Iodine – Are you getting enough ?

Iodine Seaweed

I watched a T.V. program talking about Iodine and how the lack of it is effecting our intellectual ability.

I grew up eating regular Saxa Iodised Salt as a kid, no questions asked !!

With the new awareness surrounding foods, most people eat less salt, and more commonly people are moving away from table salt. So are you getting enough Iodine ?

I personally love seaweeds and generally consume one kind or another most days, either Nori ( I use these in nori rolls or I cut the sheets up and put them in a salad), Dulse flakes (these I add to flax crackers or sprinkle on a salad or veg, but could so easily be added to quiches or any other baked dish) Arame and Wakame (need to be soaked before adding to salads and other dishes) All very tasty and provide me with all the Iodine my body requires.

Depending on your dietary preferences, Vegan, Vegetarian, Dairy Free, etc you will need to tweak your diet to insure you are getting enough iodine, especially if you are pregnant or wanting to be.

Iodine is found in a range of foods including dairy products, seafood, kelp, eggs, bread, some vegetables and iodised salt. Our bodies need iodine for the development of essential thyroid hormones. The thyroid is a gland in the throat that regulates many metabolic processes, such as growth and energy use. If you don’t have enough iodine in your diet, it can lead to an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) or other iodine deficiency disorders.

Iodine deficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable intellectual disability or mental retardation in children. All women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering becoming pregnant should ask their health professional for advice about their individual dietary needs.

Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism

The thyroid hormones regulate the body’s metabolic rate and promote growth and development throughout the body, including the brain. If there isn’t enough thyroid hormone circulating in the blood, the brain (via the pituitary gland) sends a chemical message (thyroid stimulating hormone) to the thyroid gland, which then releases a measured dose of these hormones.

The two main thyroid hormones, thyroxine and triiodothyronine, are synthesised from the amino acid tyrosine in combination with iodide. Thyroxine (T4) contains four iodine atoms and triiodothyronine (T3) contains three. If a person’s diet is too low in iodine, the thyroid gland gets larger and larger in an attempt to make more thyroid hormone. This overgrowth of the thyroid gland is called goitre.

Long-term deficiency can be serious

An enlarged thyroid gland, or goitre, isn’t the only side effect of not having enough iodine in the diet. If the deficiency is long term, hypothyroidism develops. Symptoms include dry skin, hair loss, fatigue and slowed reflexes.

Goitres can also increase the risk of thyroid cancer. Goitre can be associated with hyperthyroidism, a condition in which too much thyroid hormone is produced.

Iodine deficiency in babies and children

In the developing fetus, baby or young child, the effects of iodine deficiency are serious. They include stunted growth, diminished intelligence and retardation. Lack of iodine is a major problem in developing countries. It is the world’s number one cause of preventable intellectual disability in children. There is evidence that some levels of iodine deficiency may be too mild to cause goitre but may still retard brain development.

In Australia, studies conducted over the last decade in Victoria and New South Wales (where approximately 60 per cent of the Australian population lives) indicate the presence of mild-to-moderate iodine deficiency in all groups tested. Western Australia and Queensland appear to have adequate intakes, while South Australia is borderline.

Iodine fortification of bread in Australia

Since October 2009, iodised salt has replaced non-iodised salt in all bread sold in Australia (except organic bread). This is in line with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) mandatory iodine fortification regulation, introduced to help address the re-emergence of iodine deficiency across most of the population. International guidance and experience have shown that using iodised salt is one of the best ways to reduce iodine deficiency and adding it to bread is the easiest way to add extra iodine to the food supply.

Bread fortified with iodised salt can provide enough iodine to avoid low thyroid activity for most people, without the need to add iodised salt to their diet. Salt contributes to hypertension (high blood pressure) and there are efforts globally to encourage people to eat less salt by avoiding adding salt in cooking and at the table.

How much iodine do we need?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for iodine depends on your age and life stage. The amount we need is very small (around one teaspoonful over a lifetime for most adults) when compared to other nutrients and is measured in micrograms (mcg, or µg):

  • Younger children (1 to 8 years) – 90µg
  • Older children (9 to 13 years, boys and girls) – 120µg
  • Adolescents (14 to 18 years) – 150µg
  • Men – 150µg
  • Women – 150µg
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding – 220µg and 270µg respectively.

If you don’t get enough iodine in your diet, you may need to consider taking a supplement. For most people, an additional 50µg per day would be ample.

Iodine intake in Australia has dropped

Low dietary levels of iodine were thought to be a problem in the past or in developing countries only. However, some researchers suspect that iodine intake levels in Australia have dropped considerably, perhaps by as much as half, over the past few decades. Ongoing research is underway to look at the problem and what might be done about it.

Some reasons for low iodine intake may include:

  • Consuming most of our salt in processed foods as manufactures do not used iodised salt in processed foods (and, until recently, in bread)
  • Less iodine in milk because of changes in treatment methods
  • A possible reduction of iodine levels in Australian soils
  • A reduction in the use of salt in cooking and table salt (particularly iodised salt).

