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Selenium in Nigeria: Foods, Benefits, & Recommendations

Last Updated on November 19, 2023


Selenium is a mineral that plays a crucial role in the body’s functions.

It is important for enzyme function, thyroid hormone metabolism, and antioxidant defense.

Brief Explanation of Selenium

  1. Selenium, a vital trace mineral, is essential for human health.

  2. Found in soil, it makes its way into plants, animals, and, consequently, our diets.

Mention of Its Importance and Role in the Body

  1. Selenium acts as a potent antioxidant, shielding cells from damage.

  2. It supports the immune system, fostering resilience against infections.

  3. Essential for thyroid function, selenium aids in the regulation of metabolism.

  4. Selenium reduces inflammation, contributing to heart health.

  5. The mineral is crucial for DNA synthesis and repair, promoting overall cell health.

As we explore the significance of selenium in the Nigerian context, understanding its diverse roles in the body becomes paramount.

From immune support to cellular health, selenium is a nutritional cornerstone for a thriving life.

Selenium-Rich Foods in Nigeria

Commonly consumed Selenium-rich foods

Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health.

While it is found in small amounts in various foods, it is important to include selenium-rich foods in our diet to meet the recommended daily intake.

Let’s take a look at some commonly consumed selenium-rich foods in Nigeria:

  1. Brazil Nuts: These nuts are one of the best sources of selenium. Just a few Brazil nuts a day can provide you with the required daily intake of selenium.

    They also contain healthy fats and other beneficial nutrients.

  2. Fish: Fish, especially tuna, salmon, and sardines, are excellent sources of selenium.

    Consuming fish not only boosts selenium levels in the body but also provides omega-3 fatty acids and protein, promoting heart health.

  3. Poultry: Chicken and turkey are rich in selenium, making them a great choice for meat lovers. Including poultry in your diet not only provides you with selenium but also offers a low-fat source of protein.

  4. Eggs: Eggs are not only a versatile ingredient but also a good source of selenium.

    They are affordable, widely available, and can easily be incorporated into various dishes like omelettes, salads, or sandwiches.

  5. Whole Grains: Whole grain foods like brown rice, oats, and wheat bread contain selenium. They also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making them a healthy choice for a well-rounded diet.

Emphasis on locally available options

While the above-mentioned foods are rich in selenium, it is important to focus on locally available options to ensure accessibility and affordability.

Nigeria boasts a variety of indigenous foods that can provide the necessary selenium intake. Some locally available options include:

  1. Plantain: This widely consumed fruit in Nigeria not only provides selenium but also offers other essential nutrients like potassium and fiber.

  2. Crayfish: Crayfish is a popular ingredient in Nigerian cuisine, packed with selenium. It is commonly used in soups, stews, and sauces, adding flavor and nutrition to meals.

  3. Red Palm Oil: Red palm oil is a staple in Nigerian cooking and is a good source of selenium. It is used in various dishes and adds a distinctive taste to the food.

Examples of traditional Nigerian dishes that incorporate Selenium-rich ingredients

Traditional Nigerian cuisine is flavorful and diverse, incorporating a variety of ingredients rich in selenium.

Here are a few examples of dishes that include selenium-rich ingredients:

  1. Egusi Soup: This popular Nigerian soup is made with ground melon seeds and often includes crayfish, which adds selenium to the dish. It is usually served with pounded yam or eba.

  2. Banga Soup: This delicious soup, made from palm fruit extract, commonly includes crayfish, which enhances its selenium content. It is often paired with starch or pounded yam.

  3. Plantain Porridge: This hearty dish combines plantains with other nutritious ingredients like vegetables, fish, or meat, providing a good dose of selenium alongside other essential nutrients.

Incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet can have numerous health benefits, including boosting immunity, supporting thyroid function, and reducing the risk of certain diseases.

By making conscious choices and including locally available options in traditional Nigerian dishes, you can easily meet your selenium requirements while enjoying the rich flavors of Nigerian cuisine.

Read: Boosting Selenium Intake: Nigerian Foods to Focus On

Benefits of Selenium

Health benefits associated with Selenium

  1. Promotes a healthy thyroid function, supporting metabolism and hormone regulation.

  2. Helps protect the body against oxidative stress, reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

  3. Plays a crucial role in DNA synthesis and repair, maintaining cellular health.

  4. Aids in the proper functioning of the immune system, enhancing its response to infections.

  5. Supports cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation.

  6. May lower the risk of certain types of cancer, such as prostate, lung, and colorectal cancer.

  7. Helps maintain cognitive function and may reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

  8. Improves male fertility by enhancing sperm quality and motility.

Role Selenium plays in immunity and antioxidant function

  1. Selenium is essential for the production of selenoproteins, which have antioxidant properties.

  2. These selenoproteins help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

  3. They also promote a balanced immune response, preventing excessive inflammation.

  4. By neutralizing free radicals, selenium helps reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

  5. Selenium supports immune cell function and improves the body’s ability to fight infections.

  6. It enhances the production and activity of natural killer cells, which target and destroy pathogens.

  7. Selenium deficiency compromises immune function and may increase susceptibility to diseases.

Its potential anti-inflammatory properties

  1. Selenium exhibits anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.

  2. These anti-inflammatory properties contribute to the overall health benefits of selenium.

  3. Selenium may help alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  4. By reducing inflammation, selenium promotes tissue repair and supports joint health.

