The Best Vegan Sources of Selenium, Ranked by a Dietitian

If you’re new to veganism, knowing how to get the right balance of nutrients can feel overwhelming. It’s challenging enough learning what foods to eat, but getting the right nutrition is essential for sustaining a vegan diet long-term.

Selenium is one nutrient you may have heard is difficult for vegans to get enough of. Is this true? Can vegans get enough selenium from food alone? Selenium isn’t listed on nutrition facts labels, so it can be difficult to know how much selenium you’re getting.

As a registered dietitian, I’ll discuss everything you need to know about this important mineral and provide a helpful list of the best vegan sources of selenium.

Spoonful of Brazil nuts on a wooden table with text overlay reading "the best vegan sources of selenium"

What is selenium?

Selenium is a trace mineral found naturally in soil. Trace minerals are needed in relatively small amounts, but are essential for good health. The body requires selenium for reproductive health, thyroid function, immunity, fighting oxidative stress and inflammation, and DNA synthesis.

Plants absorb varying amounts of selenium depending on the amount of selenium present in the soil, the soil pH, and whether the form of selenium present is easily absorbed by plants, among other factors. Because of this, a crop grown in one country may have different levels of selenium compared to the same plant grown in another part of the world.

Selenium is considered a “nutrient of concern” for vegans since it can be slightly challenging to get enough of it if you aren’t intentional with your food choices.

Fresh bowtie pasta and fettuccine on a blue countertop

The 20 best vegan sources of selenium

Let’s jump into the top vegan food sources of selenium! Selenium content can vary based on where a plant was grown, so these values may not be accurate in every country. I’ve based this list on the USDA FoodData Central database to provide you with as accurate a list as possible.

1. Brazil nuts: 68-91 mcg per nut

2. Pasta, enriched or unenriched (1 cup): 30 mcg 

3. Brown rice (1 cup cooked): 19 mcg

4. Cremini mushrooms (1 cup): 18.7 mcg

5. Sunflower seeds (¼ cup): 18.5 mcg 

6. Portabella mushrooms (1 cup): 16 mcg 

7. Chia seeds (1 oz): 15.6 mcg

8. Firm tofu (⅕ block): 14 mcg 

9. Barley (1 cup cooked): 13.5 mcg

10. Whole wheat bread (1 slice): 13 mcg 

11. Baked beans, canned (1 cup): 13 mcg

12. Oatmeal (1 cup): 13 mcg

13. Flax seeds (¼ cup whole): 11 mcg

14. Sunflower seed kernels (1 oz): 10 mcg

15. White mushrooms (1 cup): 6.5 mcg

16. Chickpeas (1 cup): 6 mcg 

17. Lentils (1 cup): 6 mcg 

18. White bread (1 slice): 6 mcg

19. Grits (1 cup): 6 mcg

20. Quinoa (1 cup cooked): 5 mcg 

How much selenium do vegans need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults in the United States is 55 micrograms of selenium per day. This is the average amount needed to meet the selenium needs of healthy adults. A tall man may need a little more selenium than a petite woman, but 55 micrograms should be enough for most people.

There isn’t any evidence suggesting that vegans need more or less selenium than omnivores, so the RDA is appropriate for vegan diets.

Note that selenium requirements increase to 60 micrograms per day during pregnancy and 70 micrograms per day during breastfeeding.

An important caveat about eating Brazil nuts – because they’re so high in selenium, it’s best to avoid eating handfuls of them. Eating more than 400 micrograms of selenium every day (the amount in 4-6 nuts) can cause selenium toxicity1 and result in hair loss and brittle nails. 

Keep in mind that you also get selenium from other foods, so a good guideline is to limit Brazil nuts to no more than two per day.

RELATED: Vegan Diets and Hair Loss – What You Need to Know

Are vegans at risk of selenium deficiency?

Research2 suggests that vegans have lower selenium intakes than omnivores and pescatarians, but that they’re very close to meeting the RDA. 

Vegans most at risk of selenium deficiency are those who don’t regularly eat nutrient-dense foods. Diets too heavy in sweets and ultra-processed or fried snacks like chips and fries may not provide enough selenium.

To best meet their overall nutrient needs, vegans should eat a nutrient-dense diet with plenty of whole fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, grains, and healthy fats. Including the specific types of nuts, seeds, whole grains, soy foods, and beans listed above can help provide enough selenium3.

It’s best to eat most of your grains in the form of whole grains, which provide extra vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, but some refined grains like pasta and white bread do surprisingly provide a decent amount of selenium. 

Because of the risk of selenium toxicity, I don’t recommend that vegans take selenium supplements. If you track your food intake in an app or website and know that you don’t usually get enough selenium, it’s better (and more affordable) to incorporate a couple more selenium-rich foods into your regular meals.

Two bowls of lentil barley soup with toasted bread and fresh cilantro sprigs on a gray granite countertop

Sample selenium-rich meal plan

I’ve included a sample vegan meal plan and highlighted the selenium-rich foods to show how a well-planned vegan diet can provide all the selenium you need, even without Brazil nuts!

Breakfast: Mushroom Tofu Scramble with Avocado Toast

  • ⅕ block tofu: 14 mcg
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms: 19 mcg
  • 1 slice whole wheat toast: 13 mcg

Lunch: Lentil Barley Vegetable Soup

  • 1 cup lentils: 6 mcg
  • ½ cup barley: 7 mcg

Dinner: Chickpea Curry over Brown Rice

  • 1 cup chickpeas: 6 mcg
  • 3/4 cup brown rice: 14 mcg


As you can see, a nutrient-dense day of eating can provide plenty of selenium, enough even for lactating women who have the highest selenium needs.


Overall, the best vegan sources of selenium tend to be certain nuts, seeds, mushrooms, whole grains, and legumes. Brazil nuts stand out as the very best source of selenium, with a single nut providing more selenium than you need in an entire day. 

A vegan diet can provide 100% of your selenium needs as long as you’re intentional about including selenium-rich grains, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, and/or seeds in your diet. One way to see if you’re getting enough selenium is to track your food intake for a week on an app or website. This will help determine whether you need to add more selenium-rich foods to your diet.

Eating half a Brazil nut every day or one Brazil nut every few days is a quick, easy way for most people to get enough selenium when combined with other foods in the diet. Just don’t go overboard with them!


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The scientific information in this article was accurate at the time of publishing but may change over time as new research becomes available.


  1. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Selenium – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. NIH website. Accessed 12/11/23.
  2. Bakaloudi DR, Halloran A, Rippin HL, et al. Intake and adequacy of the vegan diet. A systematic review of the evidence. Clin Nutr. 2021;40(5):3503-3521. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2020.11.035
  3. Jakše B. Placing a Well-Designed Vegan Diet for Slovenes. Nutrients. 2021;13(12):4545. Published 2021 Dec 18. doi:10.3390/nu13124545

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