Dietary Sources of Selenium

Table 1: Selected food sources of selenium

Food Micrograms
Brazil nuts, dried, unblanched, 1 ounce 544 780
Tuna, light, canned in oil, drained, 3 ounces 63 95
Beef, cooked, 3½ ounces 35 50
Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, frozen entrée, 1 serving 34 50
Cod, cooked, 3 ounces 32 45
Turkey, light meat, roasted, 3½ ounces 32 45
Beef chuck roast, lean only, roasted, 3 ounces 23 35
Chicken Breast, meat only, roasted, 3½ ounces 20 30
Noodles, enriched, boiled, 1/2 cup 17 25
Macaroni, elbow, enriched, boiled, 1/2 cup 15 20
Egg, whole, 1 medium 14 20
Cottage cheese, low fat 2%, 1/2 cup 12 15
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, cooked, 1 cup 12 15
Rice, white, enriched, long grain, cooked, 1/2 cup 12 15
Rice, brown, long-grained, cooked, 1/2 cup 10 15
Bread, enriched, whole wheat, commercially prepared, 1 slice 10 15
Walnuts, black, dried, 1 ounce 5 8
Bread, enriched, white, commercially prepared, 1 slice 4 6
Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce 4 6

*DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient. The DV for selenium is 70 micrograms (ug). Most food labels do not list a food's selenium content. The percent DV (%DV) listed on the table indicates the percentage of the DV provided in one serving. A food providing 5% of the DV or less is a low source while a food that provides 10-19% of the DV is a good source. A food that provides 20% or more of the DV is high in that nutrient. It is important to remember that foods that provide lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.
What is the recommended dietary intake for selenium?Recommendations for selenium are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) is the general term for a set of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intake for healthy people. Three important types of reference values included in the DRIs are Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Adequate Intakes (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL). The RDA recommends the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals in each age and gender group. An AI is set when there is insufficient scientific data available to establish a RDA. AIs meet or exceed the amount needed to maintain a nutritional state of adequacy in nearly all members of a specific age and gender group. The UL, on the other hand, is the maximum daily intake unlikely to result in adverse health effects. Table 2 lists the RDAs for selenium, in micrograms (μg) per day, for children and adults.

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for selenium for children and adults

Males and Females
1-3 y 20 N/A N/A
4-8 y 30 N/A N/A
9-13 y 40 N/A N/A
14-18 y 55 60 70
19 y + 55 60 70

There is insufficient information on selenium to establish a RDA for infants. An Adequate Intake (AI) has been established that is based on the amount of selenium consumed by healthy infants who are fed breast mil. Tablk.e 3 lists the AIs for selenium, in micrograms (μg) per day, for infants.

Table 2: Adequate Intake for selenium for infants

Males and Females
0-6 months 15
7-12 months 20

Results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III-1988-94) indicated that diets of most Americans provide recommended amounts of selenium. The INTERMAP study examined nutrient intakes of almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women in four countries in the late 1990s, including the U.S. The primary aim of the study was to evaluate the effect of dietary micronutrients on blood pressure. Each study participant completed four, 24-hour dietary recalls, during which they were asked to record everything consumed (food, beverages, and dietary supplements) over the previous 24 hours. Selenium intake was lowest among residents of China, the country with the highest known rate of selenium deficiency. Mean dietary intake of selenium of U.S. participants was 153 μg for men and 109 μg for women.