Some plants can accumulate selenium, and the Brazil nut tree is one of them. Brazil nuts contain particularly high levels of selenium. Cabbage (broccoli, white cabbage) and onion vegetables (garlic, onions), as well as mushrooms, asparagus, and legumes such as lentils, can also have a high selenium content.

The number of selenium contained in plant foods depends on the selenium content of the soil, which varies significantly from region to region. In the USA, the soils tend to be rich in selenium – and thus also the plant foods are grown here.

Animal foods such as eggs and meats can contribute relatively consistently to the selenium supply. In some countries, animal foods such as meat and eggs and fish are more reliable sources of selenium.


Foods with high in selenium content

Selenium is mainly getting found in solid food and only small amounts in drinking water and other beverages. Both animal and vegetable foods can contain selenium.

Relevant natural sources of selenium are meat, fish, and eggs, but also dairy and cereal products.

Some plants can accumulate a high level of selenium like the Brazil nut tree. That is why Brazil nuts contain particularly high levels of selenium.

Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are considered the best source of selenium for plants. But they also contain unusually high amounts of natural radioactive substances. Therefore, as a precaution, one should only eat a maximum of two Brazil nuts per day.


Vegetable foods with high selenium content

  • Cabbage (like broccoli, white cabbage)
  • Legumes (like lentils)
  • Onion vegetables (like garlic, onions)
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms

Those who follow a vegetarian diet should regularly eat selenium-rich plant foods.


Animal foods with high selenium content

Animal foods are the more reliable sources of selenium in Europe. It is because, in the European Union, animal feed may be getting enriched with selenium. Animal foods containing selenium are:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Offal


Foods with Selenium

Vegetables and Salads

FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Brussels sprouts18
White cabbage3
Red cabbage1
Savoy cabbage1



FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
White beans14
Green beans1
Green peas1
Lima beans1


Meat, Poultry, and Sausages

FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Liver of pork58
Cutlet20 – 30



FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Fast fish29



FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Red currants1
Sweet cherries1


Milk, Dairy products and Egg

FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Chester cheese 50 % (FDM)11
Emmental 45 % (FDM)11
Camembert 45 % (FDM)3
Blue cheese 50 % (FDM)2
Yoghurt 3,5 % fat2



FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Wheat bran60 – 130
Natural Rice11
Whole-wheat bread8
White bread5
Rye Bread3
Wheat toast bread1



FoodsSelenium content (in mg) per 100 g
Full beerup to 19
Brazil nuts100
Black tea5
Milk chocolate3


Recommendation of the experts for nutrition [mg/day]



Babies (0 to under 4 months)10
Babies (4 to under 12 months)15
Children (1 to under 4 years)15
Children (4 to under 7 years)20
Children (7 to under 10 years)30
Children (10 to under 13 years)45
Children (13 to under 15 years)60
Male youth (15 to under 19 years)70
Female youth (15 to under 19 years)60
Male adults (19 and over)70
Female adults (from 19 years)60
Pregnant women60


Health Effects of Selenium to the Human Body

Selenium protects our cells from free radicals, which can be caused by environmental toxins such as pesticides in food. But the body also urgently needs selenium in other places: the nutrient gets the food and killer cells on their toes, which destroy pathogens. Selenium also plays a vital role in reproduction.

Selenium is a component of enzymes that control the metabolism in the human body. In a way, the trace element has a detoxifying effect because it inhibits the formation of dangerous metabolic products in the body – so-called free radicals – which damage our cells.

It is not only environmental toxins such as pesticides and exhaust fumes that damage our cell metabolism, but also alcohol, smoking, enormous stress, and unhealthy fat- and sugar-rich nutrition. In addition to its cell-protective effect, selenium is involved in controlling thyroid hormones and sperm formation in men.


Selenium Deficiency

Selenium deficiency is a threat to a diet that is poor in cereal products and meat. But a selenium deficiency can also be caused by chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease because nutrients from the food can no longer be fully getting utilized. A deficit can also occur in dialysis patients, in the case of cystic fibrosis or severe forms of alcohol-related liver disease. The possible consequences include:

  • impaired sperm formation
  • restricted muscle function
  • weakened immune system

Stress and pollution can increase the selenium requirement. If the supply of the trace element is below ten micrograms per day in the long term, Keshan disease can develop with heart enlargement and cardiac arrhythmia. Untreated, the condition is fatal. However, a pronounced selenium deficiency is very rare in industrialized countries.



FAQ Selenium

Where is the most selenium contained?

Selenium is getting found in fish, meat, cereals, eggs, dairy products, lentils, nuts, and asparagus, among others. The selenium-rich foods plant depends on the selenium content of the soil.

