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Know Your Nutrients

by Alison McEvoy

Our autumn issue is out now. Editor Alison McEvoy writes on the importance of Selenium and Vitamin D.  Dive on in to find out more…

Know Your Nutrients

Selenium and Vitamin D 

by Alison McEoy

“How Nature provides for me inspires me to provide back for Nature and take care of it. ”

Learning about anatomy and physiology was a wonder to me back in my yoga teacher training days. It has been invaluable to me to know about my organs, what they do, how they interact, support and rely on one another. Knowing what food agrees and disagrees with each organ/tissue was another huge leap in self-understanding.

Getting into the finer details of what the various vitamins and minerals do for us is a frontier I would like to hike over. It gives me great joy to learn ever more about how connected my body is to Nature and the Earth. How Nature provides for me inspires me to provide back for Nature and take care of it.


Selenium is found in our food and refers to an essential component of certain enzymes and proteins aka selenoproteins. It is a micronutrient, small but essential, and the body only actually needs a small amount of it for its functions to be carried out. Selenoproteins have lots of jobs throughout the body. They are stored in the muscles but the highest concentration of them is stored in the thyroid, most likely for convenience as they provide a lot of assistance with thyroid function. Just like we store our spices close to the hob, so the body likes to have its necessities within easy reach! Selenoproteins are involved in reproduction, in helping us metabolise the hormones released by the thyroid and they also help to make our DNA – a trace but vital ingredient that helps protect against cell damage and infections.

Many tests have been done that have found that people with higher levels of selenium have less tendency towards various illnesses related to both the heart and mental decline in old age. Enough said, get on the case of yours methinks! The highest sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, seafood and meat. For vegetarians and vegans, a supplement could be the way to go.

Discover…Vitamin D Vitamin D is both a nutrient we get from food and a hormone which our body makes. It has a special relationship with calcium as it helps the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorous – both essential for bone-building. When scientists have put Vitamin D under the microscope, so to speak, they have found that it’s very important indeed. It is a huge helper to the body, helping to control infections and reduce inflammation in the body when it occurs.

Vitamin D has not revealed the entire gamut of her powers to science just yet. Scientists have found that there are receptors in many of the body’s organs and tissues which seek Vitamin D, and so it potentially has a much wider impact and support range than we are currently aware of. Given that, it’s strange that few foods in fact naturally contain Vitamin D, so we need to be conscious about our intake. For most people the best way to take Vitamin D is through a supplement, and indeed for babies it is recommended that they take a supplement for the entire first year of their life.

Your body can produce Vitamin D in the presence of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, but those of us with darker skin won’t benefit as much from sun exposure as the dark pigment of the skin acts as a shade, reducing Vitamin D production. There is just so much to learn when it comes to our body’s interaction with and dependency on the world of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and the like. We realise that our kitchen has the potential to be a medicinal space, with our cupboards being daily, natural, medicine cabinets!

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