Jun 15, 2020

Plant based sources of Selenium

Trace minerals are required in very little quantities but they play a vital role across multiple functions in our body. The nine trace minerals are chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc. Yes, iron is a trace mineral too.

I had earlier shared the plant-based sources of iron and zinc

In this post, let's focus on Selenium as it seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, specifically with respect to immunity. 

Selenium is a powerful antioxidant, protecting against oxidative stress. It plays a vital role in our heart and thyroid functions. It helps to reduce insulin resistance, which makes it an important nutrient for diabetics. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body.

The intention of this post is NOT to elaborate on the benefits of selenium. You can get the information easily from a Google search. Most of the material available on Youtube/Google search talk about selenium-rich foods either not local to India OR predominantly meat-based sources. 

All I wanted to share through this post is the list of plant-based sources of selenium compiled from IFCT-2017.

According to the note shared by FSSAI, the RDA for Selenium is 40 mcg per day. Many of the US-based health institutions have specified an RDA of 55 mcg per day.

Here's the list of plant-based sources of Selenium:

(microgm per 100 gms)
Wheat flour, atta53.12

Bengal gram, dal51
Green gram, dal50
Peas, dry50
Lentil dal (Masoor dal)49.5
Bengal gram, whole41
Black gram, whole27.98
Cowpea, white26.55

Green leafy veg
Beet greens47.75
Radish leaves33.05
Agathi leaves30.7
Amaranth leaves, red22.55
Curry leaves17.25
Mint leaves10.79

Tomato, green8.25
Onion, stalk5.22
Lotus root4.61


Condiments & Spices
Omum (Ajwain)87.04
Mustard seeds71.47
Pippali (long pepper)20.5

Nuts and Seeds
Niger seeds, grey154
Garden cress seeds54.41
Gingelly seeds, brown52.64
Niger seeds, black39
Dry coconut25.25

Wheat is a rich source of selenium. So are the local millets - little millet (saamai), pearl millet (bajra) and sorghum (jowar).
Most of the lentils and pulses that are commonly available in India are excellent sources of selenium.
Beet greens and radish greens are good sources of selenium but we hardly get these veggies along with their greens in urban areas. 
There are very few vegetables and fruits (except papaya) that contain selenium. 
Commonly used seeds like sesame seeds and flaxseeds are decent sources of selenium. The other not-so-common seeds such as niger seeds (gurellu / uchellu in Kannada) and garden cress seeds (halim seeds) are good sources, with garden cress seeds being rich in iron as well.
As you can see, it is possible to meet our daily requirement of selenium by including a combination of millets and pulses in our daily diet. Let's not evaluate a food item solely based on whether it contains "carbs" or not. There are high chances we would end up with micronutrient deficiencies with such a mindset.

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