We all know that eating a well-balanced diet filled with nutritious, whole foods will help you feel and look your best. One thing I’ve added to my routine for that purpose are Brazil nuts. Holistic nutritionist Elissa Goodman and San Francisco-based skincare specialist Kristina Holey both recommended them to me, and I’ve been eating two a day ever since. Brazil nuts are loaded with protein, good fats, and other essential nutrients we need. There’s Vitamin E, for example, which helps protect skin from free radicals, and zinc, which can help with breakouts. Perhaps most importantly Brazil nuts contain selenium, a mineral that has many health benefits.
I asked Shira Lenchewski, a talented wellness expert and nutritionist we’ve featured on Rip & Tan before, to expand on the benefits of selenium for us. Here’s what she had to say. XXJKE
Selenium is considered a trace mineral in the body because we only need a small amount of it. And yet, it’s hugely important, especially in terms of thyroid health, immune function, and protection against cellular damage from free radicals. Because selenium occurs naturally in soil, it’s assumed that most people get adequate levels from their diets alone. This is likely if most of the food we’re eating is coming directly from mineral-rich composted soil. But since the mineral composition of the soil used in modern agriculture is often depleted, it’s possible to be deficient in selenium even with a relatively balanced diet. Luckily for us, Brazil nuts are a great, natural source of selenium.
Major Functions of Selenium
Thyroid health — Because selenium enables cells to convert the inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into the active form (T3), it’s an essential mineral for our thyroid hormones to work properly.
Powerful antioxidant — Adequate selenium is also essential to preventing oxidative stress in the body, and to trapping free radicals that can damage DNA and RNA. This includes protecting the thyroid against harmful antibodies that can contribute to thyroid disease (like hypothyroidism), and slowing down the effects of aging by protecting against environmental damage to the skin and promoting elasticity.
Immune function — Without adequate selenium, the immune system can’t work properly, making the body more vulnerable to infections, like candida, and more prone to chronic inflammation.
And while you can understand how important this mineral is for the body, this is a case where you can absolutely have too much of a good thing. The American supplement way seems to be, if a little is beneficial, a ton must be exponentially beneficial. But that is not usually the case, and is especially untrue in terms of selenium. While about 200 mcg selenium per day can help ensure we have enough, consuming over 400 mcg can adversely affect thyroid function and glucose metabolism. When it comes to most supplements, my party line is typically “food first”. Meaning, if you can get the nutrient from food, you’re better off because it’s often more bioavailable to the body (better absorbed), and yet much less likely to lead to over-dosage. Brazil nuts are richest known food source of selenium, and two Brazil nuts a day offer around 200 mcg/day, which is all you need. — Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD
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