|Minerals help the body perform numerous functions, such as building strong bones, transmitting nerve impulses, making hormones and maintaining a regular heartbeat.
There are two types of minerals - macrominerals and trace minerals. Your body needs larger amounts of macrominerals like calcium, sodium and potassium. Trace minerals, on the other hand, are only needed in small amounts. Common trace minerals include iron, zinc, selenium and chromium.
Selenium is a trace mineral, and the body only needs small amounts of it to function properly. Selenium plays an important role in the body's enzyme function, and may help to stimulate the production of antibodies (disease-fighting organisms) after vaccination. Selenium also aids in male fertility.
Selenium is also considered an antioxidant, and it may work with other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E to protect the body's cells against free radicals, which can promote the development of cancer and heart disease.
How Much Selenium Is Enough?
Men and women should consume 50 to 200 micrograms of selenium a day. Selenium is often an ingredient included in commercial multivitamin supplements. The typical American diet provides adequate amounts of selenium.
Good Sources of Selenium
Good sources of selenium from foods include:
- Fish and shellfish
- Red meat, chicken and liver
- Brewer's yeast and wheat germ
Can You Have Too Much or Too Little?
People who are fed intravenously for long periods of time may experience selenium deficiencies, but generally the American diet provides adequate amounts of selenium, and selenium deficiencies are rare. Selenium toxicity is also rare, but may cause tooth, nail and hair loss, as well as skin inflammation.
Taking more minerals than you need won't make you healthier. In some cases, taking too much of a mineral can make it hard for your body to absorb other vitamins. But you don't want to be deficient in minerals, either. You can avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, protein sources, whole grains and dairy products every day.