Which foods are rich in selenium?

In addition to nuts and kernels, pulses, cereal products, certain vegetables, and mushrooms also contain considerable amounts of selenium: Sunflower seeds, Asparagus, Cashew kernels, White cabbage, Coconut, Broccoli, White Beans, Wheat, and oat bran, Red lentils, Soybeans, Oatmeal, Porcini mushrooms, Rice, Shiitake mushrooms, Mushrooms.

Which nut has the most selenium?

Vegetable foods that are well getting endowed with selenium Nuts, especially Brazil nuts, are the highest among selenium suppliers. However, Brazil nuts do not have a high selenium content in all countries of origin.

What happens when there is a selenium deficiency?

A selenium deficiency weakens the entire organism, with many different consequences: From nail changes with white patches, thin and pale hair, and the reduced quality of sperm to anemia, liver damage, damage to nerves and muscles, also in the area of the heart muscle like cardiomyopathy.

How much selenium per day?

According to the food experts, an intake of 300 µg selenium per day for adults is tolerable without the risk of harmful side effects. Most food supplements contain a maximum of 200 µg per day.

In which plants is selenium contained?

The best rich selenium content in plants are; Brazil nuts approximately 100 micrograms/100 g, Soybeans approximately 45 micrograms/100 g, Natural rice about 40 micrograms/100 g, Pistachios approximately 130 micrograms/100 g, Wheat bran around 100 micrograms/100 g, Mung beans approximately 16 micrograms/100 g, Coconuts 400-800 micrograms/100 g, Porcini about 190 micrograms/100 g.

For what is selenium suitable?

Selenium is a vital trace element that all cells in the body need! The trace element supports the normal functioning of the immune system and the thyroid gland and helps to preserve the cells from oxidative stress, to maintain healthy hair and nails, and to ensure average sperm production.

How do I deliver selenium to the body?

Selenium is absorbed in the upper sections of the small intestine and is excreted mainly through urine. Selenium is an essential trace element that must be taken in with food. Animal protein in pork, offal, fish, but also in nuts and porcini mushrooms is rich in selenium.

Is selenium good for the thyroid?

The thyroid gland needs selenium and iodine. Selenium is required by the organ to convert the hormone thyroxine into triiodothyronine. The hormone triiodothyronine, also called T3, is responsible for many processes in the body. For example, it raises blood pressure and heart rate and regulates the body's heat balance.

Does the body excrete too much selenium?

Overdose of selenium: Selenium in higher concentrations has toxic effects. It is why the body usually excretes excess selenium with the urine. According to the food expert's recommendations, adults should not exceed a daily intake of 300 µg of selenium.

Can we overdose selenium?

Acute symptoms of an overdose possible from approx. 300 micrograms per day can lead to joint pain and gastrointestinal problems, nervous disorders, visual and memory problems, dental problems, skin damage, even hair loss, and disturbed nail formation.

When is the best time to take selenium?

Without consulting your doctor, and without checking the selenium level in your blood, you should not take higher than 300 micrograms of selenium per day. Selenium is best getting taken with a meal. It improves the stomach's tolerance.

Does the intake of selenium have side effects?

Products containing sodium selenite are well-tolerated and safe. Side effects may occur if you overdose on selenium. The first signs are a garlicky breath smell, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, tiredness, and hair loss.

Is selenium good for the skin?

Food supplements containing selenium are said to be good for skin and hair, protect the cells, and even prevent diseases. But the benefits have not been scientifically proven. Some study evaluation now confirms that additional selenium intake does not protect against cardiovascular disease.

What happens if you take too much selenium?

But healthy people risk poisoning when taking it. If healthy people swallow selenium as a dietary supplement, they risk poisoning. It is noticeable by gastrointestinal problems, hair loss, and nail changes. Fatigue, irritability, and nerve irritation are also possible.

Is selenium poisonous?

Selenium and selenium compounds are toxic. Direct contact damages the skin and mucous membranes. Poisoning caused by excessive intake of selenium is called selenosis. Selenium intake of more than 3000 µg/d can lead to liver cirrhosis, hair loss, and heart failure.

Is selenium sensitive to heat?

Selenium is sensitive to heat - cooking causes about 50% of the selenium contained in food to be lost.

Is selenium good for your hair?

The trace element selenium is a blessing for hair and nails. It also protects the cells from oxidative stress and affects the immune system. Foods rich in selenium are fish, nuts, wheat bran, soybeans, eggs and liver, and above all, coconut with an incredible selenium content of 810 µg/100 g.



If you assume that you have a selenium deficiency, you should see your doctor. There you can have your selenium level determined in the laboratory from a blood sample to determine your real selenium requirement.

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