  5. It also plays a role in reducing oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation.

In short, selenium offers numerous health benefits due to its role in various physiological processes.

It supports thyroid function, DNA repair, and cardiovascular health.

Additionally, selenium enhances the immune system, protects against oxidative stress, and exhibits potential anti-inflammatory properties.

Including selenium-rich foods in your diet is a valuable step towards maintaining optimal health.

Read: Zinc in Nigerian Foods: Boosting Immunity & Health

Selenium in Nigeria: Foods, Benefits, & Recommendations

Selenium Deficiency in Nigeria

Prevalence of Selenium Deficiency in Nigeria

  1. Nigeria has a significant prevalence of Selenium deficiency.

  2. The deficiency is primarily due to the low dietary intake of Selenium.

  3. Studies have shown that the soil in Nigeria is poor in Selenium content.

  4. As a result, crops grown in the region have low Selenium levels.

  5. Insufficient intake of Selenium-rich foods contributes to the deficiency.

The causes and risk factors contributing to the deficiency

  1. Poor agricultural practices lead to Selenium depletion in the soil.

  2. Consumption of processed foods, which lack Selenium, is prevalent in Nigeria.

  3. Low awareness about the importance of Selenium in maintaining good health.

  4. Environmental factors such as pollution can reduce Selenium levels in the body.

  5. Other risk factors include poverty, limited access to nutritious foods, and improper diet.

The importance of addressing this issue

  1. Selenium deficiency can have serious health implications.

  2. It can lead to weakened immune function and increased susceptibility to diseases.

  3. Poor Selenium status has been linked to cardiovascular diseases in Nigeria.

  4. Addressing the deficiency can improve overall health and well-being.

  5. Implementing measures to increase Selenium intake is crucial for preventing health issues.

It is evident that Selenium deficiency is a widespread problem in Nigeria, primarily due to the low dietary intake and depleted soil content.

The inadequate intake of Selenium-rich foods, coupled with poor agricultural practices and low awareness, contribute to this issue.

Selenium plays a vital role in maintaining proper immune function and protecting against cardiovascular diseases.

Thus, addressing this deficiency becomes imperative for the well-being of the Nigerian population.

Read: Iron-Rich Traditional Foods Every Nigerian Should Eat

Recommendations for Selenium Intake

Recommended daily intake of Selenium for different age groups

  1. Infants: The recommended daily intake of Selenium for infants aged 0-6 months is 15 mcg.

  2. Children: Children aged 1-3 years should have a daily intake of 20 mcg, while those aged 4-8 years need 30 mcg.

  3. Adolescents: Adolescents aged 9-13 years should aim for a daily selenium intake of 40 mcg.

  4. Adults: The recommended daily intake for adults, including pregnant and lactating women, is 55 mcg.

Tips for incorporating Selenium-rich foods into Nigerian diets

  1. Include Brazil nuts: These nuts are particularly rich in selenium, so having a few can meet the daily requirement.

  2. Eat seafood: Seafood like tuna, shrimp, and oysters contain good amounts of selenium.

  3. Consume whole grains: Foods like wheat, rice, and oats are selenium-rich and can be easily incorporated into meals.

  4. Include poultry and eggs: Chicken, turkey, and eggs are excellent sources of selenium.

Recipes and meal ideas to ensure sufficient Selenium consumption

  1. Brazil nut and tuna salad: Toss together mixed greens, fresh tomatoes, canned tuna, and a handful of Brazil nuts for added selenium.

  2. Selenium-rich grain bowl: Combine cooked quinoa or brown rice with roasted chicken, sautéed vegetables, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

  3. Oatmeal with mixed berries and almonds: Start your day with a bowl of oats topped with fresh berries and a sprinkling of selenium-rich almonds.

  4. Selenium-packed omelette: Whip up an omelette using eggs, spinach, mushrooms, and a sprinkle of selenium-rich cheese.

By following these recommendations, individuals can ensure they meet their daily selenium requirements and promote overall health and well-being.

Remember to consult with a healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your diet.

Read: Iron in Nigerian Foods: Fighting Anaemia Naturally


Selenium is crucial for maintaining good health by boosting our immune system, supporting thyroid function, and acting as a powerful antioxidant.

It is important to prioritize Selenium-rich foods in our daily meals to ensure an adequate intake of this essential nutrient.

Increasing Selenium intake in Nigeria’s population has the potential to improve overall health and reduce the risk of certain diseases.

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