Avoiding Selenium Deficiency

Avoiding Selenium Deficiency

Bev Dunne

There has been some publicity recently regarding the positive effects of selenium when it comes to prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Selenium however has many benefits when it comes to our health and wellbeing.

Selenium is known to be extremely beneficial for our health because of its ability to activate the antioxidant enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase, which is present in the cells of our body. This enzyme has been found to prevent the generation of free radicals which cause the destruction of cell membrane and sometimes cause cancer growth.

Low levels of selenium may be linked to a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. This is why we will often see selenium included in prostate herbal formulas. As well, it is believed selenium may reduce the risk of breast, colon, gastric and lung cancer. One would think this in itself would be a good reason to supplement with selenium!

Another concern which has been brought to our attention this week is the link between low selenium levels and Alzheimer’s disease. It seems selenium is important for safeguarding brain health and supporting cognitive function. As I mentioned in my article last week, many believe Alzheimer’s disease is associated with progressive oxidative damage to nerve cells by free radicals. When our brain cells are injured by oxidation, the nerve cells which act like wires in our brain also become damaged by oxidation and this in time can lead to memory loss and cognitive deterioration.

It appears selenium may also lessen our risk of heart disease by shielding against oxidative damage to blood cholesterol. Supplementing with selenium may increase the good cholesterol (HDL levels) and decrease the bad cholesterol (LDL levels). It is believed selenium may also inhibit platelet aggregation, reducing the build-up of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries.

Selenium is also involved in the synthesis and metabolism of thyroid hormones. Our thyroid gland contains a high concentration of selenium, and a deficiency of selenium can exacerbate iodine deficient hypothyroidism.

Plants will normally take up selenium from the soil. It has been found however, depending on where the plants are grown, selenium content can be low in some soils. This obviously then leads to a low dietary intake of selenium in humans.

There are also some other factors which increase the need for selenium such as pollution, smoking, excessive alcohol intake, aging and immune deficiency.

Selenium is available in a tablet form and there are some foods which may be helpful in increasing selenium levels in our diet. Brazil nuts are often hailed as the ‘go to’ when it comes to foods containing selenium.

Brazil nuts are great as a snack or you want to incorporate brazil nuts in your cooking, below is one of my favourite nutloaf recipes which I have baked for many years. It’s easy and very tasty!



1tbsp olive oil, 1 medium brown onion, 1 chopped medium red capsicum, 1 chopped medium tomato, 1 cup raw cashews, 1 cup brazil nuts, 1 cup grated carrot, 1 cup cooked brown rice, ¾ cup savoury yeast flakes, 1 egg lightly beaten.


Line 21cm x 14cm loaf pan with baking paper. Lightly fry onion, capsicum and tomato in olive oil until capsicum and onion is tender. Blend nuts until finely chopped and combine nuts with onion mixture, carrot, rice, savoury yeast flakes and egg in bowl. Press mixture into baking tin and bake in oven for approx. 40 minutes. When cooled a little, remove from baking tin and serve with tomato basil sauce.

Tomato Basil Sauce

1 chopped small onion, 1 clove chopped garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 can organic diced tomatoes, 1 tsp dried basil.

Lightly fry onion and garlic in olive oil. When soft add basil and cook lightly. Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.