allergies or medical conditions (e.g., liver or stomach problems) should not take these supplements. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also have increased risk factors (e.g., potential damage to a fetus or newborn) that may prohibit them from taking selenium supplements.