These days, seems as if everyone is obsessed with getting enough antioxidants in their diets. This is with good reason too, as substantial amounts are needed to boost immunity and help ward off diseases and other ailments. With much of the focus being placed on antioxidant vitamins like A, C and E, there’s been little discussion of the few antioxidant minerals that exist, one of the most potent being selenium.

If you’re like many people, you’ve probably never even heard of it.

Selenium is an essential trace mineral that’s needed by the body in very small amounts but a little goes a very long way. As an antioxidant, selenium works directly with vitamin E and in some cases vitamin C to offset potential free radical damage in the body.

Related Article: What Free Radicals Really Do To Your Body

Although free radical production is a normal and inevitable process, problems arise when excessive amounts start to buildup. Since, free radicals are inherently highly reactive, too many can wreak utter havoc on the body’s cells, tissues and organs.

Unbeknownst to many, most, if not all, diseases are in some way or another linked to an increased presence of free radicals. The list is vast and includes heart disease, diabetes, cancer, degenerative diseases and inflammatory disorders.

Due to its powerful antioxidant effects, selenium helps to protect against these diseases in ways that support overall good health.

But, the amazing health-promoting benefits of selenium don’t stop there!

Selenium is also essential for healthy thyroid function. The thyroid plays a critical role in regulating the body’s metabolism, which is crucial for weight management and proper functioning of the body.

Related Article: The Important Role of Metabolism in Weight Loss

Another benefit of selenium lies in its possible effects on fertility.

Selenium is known to play an especially significant role in male fertility by enhancing the motility of sperm. It’s thought to have the same effects in females, as deficiency has been closely associated with infertility and recurrent miscarriages.

With such a wide range of health effects, you might be wondering exactly how you can increase your intake. Luckily, selenium is housed in a whole lot of foods.

Brazil nuts are an unusually concentrated source. Just one ounce (about six) contains over 700% of a day’s worth. Fish and seafood are also extremely rich in selenium. Remarkably, the generally high presence of selenium in seafoods can actually counteract the potentially toxic effects of the mercury these foods house.

Related Article: Mercury in Seafood: What to Eat and What Not to Eat

Other foods that contain substantial amounts of selenium include beef, bison and lamb, poultry, eggs, and whole grains like barley and brown rice. Collectively, these foods are incredibly nutritious and extremely easy to incorporate into your everyday diet.

RECIPE: Mighty Meat Bison with Mushroom and Onions

Let me emphasize here that you can get all the selenium you need by simply consuming sensible portions of the selenium-rich foods I’ve mentioned. There’s no need to pick up a supplement.

In the case of selenium, more isn’t necessarily better.

In fact, taking in exceptionally large doses or “megadoses” of selenium in supplement form could actually lead to serious health problems (gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, muscle tenderness, lightheadedness, respiratory issues, neurological damage, kidney failure, heart failure, heart attack, and, in rare cases, death).

At the end of the day, it’s just not worth the risk!

To optimize your health, boost your immunity and prevent disease, just make an all-out effort to eat a wide range of selenium-containing foods as part of a well-balanced diet. Personally, I have very fond memories of cracking and eating Brazil nuts as a child and I still do this today in order to maintain adequate selenium levels. It’s as simple as that!

Related Article: A Simple Guide to Eating Sensibly