Iodine is one of the vital nutrients for our body.
The main role of iodine s to regulate thyroid function and support a healthy metabolism.
The problem is many adults do not consume enough foods with iodine, and the result is deficiency in one of the important minerals for our body 1.
Iodine is present in just about every organ and tissue.
Almost every system in our body needs iodine to function properly.
The mineral helps keep us alive and energized.
The problem is more than 50% of the Western population is iodine deficient 2.
Here are six important reasons why you need more foods with iodine in your diet:
- Supports thyroid health
- Prevent impaired growth and development in children
- Helps in cancer prevention
- Preserves skin health
- Maintains healthy brain function
- Helps control body temperature and sweating
Signs of iodine deficiency
As mentioned previously, nearly 50% of the Western population is iodine deficient.
Looking further, one-third of the world population is at risk of deficiency, especially those living in areas that have small amount of iodine in the soil 3.
Here are some of the signs of iodine deficiency:
- Swollen salivary glands
- Dry mouth
- Trouble producing saliva
- Trouble properly digesting food
- Skin problems, most notably dry skin
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Poor concentration and difficulty retaining information
- Increased risk for thyroid problems
- Increased risk for fibrosis
- Higher risk for development problems in babies and children
In most cases, people that consume low amounts of iodine have troubles associated with the thyroid gland.
But there are also other potential hormonal risks.
There is also “too much iodine”, which can also translate in thyroid disruptions 4.
However, it is much less common and considered a relatively small risk.
There are several reasons and factors why people do not get enough iodine.
For starters, they do not consume enough foods with iodine.
Other factors include exposure to certain chemicals found in processed foods that can reduce iodine absorption, and a depletion in the amount of iodine found in soils.
Research in the past several years points that the soil has been depleted.
In some areas, there is much less iodine in the soil, affecting the quantity of iodine within crops.
Because of that, there are now salt iodization programs, aiming to reduce the rate of iodine deficiency 5.
But the safest and surest way to reduce iodine deficiency is to consume more foods with iodine.
How much iodine you need?
Developed by the Food and Nutrition Boart at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the iodine recommendations are given as dietary reference intakes 6.
With that in mind, here are some of the values:
- Infants up to 6 months – 110 micrograms
- Infants between 7 and 12 months – 130 micrograms
- Children between 1 and 8 years – 90 micrograms
- Children between 9 and 13 years – 120 micrograms
- Young adults between 14 and 18 years – 150 micrograms
- Adults – 150 micrograms
- Pregnant women – 220 micrograms
- Breastfeeding women – 290 micrograms
As mentioned, the best way to meet these recommended amounts is to consume foods with iodine 7.
Avoid fortified foods, and focus more on foods that naturally contain this important mineral.
What to eat?
When it comes to natural sources of iodine, nothing can beat seaweed.
In addition to iodine, seaweed is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
And on top of that, it is low in calories.
The amount of iodine can vary depending on the type of seaweed.
Here are some of the more popular options:
- Kelp contains 2000mcg of iodine in 1 tablespoon
- Arame contains 730mcg of iodine in 1 tablespoon
- Kombu contains 1450mg of iodine in one inch
- Wakame contains 80mcg of iodine in 1 tablespoon
- Hiziki contains 780mcg of iodine in 1 tablespoon
You can sprinkle seaweed into soups or salads to get your daily recommended dose of iodine.
A versatile white fish that is delicate in texture and has a mild flavor, cod is one of the best fish sources of iodine.
The best part is cod is low in fat and calories, making it a great dietary meal.
One serving of 3 ounces of cod contains between 60 and 100mcg of iodine, which is more than half of the daily recommended value.
The value depends on whether the fish was farm-raised or wild-caught.
In American diets, dairy products are the best and most common sources of iodine.
The amount of iodine varies depending on the content in the cattle feed and the use of iodine-containing disinfectants during milking.
When it comes to dairy products, cheeses are great option.
Among the best are cottage cheese, containing 65mcg of iodine in one cup, while cheddar provides 12mcg in the same amount.
Mozzarella is good as well.
In addition to providing iodine, yogurt is also a probiotic, ensuring balance of bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics are great for improving your overall health. In terms of iodine, one cup of yogurt delivers half of the daily recommended value.
Low in calories, rich in iodine, and great for omega-3 fatty acids, sardines are a great food you can use for snacks and quick dinner.
You can find salt with iodine and without iodine in the United States.
In the early 1920s, companies began adding iodine to the salt in order to decrease the occurrence of swelling of the thyroid gland and goiters 8.
One quarter of iodized salt contains approximately 71mcg of iodine, or 47% of the daily recommended value.
In the past few decades, however, major health organizations have tried to restrict daily sodium intake to prevent and treat high blood pressure.
As you might notice, most of the foods with iodine are found in the sea.
We had seaweed, some fish, and now shrimp.
Another low-calorie and protein-rich seafood, shrimp provides vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus in addition to iodine.
But the biggest benefit is tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which helps lower the risk of a heart disease.
Eggs can be easily considered the cheapest health food.
In one whole egg, you get a great amount of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and protein.
The majority of the nutrients are found in the yolk.
The amount of iodine in eggs can vary depending of the chicken feed.
On average, however, one large egg contains 24mcg of iodine.
Vegetarians should consume prunes as much as possible.
It is one of the best vegetarians and vegan sources of iodine.
Five dried prunes will give you 13mcg of iodine, which is almost 10% of the daily value.
Prunes also help relieve constipation because of their high fiber content.
Other key nutrients in prunes include vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and potassium.
Commonly associated with Native American dish succotash, lima beans are a good source of fiber, folate, and magnesium.
Same as prunes, lima beans are a great source of iodine for vegetarians and vegans, delivering 16mcg of iodine in one cup of cooked beans.