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Food Sources for Vitamin E and Selenium

By Sarah Terry

Both vitamin E and selenium are found in various plant-based foods, but selenium is also contained in fish, meats, eggs and poultry. Selenium and vitamin E are essential nutrients to your health and have antioxidant actions. If you are concerned about your dietary vitamin E or selenium intake, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before drastically changing your diet.


You can get vitamin E and selenium from wheat germ and its oil and many kinds of nuts, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. You can also get vitamin E from sunflower seeds, almonds and their oils, as well as peanuts and peanut butter. Hazelnuts, papayas, safflower oil, pureed tomatoes, corn and canola oils, pumpkin, blueberries, avocados, mangoes and broccoli also contain various amounts of vitamin E. Selenium is found in many plants that are grown in soil that is rich in the mineral, as well as fortified breads and brewer’s yeast, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Oats, whole-grain baked goods, brown rice, barley, turnips, Brazil nuts, garlic and red Swiss chard all contain selenium. Aside from plant sources, you can also get selenium from drinking orange juice, as well as eating fish and shellfish, eggs, red meats and chicken.


Both selenium and vitamin E act as antioxidants in your body, working together to prevent cell damage from free radicals, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Vitamin E also supports the proper function of your immune system and the strength of your cell membranes. In addition to its antioxidant functions, selenium appears to protect your body from poisons, stimulate antibodies and boost sperm motility and production in men, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.


If you are deficient in vitamin E, you can experience harmful effects like muscle weakness, anemia, thinning of your retinas and neurological problems, warns the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A selenium deficiency can increase your cancer risks, as well as cause Keshan disease of the heart, Kashin-Beck disease of the bones and joints and mental retardation due to myxedematous endemic cretinism.


The daily recommended allowance of vitamin E is 15 mg for adults and teens age 14 years and older, 19 mg for breastfeeding women, 11 mg for children age 9 to 13 years old, 7 mg for children age 4 to 8 years old and 6 mg for 1 to 3 year olds, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. You need selenium in much smaller, trace amounts. The recommended daily allowance of selenium for adults age 14 years and older is 55 mcg, children 9 to 13 years old is 40 mcg, children 4 to 8 years old is 30 mcg and toddlers 1 to 3 years old is 20 mcg, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Pregnant women should get 60 mcg of selenium each day, while breastfeeding women should get 70 mcg.


Most people get enough selenium and vitamin E from the foods that they eat, but certain people may require a supplement, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. For example, you might need to take vitamin E and selenium supplements if you have a malabsorption or digestive disorder like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. People with celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, liver disease, pancreatic enzyme deficiency or the genetic disorder abetalipoproteinemia, as well as people on dialysis or parenteral nutrition, low-birth weight infants and people who have had gastric bypass surgery can develop a vitamin E deficiency. Taking antacid medications like proton pump inhibitors can reduce your absorption of selenium. Consult your physician before you begin taking a selenium or vitamin E supplement.

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