How to get enough iodine in your diet

The best way to get the nutrients your body needs is as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Some suggestions to make sure you get the required daily amount of iodine include:

  • Seafood – dietitians recommend two to three meals of seafood per week to get the beneficial fish oils. Eating fish twice a week will also provide most adults with enough iodine to fulfil their average iodine requirement.
  • Bread – is now made using iodised salt in Australia. Organic breads and ‘no added salt’ breads are the only exceptions to this rule.
  • Seaweed (kelp), dairy products and eggs – provide additional dietary sources of iodine.
  • Some vegetables – may contain iodine, but only if they are grown in iodine-rich soils.
  • Supplements – may be necessary if your dietary intake is inadequate. Many multivitamin capsules and tablets supply 100–150µg of iodine.

Although it comes from the ocean, sea salt is not a good source of iodine. Take care when choosing seafood as some fish may contain high levels of mercury or chemicals (such as PCBs) from inland waterways.

Pregnancy and iodine

Pregnant women need higher levels of iodine, as lack of this nutrient can retard normal development in a baby. Eating two serves of seafood each week will not be enough to meet a woman’s iodine requirements during pregnancy – you would need to eat almost nine cans of tuna a day to reach the recommended level (220mcg, or micrograms). In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that all women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering pregnancy take an iodine supplement of 150mcg each day to make sure their needs are met.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or considering becoming pregnant, ask your registered medical doctor (GP) for advice about your individual daily needs. In particular, women with pre-existing thyroid conditions should not take iodine supplements until they have checked with their doctor.

Seafood is a valuable source of iodine, but pregnant women or women intending to become pregnant within the next six months should take care to avoid seafood that may contain large amounts of mercury. Mercury can be passed through the placenta and may affect the brain development of your baby. Some fish that contain high levels of mercury include shark, orange roughy, swordfish and ling.

Vegetarian diet

Vegetarians can get iodine from bread, seaweed and some soymilks that include extracts of seaweed.

  • Things to remember
  • Dietary iodine is needed to make essential thyroid hormones.
  • Not enough iodine in the diet can cause mental retardation and stunted growth in children and an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre) in adults.
  • Good sources of iodine include bread fortified with iodised salt and any type of seafood, including seaweed.
  • Young children should avoid eating salt added at the table or in cooking

Healthy food sources of Iodine

1. Sea vegetables

Iodine Foods - Kelp

The ocean hosts the largest storehouse for iodine foods, including Kelp, Arame, Hiziki, Kombu, and Wakame. Kelp has the highest amount of iodine on the planet and one serving offers 4 times more than a daily minimum requirement. 1 tablespoon of Kelp contains about 2000/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Arame contains about 730/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Hiziki contains about 780/mcg of iodine, 1 one inch piece of Kombu contains about 1450/mcg of iodine, 1 tablespoon of Wakame contains about 80/mcg of iodine. I recommend sprinkling them in soups or on salads.

2. Cranberries

This antioxidant rich fruit is another great source of iodine. About 4 ounces of cranberries contain approximately 400/mcg of iodine. I would recommend buying fresh organic berries or juice. If you buy cranberry juice from the store, be cautious of how much sugar is in it.

3. Organic Yogurt

Probiotic Foods - Yougurt

A natural probiotic, yogurt is an excellent iodine food you should add to your diet. One serving holds more than half of your daily needs. 1 cup contains approximately 90/mcg of iodine. Other than yogurt, here is a list of probiotic foods you should think about incorporating into your diet for added health benefits.

4. Organic Navy Beans

Many beans are a great food source of iodine, but navy beans may top the list. Just 1/2 cup of these beans contain about 32/mcg of iodine. Beans aren’t just an iodine food, they are also incredibly high in fiber.

5. Organic Strawberries

Organic Strawberry

This tasty red fruit packs up to 10% of our daily iodine needs in a single serving. 1 cup of fresh strawberries has approximately 13/mcg of iodine. Try buying fresh, organic strawberries from your local farmer’s market.

6. Himalayan Crstal Salt

This form of salt, also known as gray salt, is an excellent source of naturally-occuring iodine. While many types of table salt are iodine-enriched, they are also stripped of all their natural health properties, and are chemically processed. Just one gram of himalayan salt contains approximately 500/mcg of iodine.

7. Dairy products

Dairy Products

Milk and cheese are good sources of iodine, with one cup of milk holding around 55/mcg. To avoid many of the negative digestive effects of eating cow’s milk and cheese, I personally would recommend opting for raw organic goat’s milk and goat’s cheese; a healthier alternative for extracting iodine from dairy.

8. Potatoes

The common potato is an easy addition to most meals, and is one of the richest sources of iodine in the vegetable kingdom. With the skin, one medium-sized baked potato holds 60/mcg of iodine.

Iodine Supplements

If you’re not a fan of the iodine foods listed above, then you can always take an iodine supplement. There are many different types of iodine supplements on the market, so knowing the differences between each is wise. I recommend a transformative nano-colloidal detoxified nascent iodine supplement, which the body is able to rapidly turn into its own effective mineral iodides for maximum absorption.


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