Cara O. Frank, L.OM.
At our practice, we treat many couples struggling with fertility, recurrent miscarriage, hypothyroidism, and cancer. Recently, I was treating a patient, and we were talking about simple ways to boost immunity. This kind of conversation always leads to a review of what the patient is eating. One proven way to improve health is to supplement with selenium.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to boost selenium levels naturally is by eating 2 Brazil nuts daily. Selenium is a trace mineral. We need only small amounts to improve our health. 2 Brazil nuts a day contains about 100 mcg, which is all we need. It turns out that the selenium found in Brazil nuts is much more bioavailable than the kind found in a vitamin supplement. 100 grams of them also contains more than 50% of your daily requirement of vitamin E[i].
Here’s a quick summary of the benefits of selenium:
- Helps to protect us from free radical damage that can contribute to disease like heart disease and cancer. Studies show that the higher the blood levels of selenium, the lower the rates of cancer. This includes breast[ii], prostate, colon, or rectal as well as lung cancer.
- It’s also critical for proper thyroid function by helping it to convert T4 to T3. Having a healthy thyroid supports your metabolism as well as your fertility. We’ll be talking more about this next week at our Readying the Nest Workshop.
- Selenium is critical for male fertility as it helps to boost testosterone levels as well as improving sperm count and motility.
- The vitamin E contained in Brazil nuts helps protect our skin from premature aging.
- Selenium helps to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and thus may prevent hardening of the arteries.
- Selenium makes you happy. Selenium increases the dopamine activity in the brain, which is a pleasure hormone.
Besides Brazil nuts, other natural sources of selenium include wheat, corn, and rice, nuts, walnuts, soybeans, eggs, chicken, beef, cheese, fresh, tuna, herring, cod, and shellfish. Turkey, oats, and sunflower seeds are also selenium-rich foods.
Selenium is a heavy metal, so you can overdo it. The easiest way is to get the mineral from food.
Here’s a lovely recipe I found at the Food and Wine website Broccoli with Brazil Nut Pesto:
1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 pounds broccoli, large stems discarded, cut into 4-inch-long florets
Preheat the oven to 500°. In a mini food processor, combine the parsley with the Brazil nuts, water, tarragon, garlic, and lemon zest and pulse to a coarse paste. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and the Parmesan and process to a slightly smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.
On 2 large, rimmed baking sheets, toss the broccoli florets with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the broccoli in the center of the oven for 8 minutes. Switch the baking sheets and continue to roast for about 8 minutes longer, or until the broccoli is browned and crisp-tender. Transfer the broccoli to a platter, drizzle the pesto on top and serve.
The pesto can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before using.
One Serving 205 cal, 17 gm total fat, 3.0 gm saturated fat, 12 gm carb, 1 gm fiber.
About Cara Frank, L.OM.
Cara Frank, L.OM., was raised in a health food store in Brooklyn, NY. When she was 8, she cartwheeled 5 miles from Greenwich Village through Soho and Chinatown and across the Brooklyn Bridge. For nearly 40 years, she has had the same crazy passion for Chinese medicine. At 17, she had her first acupuncture treatment. At 20, she enrolled in acupuncture school. In 1998 she went to China to study where she fell deeply in love with Chinese herbs. Since then, she has devoted her life to studying and teaching the topic.
Cara is the founder of Six Fishes Healing Arts in Philadelphia, where she maintains a busy acupuncture practice and acts as the head fish of warm and lively office. She is also the president of China Herb Company. You can read her full bio or schedule an appointment.
[ii] Ip C, Lisk D. Bioactivity of selenium from Brazil nut for cancer prevention and selenoenzyme maintenance. Nutr Cancer, 1994;21:203–12.