The Scoop on Selenium

bowl of brazil nuts

Selenium is an antioxidant that may play a role in disease prevention. Are you concerned you’re not getting enough or that you need a supplement? Read on for more about your selenium needs.

What can selenium do for me?

Selenium is a mineral that acts as an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect against cell damage, and may play a role in improving immune function and preventing chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Selenium also helps the thyroid work properly. The thyroid is a gland that produces hormones needed for metabolism, growth and development.

How much selenium do I need?


Selenium needs (mcg/day)

Don’t exceed (mcg/day)*

Men and women 19 years +



Pregnancy 19 to 50 years



Lactation (breastfeeding)

19 to 50 years



*This amount is in micrograms and includes sources of selenium from food and supplements.

Food sources of selenium

The selenium content in foods is affected by the soil where the animal was raised or the plant was grown. The best sources of selenium are meat, seafood, and grains. Use the following table to help you choose foods that are high in selenium.


Serving size

Selenium (mcg)

Brazil nuts

60 ml (1/4 cup)



75 g   (2.5 oz)


Liver (lamb, chicken, turkey, pork)

75 g   (2.5 oz)


Canned tuna

75 g   (2.5 oz)


Cooked salmon

75 g   (2.5 oz)



75 g   (2.5 oz)


Pork, roasted

90 g   (3 oz)


Canned salmon with bones

90 g   (3 oz)



2 large



125 mL (1/2 cup)


Cottage Cheese

125 mL (1/2 cup)


Canned pinto beans

175 mL (3/4 cup)


Whole wheat bread

1 slice


Do I need to take a selenium supplement?

No. It is easy to get enough selenium by making healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide. Choosing a variety of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lean meat and dairy, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds will meet your selenium needs. 

Can taking a selenium supplement help prevent cancer or heart disease?

No. Currently there is not enough evidence to suggest that selenium supplements can help prevent heart disease. 

In the case of cancer, selenium supplements may reduce the risk of some types of cancer but increase the risk of others. Because of this, it is not recommended that selenium supplements be used to prevent cancer. 

The amount of selenium found in a multivitamin and mineral supplement is considered safe and appropriate for healthy individuals.

Meal and Snack Ideas

  • Chop a few Brazil nuts and sprinkle over low-fat yogurt.
  • For lunch, have a canned tuna or salmon sandwich on whole-grain bread.
  • Hard-boiled eggs make a quick grab and go breakfast. Or add them to a salad at lunch.
  • Couscous makes for a versatile and quick side dish. Pour 2 cups (500 ml) boiling water or broth over 1 cup (250 ml) couscous, let sit for five minutes till liquid is absorbed and then fluff with a fork. 
  • Cottage cheese, which is also a good protein and calcium source, makes for a great afternoon snack. You can even mix in some canned or fresh fruit for added sweetness.


Tea Poached Salmon with Fruit Salsa

Black Bean Couscous Salad

Summer Chicken and Shrimp Pasta for Two

Whole Wheat Orange Ginger Scones

For more on nutrients:

Vitamin and Minerals FAQs

Last Update – February 14, 2019

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