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Top 8 Foods High in Selenium

By Liam McAuliffe Updated on

Selenium is an important mineral in food that most people haven’t heard of. Foods high in selenium support numerous bodily functions, including a healthy immune system, cognition, and fertility, among many others. 

Additionally, these top 8 high selenium foods are abundant in various other vital nutrients–in fact they’re among the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.

In this article, we’ll explore why selenium foods are important and provide a rundown of the best foods rich in selenium. 

Table of Contents

What is Selenium, and Why is it Important? 

Selenium is a mineral that is an essential part of various enzymes and proteins called selenoproteins. 

Selenoproteins are an important component of many important physiological processes, including

  • Maintaining healthy thyroid function
  • Supporting proper immune function, including the ability to fight infection
  • Protecting cells from damage
  • Supports reproductive health and the creation of DNA
  • Reducing oxidative stress by combatting free radicals
  • Increasing concentrations of the potent antioxidant called glutathione
  • Protection against various cancers
  • Neuroprotective properties–patients with Alzheimer’s disease have low levels of selenium
  • Supports lung health

Selenium Supports Reproductive Health

It’s worth highlighting the role that selenium plays in fertility. Studies have shown selenium deficiency to be a factor in miscarriage and poor semen quality.

Other studies have shown that selenium supports the quality of follicular fluid surrounding a women’s eggs, and improves semen quality when combined with vitamin E.

Significantly Associated with Reduced Risk of Cancers

A large-scale review of 69 studies with over 350,000 participants found that high blood levels of selenium were associated with a lower risk of lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancers.

Selenium in Animal vs. Plant Foods

Though selenium is available from both plant and animal food sources, the high selenium foods on this list are all from animal sources. 

We’ve selected only animal products because the amount of selenium in plant foods comes from the soil, which is affected by many factors including rain, evaporation, region, pesticides, and pH levels. Soil selenium in many agricultural areas has been gravely depleted and is predicted to drop even further.

Low soil selenium levels have even been linked to life-threatening reactions to COVID-19.  

Additionally, plant foods that contain some selenium, like wheat and other grains, also expose people to various plant toxins and antinutrients

On the other hand, animal products high in selenium provide a steady and abundant source of various nutrients without harmful toxins and pesticides. 

How Much Selenium Per Day? 

According to the National Institute of Health, how much selenium we need per day increases from childhood into adolescence and adulthood. Men require moderately more selenium per day than women. The exception is for pregnant women who require 65 mcg per day.

AgeRecommended amount of selenium per day
Pregnant females65 mcg per day
Adult and teenage females45 to 55 mcg per day
Adult and teenage males55-70 mcg per day
9 to 13 years40 mcg
4 to 8 years30 mcg
7 months to 3 years20 mcg
Newborn to 6 months15 mcg

Groups that may have difficulty absorbing sufficient selenium include: 

  • People on dialysis 
  • Those living with HIV
  • People with GI issues like leaky gut, IBS, and Chrone’s disease

1 Organ Meats

Organ meats are among the most nutrients dense and healthiest foods on earth. So it’s no surprise that they provide an abundance of minerals, including selenium. 

If you have a hard time finding quality fresh organ meats or just can’t imagine cooking and eating them, organ meat supplements are a tasteless and effective alternative. 

The top 7 high selenium organ meats leading the way are:

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Pork kidney312 mcg
Lamb kidney219 mcg
Beef kidney168 mcg
Lamb liver116 mcg
Beef spleen91 mcg
Chicken liver88 mcg
Turkey liver83 mcg

2 Mollusks 

Raw seafood mollusks on wooden table

Mollusks like oysters and mussels are bonafide superfoods with famously high levels of minerals. 

In addition to selenium, many mollusks are also remarkably potent sources of zinc, copper, and vitamin B12

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Pacific oyster154 mcg
Mussels90 mcg
Octopus90 mcg
Whelk90 mcg
Clams64 mcg
Abalone 52 mcg
Squid52 mcg

3 Fish and Crustaceans

Fish and seafood overhead panoramic shot. Sea bream, scallop, crab, squid, clams and prawns

Like their fellow sea-dwelling mollusks, fish and crustaceans are also remarkably high in selenium. 

