Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral which is essential to the total health of the human body. Existing in two forms, organic and inorganic, selenium plays a vital role in protecting the body from infection and cellular damage. It is also a key component in maintaining healthy thyroid hormone levels, and in DNA synthesis. While the general importance of selenium has been recognized for years, recent studies are showing that it has a profound effect on the prevention and treatment of many diseases, including most forms of cancer. Unfortunately, like many nutritional building blocks, the majority of Americans fail to get their the daily recommended allowance on a regular basis. Most American adults are only getting 60 to 100 micrograms of selenium from their diet, falling far short of the recommended daily allowance of 200 micrograms. This deficiency leaves the body open to a wide range of diseases and disorders, including cancer.

Selenium and Cancer

Because so many adults fail to get the recommended daily dosage of selenium from dietary sources, research has been ongoing in the effects of selenium supplements on human health. Studies are showing that selenium supplements, taken in conjunction with vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene actively work to block the creation of free radicals within the body. These free radicals can lead to damage at the DNA level, causing cell mutation and cellular damage that can lead to cancer. These same studies are showing that selenium also helps to prevent damaged cells from reproducing. In effect, maintaining optimal selenium levels in the body forces cancerous, and precancerous, cells to die before they can multiply. Basically stopping the cancer before it starts. The research indicates that selenium is effective in the prevention of a number of different cancers, but most particularly breast cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer and cancers of the stomach and esophagus.

Sources of Selenium

The best source of selenium is through a healthy diet. It can be found in a wide range of foods, including mushrooms, asparagus, garlic, tomatoes, onions, broccoli and various grains. Unfortunately, the levels of selenium in these foods is largely dependent on the mineral make-up of the soil in which they are grown. Crops grown in soil that is rich in volcanic ash, or irrigated with seawater, typically show higher levels of selenium. Consequently, selenium levels in crops can vary greatly according to region. For example, crops grown in the western United States generally show higher levels than crops grown in the eastern part of the county.

To optimize the dietary sources of selenium, it is best to stick to organically grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Organically grown foods have been shown to contain higher levels of selenium, as well as the vitamin E and beta-carotene that the body needs to maximize the selenium’s effectiveness. A top tip for adding selenium to the diet is Brazil nuts. One Brazil nut contains as much as 120 micrograms of selenium, more than half of the recommended daily allowance. But remember, the Brazil nuts should be organically grown and as fresh as possible.

Selenium as a Supplement

Even with a wholly organic diet it can be difficult for some adults to get their recommended daily allowance of selenium. In these cases it may be necessary to boost selenium levels by taking all natural nutritional supplements. As we have seen, selenium works in conjunction with vitamins C and E, as well as beta-carotene, so any daily nutritional supplements should include all of these in order to receive the full benefits.

Most people fail to get their recommended daily allowance of selenium, leaving their body’s at risk for developing a variety of different cancers. But by adding more selenium rich foods to the diet, and by taking all natural supplements when necessary, it is possible to greatly reduce the risk for cancer in otherwise healthy adults. To maintain the body’s total health, and to increase your overall well-being, consider adding selenium to your diet.