Selenium is a powerful trace mineral that everyone needs. Along with iodine, selenium is great for the thyroid. It supports the immune system and it’s a powerful antioxidant.   Adults need at least 55 micrograms a day and some people consume more, depending on their needs (it’s best to stay under 400mcg/day). 
Although fish and meat are great sources of selenium, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t get it from plants. As a matter of fact, there are an abundance of natural foods that are great sources of selenium, including nuts, seeds, and green vegetables. At a glance, let’s take a look at the 7 best vegetarian sources of selenium.
1. Brazil Nuts
Without a doubt, Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium! Tasty, delicious, and loaded; one study showed that just two brazil nuts per day for 12 weeks raised selenium levels to a normal range. 
- 1/2 oz. contains a whopping 268 mcg, 479% of daily requirement and 95 calories.
- Just one Brazil nut per day can provide 75 mcg of selenium.
2. Shiitake/White Button Mushroom
Shiitake mushrooms taste great and, in addition to providing selenium, they’re an excellent source of Vitamin D, antioxidants, and other essential trace minerals.
- 1/2 cup contains 18 mcg of selenium and provides 33% of your daily requirement.
- Just 40 calories per half cup!
3. Lima/Pinto Beans
Poll any group of third graders for their favorite foods and it’s unlikely that lima or pinto beans will be on the list. But, there’s no denying their nutritional potency. In addition to selenium, lima and pinto beans are a great source of protein and fiber.
- 1 cup cooked contains 10 mcg of selenium, about 17% of your daily requirement.
- Only 205 calories per cup.
4. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of my favorite super foods. One of their interesting traits is that, when exposed to water, they expand and take on a gel-like consistency. It takes on any flavor and prompts a feeling of being full much faster than other foods. They’re a great source of fiber, amino acids, and a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 
- 1 oz. contains 15 mcg and provides 28% of your daily requirement.
- Only 138 calories per ounce.
5. Brown Rice
If you’re looking for a gluten-free grain, you have a few choices. Millet and quinoa are emerging in popularity, and brown rice is another great option. It’s an excellent, all-around source of essential nutrients, including complex carbohydrates, B vitamins, and soluble fiber.
- 1 cup contains 19 mcg, about 35% of your daily requirement.
- Just 216 calories per cup.
6. Seeds (Sunflower, Sesame, and Flax)
When it comes to nutritional potency, it’s hard to beat a handful of seeds! They’re rich in essential omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. They’re also little selenium power-ups. Take your pick of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or flaxseed.
- 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds contains 19mcg of selenium, for 34% of daily requirement and 204 calories.
- 1/4 cup of sesame seeds contains 12mcg of selenium, for 23% of daily requirement and 206 calories.
- 2 tsp. of flaxseed contains 4mcg of selenium, for 7% daily requirement and 75 calories.
7. Broccoli, Cabbage, Spinach
Selenium is just one of many nutrients you’ll find in green vegetables. In fact, greens are generally one of the best nutritional smorgasbords of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, protein, calcium, magnesium, and chlorophyll available. If these aren’t the cornerstone of your diet, they need to be!
- 1 cup cabbage contains 3.5 mcg 6% of DRI and 44 calories.
- 1 cup spinach contains 3 mcg 5% of DRI and 41 calories.
- 1 cup broccoli contains 2.5 mcg 4% of DRI and 55 calories.
These are just a few vegetarian friendly sources of selenium that you can add to your diet to boost its nutritional value. Do you have other favorite foods you prefer that are a source of selenium? Leave a comment and let us know!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- John R. Arthur, Roderick C. McKenzie, and Geoffrey J. Beckett. Selenium in the Immune System The Journal of Nutrition. 2003.
- Institute of Medicine Institute of Medicine/IOM Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids The Institute of Medicine
- National Institute of Health Selenium – Quick Facts. (last accessed 2014-04-05)
- Thomson CD, Chisholm A, McLachlan SK, Campbell JM. Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):37984.
- Mohd Ali N, Yeap SK, Ho WY, Beh BK, Tan SW, Tan SG. The promising future chia, Salvia hispanica L. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2012;2012:171956. doi: 10.1155/2012/171956. Epub 2012 Nov 21.