Fatty fish like mackerel, anchovy, and salmon provide the additional benefit of omega-3 fatty acids. Boosting omega-3s helps reduce the omega-6 omega-3 imbalance implicit in a Western diet high in vegetable oils

Fatty fish can also play a supporting role in high-fat low-carb diets like keto and carnivore. And, of course, they are the main course for the pescatarian version of the ketogenic diet. 

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Salted cod148 mcg
Yellowfin tuna92 mcg
Orange roughy88 mcg
Caned tuna80 mcg
Sockeye salmon76 mcg
Mackeral 73 mcg
Anchovy68 mcg
Swordfish62 mcg
Spiny lobster59 mcg
Herring59 mcg
Salmon 57 mcg
Crab48 mcg
Shrimp47 mcg

lowest mercury fish and seafood

4 Pork 

Raw meat. Different kinds of pork and beef meat. On a black rustic background.

Pork is an abundant and inexpensive source of selenium that comes naturally packaged along with healthy fats, proteins, energizing B vitamins, and choline. 

Many health-conscious eaters avoid ham due to its high salt content. However, it provides about 42 mcg of selenium per 3 oz serving, or 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for adults.

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Bacon66 mcg
Ham shank52 mcg
Pork chops52 mcg
Pork tenderloin52 mcg
Pork ribs47 mcg

5 Beef

Variety of raw cuts of meat, dry aged beef steaks and hamburger patties for grilling with seasoning and utensils on dark rustic board

Though other foods may provide more selenium than beef, the significant selenium in steak comes naturally packaged with an unbeatable abundance of macro and micronutrients. 

Steak is high in healthy saturated and monounsaturated fats, a variety of essential B vitamins, and vital minerals like zinc, heme iron, and copper. 

Additionally, beef products are loaded with meat-specific nutrients like carnitine, carnosine, creatine, and taurine. Those these don’t show up on nutrition labels, they provide powerful benefits to cognition, energy, heart health, and even provide anti-aging properties. 

In fact, fatty cuts of steak like ribeye are so nutritious that it is entirely possible to thrive on steak, water, and salt alone. This approach to an elimination diet was popularized by psychologist Jordan Peterson, and has come to be knowns as the lion diet. 

diagram showing nutrients in ribeye steak

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Bottom round steak45 mcg
Center cut steak41 mcg
Beef liver40 mcg
Top serloin39 mcg
Ribs38 mcg
Eye of round roast37 mcg
Tenderloin37 mcg
Ribeye steak29 mcg
Ground beef (70/30)21 mcg

6 Poultry

Poultry is often more processed, handled, and exposed to contaminants than other fresh meats, but high-quality poultry is still a fantastic source of selenium. 

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Chicken wing51 mcg
Smoked turkey 43 mcg
Turkey leg41 mcg
Chicken drumstick38 mcg
Ostrich38 mcg

7 Cheese

many cheeses

Cheese is a high selenium food that has been unfairly maligned for its fat content. Yet studies show that eating cheese can, in fact, lower your body mass index and reduce your risk of obesity.

Contrary to mainstream nutritional dogma, the saturated fat in cheese is not only harmless but may reduce your risk of heart disease. 

A  2017 analysis of 29 studies looking at data from over 938,465 subjects found that people who ate 10 grams of cheese (⅓ ounce) per day had a moderately lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who did not.

TypeMCG selenium per 100 gram serving
Parmesan 43 mcg
Cottage cheese20 mcg
Mozzarella 19 mcg
Swiss cheese 18 mcg
Ricotta 17 mcg
Blue cheese15 mcg

8 Eggs

Are Eggs Good for You?

Eggs are one of the healthiest and most nutritionally-replete foods on earth. This makes sense when considering that eggs have everything needed to grow an entire animal. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the selenium in eggs is found in the yolk. 

In fact, 100 grams of egg yolk alien provides 56 mcg of selenium. And a single egg yolk provides 15.3 mcg or 28% of your RDV. 

Top 8 Selenium Foods: The Takeaway

Selenium is a mineral found in food, and it plays an essential role in many important bodily functions, like immune health, thyroid function, cognitive health, and fertility. 

Selenium is found in both plant and animal foods. However, because selenium in plants comes from the soil, and soil is often depleted, animal food sources are far more reliable. 

The best high selenium foods include organ meats, seafood like mollusks and fish, pork, beef, poultry, cheese, and eggs. 

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