In this article you will learn:
- What Iodine is
- Why we need it
- Iodine deficiency
- Best sources of iodine
- Recommended Daily Intake
What is Iodine?
Iodine is a chemical element found in the the food we eat. Iodine was one of the first minerals to be considered essential for the body to function optimally. It is required for the healthy function of the human body and brain.
Why we need it?
Our thyroid uses iodine to make hormones. Now you may think hormones are a bad thing – especially when they get all mixed up and we get a little crazy, but hormones are essential to life. Hormones play a role in the regulation of various metabolic processes.
Iodine benefits include the healthy uptake of oxygen in the blood, which helps to maintain (and improve) our metabolic rate.
Iodine deficiency, or low iodine levels, can lead to weight gain, lethargy, intolerance to cold, increased blood cholesterol, mental fogginess and reduced heart function. Other iodine deficiency symptoms can include dry skin and constipation.
The world’s leading cause of preventable intellectual disability in children is iodine deficiency.
Long term iodine deficiency can lead to goitre as the thyroid gland enlarges in an attempt to produce more hormones. Iodine deficiency has also been linked to Hashimotos and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Sources Of Iodine
Processed foods typically have more iodine than unprocessed foods due to the addition of iodized salt during the production process.
Legislation in 2009 in Australia and New Zealand mandated that commercial bakers use iodised salt in bread and since then all commercially baked bread (except organic bread) uses iodised salt. If you are a bread eater, and you eat commercially baked bread that is not organic, you will get some of your iodine requirements from bread.
Other foods with iodine include animal products due to the supplementation of iodine in animal feed. Plant based sources are reliant on the iodine in soils but that doesn’t mean those on plant based diets need to consume iodine supplements.
Another option for iodine fortified foods are plant milks fortified with iodine. You can identify this type of product by looking for potassium iodide in the list of ingredients.
Plant foods containing iodine include wholegrains, green beans, zucchinis, kale, spring greens, watercress, strawberries and organic potatoes with skin. However, amounts tend to be low and variable depending on how much iodine is in the soil.
For most people, regular use of small amounts of powdered or crumbled seaweed added to soups, stews, salads, pasta dishes or used as a condiment, are an excellent way to ensure a good iodine intake.
A healthy vegan diet containing a wide range of vegetables, with some occasional seaweed and/or seaweed salt should supply sufficient iodine.
Good food sources of Iodine
Seaweed salt is an excellent source of iodine. Changing Habits make a seaweed salt which is combines pure Himalayan salt enriched with dulse powder. Dulse is a seaweed. The benefits of seaweed salt is not only the iodine, but the other minerals and trace elements like magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Seaweed salt is an easy way to get the iodine you need. Find it here.
Other iodine rich foods include nori, kelp and wakeme.
Other foods that contain iodine are kelp noodles which are also gluten, wheat and sugar free.
Dulse flakes sprinkled on salads and savoury meals are an easy way to get iodine.
Another option is to cut nori sheets into small strips and put on top of salads.
What about sea salt?
The problem with sea salt is that our oceans are incredibly polluted and levels of iodine tend to be low in the salt that is harvested from the ocean, hence the need to fortify them with iodine.
The alternative is Himalyan salt. It is a rock salt found below the salt mountains in the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan.
What is iodised salt?
Iodised salt is regular sea salt fortified with iodine. Again, the issue of purity compared to Himalayan salt comes up.
Recommended Daily Intake
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for iodine depends on your age and life stage.
It is measured in micrograms (mcg, or µg). A microgram is a millionth of a gram, so we need only a very small amount, but getting that small amount is vital.
Requirements for various age groups are:
- younger children (1 to 8 years) – 90 mcg
- older children (9 to 13 years, boys and girls) – 120 mcg
- adolescents (14 to 18 years) – 150 mcg
- men – 150 mcg
- women – 150 mcg
- during pregnancy and breastfeeding – 220 mcg and 270 mcg respectively.
I am not a nutritionist or dietician. I enjoy a healthy vegan diet and therefore do not consume animal based sources of iodine.
Since starting on a plant based diet over 9 years ago I have researched plant based sources of essential vitamins, minerals, micro and macro nutrients and this article is a result of my research on iodine.
This article has come through my own research and curiosity. Seek appropriate medical advice if you need more specific information for your needs.