Selenium for Immunity

Just 100 grams of Meadows’ mushrooms will provide around a third of your daily requirement of selenium.

Selenium is important for the immune system. It is an important part of your body's antioxidant systems to protect cells from damage.

Mushrooms are the richest source of selenium in the produce department. Other foods such as meat, eggs, dairy products and bread are the main sources of selenium in New Zealand diets.

It is also important for healthy hair and nails and for male fertility as it is needed for normal sperm production.

What is selenium?

Selenium (Se) is a mineral essential in small amounts, although it is toxic at high levels. You need selenium for the function of a number of enzymes, also known as selenoproteins. Selenium is present in many different forms in foods but not many fruit and vegetables

Selenium has low concentrations in most New Zealand soils. Unlike animals, plants do not appear to require selenium for survival.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are compounds in food that can help neutralise the free radicals that may cause damage to all parts of the body. The term antioxidant also includes those compounds that boost your body’s own antioxidant defence mechanisms. Selenium is required for the proper activity of a group of enzymes called glutathione peroxidases. These enzymes play a key role in the body's detoxification system and provide protection against oxidative stress.

Selenium & immunity

Adequate selenium intake is essential for you to mount a proper immune response because it is required for the function of several selenium-dependent enzymes known as selenoproteins. The immune system protects the body against infection and disease. It is a complex and integrated system of cells, tissues, and organs that have specialized roles in defending against foreign substances and pathogenic microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Selenium deficiency has been associated with impaired function of the immune system. For example, selenium deficiency appears to enhance the progression of some viral infections.

How much do we need?

The amount of selenium you need depends on your age and gender. Children need 25-50 µg per day while an adult male needs 70 µg. A serve of mushrooms can provide over 30% of your daily requirement.

What foods do we get selenium from?

Meats, eggs, dairy products and bread are the main sources of selenium in New Zealand diets.Although many foods of animal origin are good sources of selenium mushrooms are among the richest sources of selenium in the produce department. This makes them particularly important for vegetarians who don’t get them from the other key sources.

As with other trace elements, more is not necessarily better. Too much selenium can be harmful to your body, so you should take selenium supplements only when advised by your doctor and eating mushrooms is a much safer way to get your daily intake.

The latest research

A relationship between selenium concentration and depression has emerged out of University of Otago research. Too high or low selenium levels in the body appears to put young people at greater risk of depression, according to investigations by a psychology department team led by Dr Tamlin Conner. For more information visit: