Signs, Symptoms and Selenium
It’s not just what you eat. It’s how it gets there.
Eater’s Digest, from Replenish PDX is one eater’s monthly reflection on the journey of her food.
This month: mining key minerals from your food
Though we’ll be shifting our focus to the importance of digestion fairly soon (I know it’s a topic near and dear to your heart), I’m not quite done waxing on about the beauty of the butterfly nestled within your neck.
If you’re thinking, I don’t have Hashimoto’s, I don’t need to read this. Think again! There are so many factors that affect thyroid health and that ultimately affect you.
That’s why when I talk about thyroid health, I’m talking to you, whether you have issues with thyroid hormone production or not.
Thyroid health isn’t just of concern to those of us with diagnosed thyroid concerns. . .
We all have a thyroid (as long as, for some reason, it has not been removed). And we all want it to function properly. Believe me, we do.
Just like you don’t think about the big toe on your left foot and how you need it to be able to walk until you stub it, or consider your molars and how they help you grind and chew your food until you have a tooth infection, the thyroid is one of those things we tend to ignore until it let’s us know, quite clearly with a number of signs and symptoms that we can’t.
Why should you care about the health of your thyroid?
Let’s look at the main functions of your thyroid and the hormones it produces:
- your thyroid is the primary control center for your metabolism
- your thyroid impacts growth rate if you’re young
- your thyroid helps you to breakdown and utilize the carbohydrates and fats you eat
- your thyroid aids in the conversion of beta-carotene from your plant foods into the fat-soluble vitamin A ~ necessary for proper immune, inflammatory, genetic and reproductive health
- your thyroid affects your cholesterol levels, your blood pressure, your appetite, your mental sharpness, your libido and so much more
You want that baby working for you!
And it’s not a flick of a switch that takes the thyroid from functional to non-functional.
Stress, toxins, autoimmune conditions, infections, certain medication, flouride and deficiency in specific nutrients can all inhibit the necessary production of thyroid hormones. (Oh my.) The dysfunction will creep up on you like the first day of school after summer break.
There are a few key nutrients to consider for thyroid health and today’s topic focuses in on one of those that’s often overlooked for thyroid health and beyond.
This key nutrient is selenium.
Selenium is an antioxidant, a critical constituent in the production of thyroid hormones, and plays a vital role in the conversion of the primary thyroid hormone (T4) to the more bio-active thyroid hormone (T3). Selenium also counteracts the oxidative stress and inflammation that can come from an excess of iodine (and its by-products) surrounding the thyroid tissue.
When I co-taught an ‘Eat to Beat Cancer’ class years ago, foods high in selenium were at the top of the list. Selenium has several important functions in the body beyond the thyroid, and in today’s stressful climate, many of us are deficient in this important nutrient.
Selenium prevents against oxidative stress ~ which has been identified as a contributing factor in heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer, among other things.
And speaking of top of the list, Brazil nuts are at the tip top of the list of selenium-rich foods.
For years now I’ve recommend that people add Brazil nuts to their diet.
Perhaps two or three to start the day, or the same quantity carried in their purse or pocket for a mid-day snack. You may be thinking of the old, dry rancid Brazil nuts that you snacked around from the nut mix at your grandma’s house. But I’m talking about fresh succulent Brazil nuts, crispy and buttery.
When armed with the best Brazil nuts, the recipient of my advice will inevitably come back to tell me that they love the Brazil nuts so much that they can’t stop eating them.
My response: take two!
If selenium is so great, why not eat a whole bag of Brazil nuts?
While there are many lifestyle and environmental factors that lead to unwanted selenium deficiency, selenium toxicity is not desirable either. It’s not a danger that many of us need to worry about, but regular consumption of mass quantities of Brazil nuts could, overtime, lead to adverse symptoms due to their high mineral stores. (Not to mention that a large quantity may deliver more calories than most of us want or need.)
Enjoy a recipe such as the tapenade below that incorporates the flavor and texture of these unique nuts. Otherwise, take two! (Two Brazil nuts a day that is). Note: Brazil nuts should be eaten raw, sprouted (soaked in water for an hour or two), or dry-roasted without salt.
If you make one change to your diet today… take two! (Brazil nuts that is.)
Brazil Nut Tapenade
This is a very rich tapenade that can be served atop crostini, mixed with pasta like a pesto, or massaged into hearty greens. The richness depends on the intensity of the olives ~ use a milder olive for a mellower taste.
Igredients (all organic)
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked about 2 hours in advance of preparation (or use oil-packed and drain)
- 3/4 cup pitted black olives
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup raw Brazil nuts
- 1/2 cup cold-pressed olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, squeezed
- sea salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the tapenade is chunky.
yields approximately 1-1/2 cups
Note: If your Brazil nuts taste rancid, they probably are. Most people have never experienced these nuts before they go bad. What a shame! A Brazil nut should taste creamy, sweet and sometimes even a little smokey.
Talk to the buyer at your local health food store or co-op and find out how their Brazil nuts are being sourced, stored and how long they sit on the shelf.
I like to buy mine from a trusted source and keep them in the freezer. Popping two or three Brazil nuts from the freezer is a great treat!