Including iodine rich foods in your diet can be an excellent way to obtain this essential trace mineral. Iodine is one of the main nutrients essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Sufficient iodine intake is critical during and after pregnancy. It also plays a role in immune response and is key for regulating protein synthesis and other metabolic activities. During pregnancy, iodine is crucial for proper fetal development. In the years after birth, it is necessary for proper physical and neurological growth.

Iodine Deficiency

While the use of iodized salt has almost completely resolved the issue of iodine deficiency, it still remains a significant problem in countries where iodized salt is not commonly consumed. Individuals at risk of iodine deficiency also include those living in regions with iodine-deficient soils, those with inadequate intake who eat foods high in goitrogens, individuals who don’t use iodized salt, vegetarians/vegans, and pregnant women.

Deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation and may lead to goiter and eventually hypothyroidism. It has also been linked by some studies to breast and stomach cancer. Deficiency during pregnancy can certainly be the most devastating, resulting in irreversible issues such as intellectual disability, stunted growth, and other physical and neurological abnormalities.

Iodine Intake Levels

The International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD), the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF recommend these daily amounts:

  • Birth to 6 months – 110mcg
  • 7 – 12 months – 130mcg
  • 1-8 years – 90mcg
  • 9-13 years – 120mcg
  • 14 years and older – 150mcg
  • Pregnant and lactating women – 250mcg

Supplements Or Food

Like plenty of other supplements, it’s important to pay attention to how much you take if you choose to supplement. Taking too much iodine, or regularly eating too many iodine rich foods, can exacerbate issues in individuals with existing thyroid issues. According to the American Thyroid Association, individuals who live in regions with inadequate iodine should also be careful, as their thyroids can become efficient at utilizing small amounts of iodine. This could make them more susceptible to developing hyperthyroidism as a result of increasing their iodine intake.

If you’re pregnant, or planning on getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor to see where your iodine levels are and address any iodine deficiencies you may have. Anyone with thyroid issues should also consult with their doctor prior to supplementing with iodine.

Iodine Rich Foods

While iodized salt is the main source of iodine for most folks, it may not be the most ideal. It’s highly refined, which results in most beneficial trace minerals being removed, and various anti-caking agents added. As with just about any other food, highly processed/refined generally equates to less than ideal for an optimal diet. 

Whole food sources of iodine include seafood, sea vegetables, eggs, dairy (if you tolerate it) and some vegetables/fruits (the iodine level can vary depending on the soil where they were grown).