Nutrient Spotlight: Iodine

Nutrient Spotlight: Iodine

Written by: Elizabeth Fay, MS, RD, CSCPCC, CNSC

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Pediatric Critical Care Nutrition, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician

The world of nutrition in the media is too often narrowly focused on energy intake and macronutrient balance, which oversimplifies the field of nutrition and the foods we eat. If we only focus on carbohydrates, fat, and protein, we give less attention to micronutrients, which are often overlooked, but vital for our bodies to function. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals, which are nutrients often taken for granted. These vitamins and minerals rarely make it on a Nutrition Facts Label or in the media about their importance. However, if we don’t consume enough of these powerful nutrients, we can show signs of deficiency and experience complications. Fortunately, our body does not need large amounts of micronutrients, just as their name implies. When we consume a varied diet with foods from all food groups, we ensure that our body receives the wide range of micronutrients it needs, without having to keep track of every microgram consumed. However, there are some micronutrients that certain populations and specific diets need to be aware of to make sure our bodies are nourished with the nutrients we need.

One of these important micronutrients is iodine. Iodine is a mineral that plays a significant role in thyroid hormones. Our thyroid hormones impact our growth, development, and metabolism. Thyroid deficiency can lead to goiters, which is an enlargement of the thyroid gland. Severe iodine deficiency can result in impaired neurological status. It’s important to mention that consuming too much iodine can also be detrimental and cause thyroid disorders as well.

Foods that contain high amounts of iodine include seafood. Other good food sources of iodine include dairy and poultry. Many Americans receive their iodine intake through iodized table salt. Now more than ever before, heart healthy nutrition is on the forefront of many people’s goals, so many people are removing salt at the dinner table and opting for salt-free alternatives. Many people are also choosing non-iodized salt versions such as sea salt and Himalayan salt. These salt varieties do not contain iodine. Although processed foods are often high in salt, food manufacturers do not typically use iodized salt during processing. This is another reason why iodine intake can be suboptimal. Restricting iodized salt in an effort to decrease high blood pressure or the risk of developing high blood pressure is a heart-healthy plan. However, the reduction of iodized salt intake can place some individuals at risk of not eating enough iodine, especially those who follow a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet. Another high-risk group of inadequate iodine intake are pregnant and lactating women. Inadequate intake during pregnancy and lactation can result in fetal hypothyroidism, impaired neurological development, and premature birth. Breastfed infants whose mothers do not consume enough iodine are also at risk for deficiency with similar symptoms.

Pregnant women require 220 mcg per day and lactating women require 390 mcg per day iodine. For pregnant and lactating women, it’s important to ensure that your prenatal multivitamin contains at least 150 mcg of iodine. Additional iodine can come from the diet in addition to the prenatal multivitamin. Since iodine plays such a significant impact on a growing baby, it’s important to ensure mom has enough intake herself. Unfortunately, not all prenatal/postnatal multivitamins contain iodine in sufficient amounts or at all! Be on the lookout on the Supplement Facts label to scan for iodine and the amount provided. For vegans, vegetarians, and those following a plant-based diet, eating sea-based foods such as seaweed can help increase iodine intake. Other food sources that contain iodine but to a lesser extent include navy beans and baked potatoes. The option to take an iodine supplement or a multivitamin that contains iodine is important and often recommended for these populations. Men and non-pregnant/lactating women need 150 mcg iodine per day. Children need 90-120 mcg iodine per day based on their age.

If you think your iodine intake may not be enough or you find it difficult to eat enough iodine in a day, talk with your Nuleeu Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or Certified Nutrition Specialist to review your intakes and evaluate if you need additional iodine or supplementation. We have a database of recipes and offer individualized meal plans to meet your own nutrition needs. Choosing iodine-rich meals and snacks can help boost your intake and support a nourishing, balanced diet . We will individualize a nutrition plan with recommendations tailored just for you to meet your specific needs.