Why is Iodine so important? Iodine is a mineral that is essential for proper thyroid function. Iodine, when combined with the amino acid tyrosine, produces vital thyroid hormones that control our metabolism, enzyme and protein synthesis, and are essential in the development of the skeletal and central nervous systems of developing fetuses.
Iodine deficiency Fortification of salt with iodine occurred in 1924 when we were experiencing an epidemic of “goiters” or enlarged thyroid glands. Thyroids become enlarged in an effort to absorb more iodine from the bloodstream. Besides hypothyroidism and goiters, iodine deficiencies have been linked to mental retardation and neurodevelopmental disorders in children, mental and physical impairment in adults, increased risk of thyroid cancer, and some research suggests that there may be a link between iodine deficiency and fibrocystic breast disease.
Food sources Iodized salt, for the most part, is the main source of iodine in our diet. Table salt usage is decreasing and with our new dietary guidelines encouraging less table salt consumption, we are at risk of inadequate iodine intake. So, where else can we get iodine in the diet?
7 Foods Rich in Iodine
Sea vegetables – Sea vegetables, or seaweeds, are the kings of iodine – which makes sense, since iodine ions mainly concentrate in oceans and saltwater pools. Though all sea vegetables are rich in iodine, perhaps the greatest source is bladderwrack. 50 grams of dried bladderwrack contain over 100 percent of our recommended daily intake (RDI) of iodine.
Himalayan salt – Though many people meet their RDI of iodine through iodized table salt, I cannot recommend it since table salt (sodium chloride) is toxic to the human body, and the iodine with which it is fortified is inorganic and synthetic. Instead, favor real salt such as unrefined sea salt or – better yet – Himalayan salt. Half a gram of Himalayan salt contains a full spectrum of 84 trace minerals, including 250 micrograms of iodine (or 167 percent of our RDI). The great thing about real salt is that it can be added to almost any meal. Simply sprinkle it atop your food and you’ll never have to worry about iodine again.
Fish – Most fish and seafood are good sources of iodine. One three-ounce serving of cod, for instance, provides us with 99 micrograms of iodine (or 66 percent of our RDI). Another great source is shrimp (three-ounces provides us with 23 percent of our RDI). Even processed fish foods such as Fish Sticks and Fish Fingers contain small amounts of iodine, though I don’t recommend them for obvious reasons.
Baked potatoes – Baked potatoes are one of the best land-based source of iodine, but please remember that soil quality plays an important role here. Generally speaking, one medium-sized baked potato with skin contains approximately 60 micrograms of iodine, or 40 percent of our RDI. Organically-farmed potatoes, grown on nutrient-rich soil, often contain more.
Plain yogurt – Though yogurt is best-known for its calcium and protein content, this curdled milk product is also surprisingly rich in iodine. One cup of yogurt provides us with 90 micrograms of it, or 60 percent of our RDI. For comparison, one cup of milk contains 56 micrograms of iodine.
Navy beans – Beans are highly nutritious, and can be found in many “foods richest in” lists. Iodine is no exception. Half a cup of cooked navy beans, for example, provides us with 32 micrograms of iodine, or 21 percent of our RDI. Other good sources include lima beans, string beans, and soybeans.
Other decent sources of iodine include turkey breasts, boiled eggs, dried prunes, strawberries, and cranberries.
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