We all know by now that eating a balanced diet is important to our overall health, especially as we age. As time goes along, we need to make sure we’re supporting our bodies with the foods we eat — and also the supplements we take. If you’ve ever had trouble with your thyroid or metabolism or are just looking to defend yourself against age-related diseases, selenium is a nutrient powerhouse that should be on your radar.
Selenium is a trace element found in the body that is necessary for several of its functions. This mineral is a key player when it comes to aging, as it most affects the thyroid and has shown to be an effective treatment for a number of diseases.
A powerful antioxidant, selenium helps to neutralize toxic free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress which can cause illness. It’s antioxidant qualities help to protect healthy cells from damage and ward off diseases. One review of studies that included over 350,000 people, found that having high blood levels of selenium defended against certain cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, and lung — and that was selenium just from food sources, not even supplements! It’s believed that selenium protects the body from cancer cells because it provides a boost to the immune system by reducing DNA damage and oxidative stress. Impressive!
And on top of protecting against cancer, selenium has been found to ward off other age-related ailments, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, many speculate. For example, increased selenium levels in the blood have been associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. And in the case of age-related mental decline, one study demonstrated that selenium from both food and supplements improved memory in patients with Alzheimers. Another study showed that patients with Alzheimers had decreased levels of selenium.
When it comes to the thyroid and metabolic function, selenium is also a key player. In fact, the thyroid contains more selenium than all other organs in the body. Selenium helps the thyroid with hormone production and protects it against oxidative stress. For those with thyroid disorders, selenium has shown to be a promising solution. One review of studies showed that supplementing with selenium for three months improved thyroid health, as well as mood, and overall well-being in patients with Hashimoto's disease. And since it benefits your thyroid health — that means a faster metabolism!
And last but not least, selenium is an anti-aging superfood. Oxidative stress takes a toll on all our organs — especially our skin. Because selenium is such a powerful antioxidant, it helps ward off the visible signs of aging by protecting the skin cells from damage that leads to fine lines and wrinkles. By including more of it in your diet, you’re not only protecting your insides, but your outsides, too!
While it sounds like a fancy word, selenium is actually a lot easier to incorporate into your diet than you might think. For example, in just one brazil nut, you can get 137 percent of the recommended daily value of selenium! Other food sources high in selenium include seafood like halibut, oysters, yellowfin tuna, and sardines, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, eggs, and sunflower seeds. Following a typical Mediterranean diet can also elevate your levels since the plan contains so many selenium-rich foods. But, if you’re looking to take things a step further, you can even try a selenium supplement like this one from Life Extension ($21.99, Amazon).
While it's certainly important to consume enough selenium especially as we're getting older, it's also possible to overdo it. Check out these guidelines for recommended intake of selenium, and be careful not to exceed your limits. It's also worth mentioning that selenium poisoning doesn't typically occur from foods, but from supplementing. If you notice symptoms like dizziness, nausea, headaches, or hair loss, check with your doctor right away. And as always, be sure to also check before trying any new supplement.