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one green planet

Selenium is a trace mineral that occurs naturally in soil, certain foods, and even sometimes water. It is an extremely important nutrient to the body and plays a major protective role.

The greatest source of dietary selenium out there comes from brazil nuts! These nuts are the best way to get your daily dose of this vital nutrient.

1. Why Is Selenium Important?

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Selenium has both structural and enzymic roles, and acts as an antioxidant and catalyst. It is important to many bodily functions, but it is specifically influential to the thyroid, immune system, fertility, and cognitive function.

1. Thyroid

The thyroid, part of your endocrine system, is essential to the development of the nervous system and skeletal system because it produces the hormone responsible for growth. In order for it to function efficiently, proper nutrition and selenium intake are required.

Our bodies do not naturally make selenium, therefore we must take it in dietarily. In order for the thyroid to metabolize hormones, selenium is needed to act as a catalyst. This is because iodine-based enzymes are needed to activate thyroid hormones, but they need a little help from selenium in order to be able to carry out their function. Although a dietary intake of iodine is necessary for proper thyroid function, it cannot carry on without selenium.

2. Immune System

Selenium is considered a potent antioxidant that is able to work with the immune system through its incorporation into selenoproteins. Selenoproteins are responsible for regulating oxidative stress, and cellular processes involved in innate and adaptive immune responses.

It has also been shown that higher levels of selenium in the body can provide protection against pathogens and viruses.

3. Fertility 

Selenium is important to fertility because it protects the sperm and the egg from damage caused by free radicals because of its antioxidant quality. It is also necessary for the creation of sperm.

4. Cognitive Function 

Through its incorporation into selenoproteins, selenium works throughout the brain, and is involved in motor function, memory, cognition, and coordination. Selenium also plays a role in the pathway of brain signaling. It is specifically important to neuronal cells which use GABA as their signaling molecule.

In patients with neurodegenerative disorders, selenium metabolism seems to be impaired.

2. Selenium Content in Brazil Nuts

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This is where brazil nuts come in to play.

Brazil nuts, oddly enough, are technically seeds that come from trees in the Amazon jungle and have a rich, sweet taste. These nuts are found within a pod, kind of similar to a coconut, and need to be broken open with a machete to get to the good stuff. Although they require a lot of effort to get open, they are well worth it. They are extremely nutrient-dense and contain a wide array of vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, thiamine, magnesium, iron, zinc, fiber, and protein, but their claim to fame is selenium.

Brazil nuts contain the highest selenium content out there. In just one brazil nut, there is double the recommended daily requirement of selenium. That’s 254% of your daily value! One large brazil nut contains 140 micrograms of selenium, while your DV for the mineral is 70 micrograms.

Eating just one brazil nut a day is all it takes to fuel your body with selenium, but it is important to not consume these nuts in extreme excess to avoid any health implications.

3. Vegan Supplementation of Selenium 

Gisele Christensen/Flickr

If you cannot get your hands on brazil nuts, or find them too expensive, sometimes supplementation is the right option for you. For vegan selenium supplements, feel free to try any of these brands!

  1. Global Healing Center Vegan-Friendly Selenium
  2. Nested Naturals Selenium Vegan Caps
  3. Bio-True Selenium

4. Brazil-Nut Based Recipes

Cinnamon Vanilla Brazil Nut Butter/One Green Planet

Cooking with brazil nuts is a fun way to get your daily dose of selenium while embracing their rich, nutty, yet sweet flavor. If you are looking for some recipe inspiration, feel free to try some of these brazil nut-based meal ideas like this Brazil Nut Vegan Parmesan, Brazil Nut Cheese, Brazil Nut Fudge, Raw Coconut and Brazil Nut Truffles, Cinnamon Vanilla Brazil Nut Butter, pictured above, Cauliflower Brazil Nut Purée with Crispy Tofu, or these decadent Chocolate Covered Brazil Nut Stuffed Medjool Dates with Coconut Whipped Cream.

Whichever one you choose, you will not be disappointed by the pure goodness of brazil nuts!

For more information about brazil nuts, we recommend downloading this Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Shutterstock