If you know my style, you know I’m all about the details. I’ve learned that sometimes the tiniest adjustment can lead to some of the most dramatic breakthroughs and results. When it comes to nutrition, I see this play out over and over again both in my own experience and with clients.
One detail that I pay very close attention to is minerals. I’ve learned the hard way that not having the proper mineral balance can really wear you down. Now I know this probably isn’t news to you. Even if you aren’t that into nutrition, I’m sure you’ve heard how important minerals like calcium and magnesium are to health. This week, though, I want to highlight a mineral that you may not have heard much about: Selenium.
Despite the fact that our selenium needs are quite minimal, I still see so many people who are deficient. We’re incredibly complex living beings that depend on an intricate and delicate balance of nutrient factors. It’s no secret that our modern lifestyle makes achieving this equilibrium increasingly difficult. Diets high in processed food are certainly not helping, however the decreased quality of our food may be the true culprit of selenium imbalance.
Unfortunately, much of the soil in the United States has been completely depleted of selenium. Modern farming practices have done a number on our soil, leaving us with low nutrient quality produce. This is one of the big reasons I choose to shop local and organic as much as possible. Smaller, more holistic farms tend to do a better job of keeping their soils healthy therefore providing your veggies with more beneficial minerals. Selenium has taken a particularly hard hit in this department. So much so that I recommend seeking it out through very specific food sources. Brazil nuts are one of my favorite ways to ensure I’m getting enough selenium. Just 2-3 a day are enough to meet your needs. Other sources include pastured poultry, pastured eggs, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and wild caught salmon. I don’t typically recommend supplementation. Besides my general rule of thumb to seek food sources first, selenium levels can easy get too high and cause problems.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal?? Can something that you need so little of make that much of a difference? My answer is absolutely. The devil is always in the details!
We’re just beginning to skim the surface on the amazing role selenium plays in our health. Here are a few reasons you should be paying attention to amounts of selenium in your diet.
Selenium is an antioxidant
This means it helps to combat cell damage by scavenging harmful free-radicals. More powerful than other antioxidants such as vitamins A, E or C, selenium plays a significant role in overall cell health. Not only does it act as an immunomodulator, it also works with other substances, such as glutathione (the body’s strongest antioxidant), to keep cells in the best shape possible.
Super supportive of the thyroid
When I struggled with Hashimoto’s, selenium was crucial to my healing process. The thyroid plays an important role in human metabolism and I see a lot of thyroid dysfunction in my clients. The highest concentration of selenium is found in the thyroid gland where it plays a big role in metabolic processes. Selenium, along with other vital minerals, may play a role in the synthesis and regulation of thyroid hormones. Without the proper amounts of selenium, it can be difficult for your thyroid to reach peak performance which can cause a whole bunch of issues.
Selenium helps fight cancer cells
One of the main reasons I began to pay attention to my sources of selenium was the powerful effect it may have on cancer. Studies are piling up on its overall effectiveness against a broad range of cancers. They believe selenium may combat cancer in a few key ways. For one, it may play a role in repairing DNA damage that ultimately leads to the development of cancerous cells.
Strengthens immune system
Another reason it may be so effective against cancer is its ability to support the immune system. It not only weakens cancer but actually strengthens your ability to fight it, along with other diseases. It’s been shown to have an effect of an array of chronic illnesses such as asthma or thyroid disease. Additionally, it also helps your body fight everyday infections such as the flu.
May help combat heart disease
Minerals play an important role in cardiovascular function. Unlike all other muscles that depend on nerves to contract, our heart depends on a very specific chemical reaction to continue pumping. That reaction is driven mostly by minerals such as calcium, sodium and potassium. While we may not fully understand selenium’s role in the heart, studies have shown that low selenium levels are linked to heart failure.
Supports reproductive health
It seems like infertility is something that more and more couples are plagued with these days. I have a feeling it may have something to do with our deficient diets. It’s frustrating because even if you’re eating well our environment makes it so hard to achieve balance. Selenium is an important factor to consider (for both male and female!) when it comes to achieving a healthy pregnancy.
Helps detox heavy metals
If you read last week’s post on detox you know how tricky it can be to get rid of the toxins we accumulate. Selenium is an awesome way to supplement a detox because it actually binds to toxins like mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, helping to get them out of the system. Though these are naturally occurring substances, pollution in our air and water causes system overload in our body. Heavy metals, mercury in particular, have been linked to everything from autism to Alzheimer’s. Trust me, you want to do everything you can to help your body get rid of this stuff on a regular basis! Eating a couple brazil nuts a day is a simple (and tasty!) way to do so.