Selenium needs for kids. Wondering where to find selenium on a plant-based diet? Here are some vegan sources of selenium, plus how much selenium per day to aim for.
We get a lot of questions about how to make sure your babes are getting enough important nutrients in a plant-based diet. And we love to answer them!
Remember that as long as your child is consuming a wide variety of healthy whole plant foods, and supplementing where needed, it’s generally unlikely that they will experience a major nutritional deficiency.
However, it’s always helpful to understand where certain nutrients come from, and how much your child needs so that you can plan accordingly and offer nutrient-rich foods on a regular basis.
What is Selenium?
Selenium is an essential mineral for numerous processes in the body. It’s also a cofactor involved in regulating enzymes.
Selenium has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity and helps keep muscles and tissues healthy, including those of the heart, skin, and blood vessels.
How Much Selenium Does My Child Need?
Below are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), or general daily needs, for selenium from birth through age 18:
- 0-6 months: 15 mcg
- 7-12 months: 20 mcg
- 1-3 years: 20 mcg
- 4-8 years: 30 mcg
- 9-13 years: 40 mcg
- 14-18 years: 55 mcg
It’s not recommended to get much more than these amounts, due to the potential for toxicity. For babies and toddlers, the tolerable upper limit for selenium is 45-60 mcg per day.
Getting too much selenium can lead to side effects over time, like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, as well as fatigue, itchy skin, hair loss, weakened nails, tooth discoloration, and even a breath odor that smells like garlic.
Selenium is pretty standard to find in many multivitamin with mineral supplements, including ones made for kids. If you’re concerned about your child’s selenium intake and they’re taking a multivitamin, just check the label to make sure it’s included.
Interestingly, one 2015 prospective cohort study found that when mamas have a low selenium status during pregnancy, this may negatively affect the child’s cognitive status by the time they reach 1.5 years of age.
As such, it’s a good idea to pay attention to prenatal selenium intake as well. Pregnant women should get 60 mcg per day, and the amount increases to 70 mcg per day while breastfeeding.
A true deficiency of selenium is rare in developed countries.
However, some of the potential signs of a lack of selenium can include muscle weakness and discomfort, as well as a noticeable lightening of the fingernail beds.
For young kids, selenium deficiency can make iodine deficiency worse but again, this is uncommon unless you live in a selenium-deficient region.
If you’re concerned about selenium intake, it’s always best to speak with your child’s pediatrician and/or a registered dietitian for individually tailored guidance.
Foods High in Selenium
How much selenium is actually in foods like grains and vegetables depends largely on the soil in which they’re grown.
Some of the best sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, organ meats, and seafood. Other animal products like cottage cheese, poultry, and eggs are also good sources.
However, if you’re looking for more vegan sources of selenium, don’t worry! There are plenty, including:
- Wheat germ, 1/4 cup: 18 mcg
- Oatmeal, 1/2 cup cooked: 6 mcg
- Whole wheat bread, 1 slice: 9 mcg
- Brown rice, 1/2 cup cooked: 6 mcg
- Mushrooms, 1/4 cup: 1.5 mcg
- Baked beans, 1/2 cup vegetarian: 6 mcg
- Sunflower seeds, 1 oz without shells: 22 mcg
- Lentils, 1/2 cup canned: 3 mcg
- Bananas, 1 raw: 2 mcg
- Cashews, 1 oz unsalted: 3 mcg
- Enriched cereals: varies
A Note on Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are such concentrated sources of selenium that you have to be careful not to overdo it with these. In fact, one single Brazil nut contains around 96 mcg of selenium, which far exceeds the daily needs for kids and can add up quickly.
For this reason, it’s best to use these sparingly and instead focus on incorporating a variety of other selenium-containing foods in your child’s diet like the ones listed above. Whole Brazil nuts are a choking hazard for kids under age 5 anyway.
We hope that’s helpful in determining how to meet selenium needs for kids and how much selenium per day they need. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find selenium on a plant-based diet, and there are plenty of good vegan sources of selenium that you can rotate into your family’s meals.
Chime In: What selenium-rich foods does your family currently eat, and which ones can you add?
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