We need iodine for the production of thyroid hormones and thyroid function, energy conversion, and many other body processes. Additionally, it may prevent cancer and be therapeutic for people with liver cancer. Iodine deficiency can cause enlarged thyroid glands and thyroid autoimmune disease which may increase the risk of thyroid cancer. A deficiency in iodine may also alter ovulation leading to infertility.
Adverse health outcomes in certain parts of the northern and western US were associated with low iodine in the early 1900s, about the same time nutrients were being stripped from our grains converting whole grain flour and rice to white versions, along with the emergence of processed and packaged food. It was believed at the time that the soil in these regions contained little to no iodine. As a result, in 1924, salt companies added iodine to their salt at the government’s request to help prevent the development of iodine deficiency health problems.
Pregnant women need iodine to control their blood pressure and to prevent stunted growth and altered brain development of the fetus. Most women don’t get enough iodine during pregnancy, and only about half of prenatal multivitamins contain any iodine at all. The National Institutes of Health states that the US RDA for women who are pregnant, lactating, or even planning a pregnancy should be increased to 220 mcg of iodine per day and 290 mcg per day for breastfeeding.
Excellent video – Supplements Before, During, and After Pregnancy at NutritionFacts.org.
Major Food Sources
Iodine is an element we can acquire through our food. These include potatoes, navy beans, black beans, grains, peas, cranberries, corn, strawberries, prunes, nuts, and nondairy milk which is often fortified with it. People typically don’t consume enough of these items to get enough iodine on a Standard American Diet.
Iodine has again become a big concern with people who are moving away from iodized table salt and turning to alternatives like kosher and sea salt. These often have only traces or no iodine at all. Oceans and marine life contain most of the world’s iodine, especially seaweed which is one of the best sources of iodine.
Seaweed is full of vitamins and minerals and the best sources of it come in convenient packaging to snack on. You don’t need to eat much to get a good amount of iodine. It is best in its original form or dried and can be mixed into your food by flaking it up in sandwiches, soup, or in plant-based versions of sushi, crabcakes, and ceviche. It is wonderfully rich in healthy omega DHA and EPA as well.
The recommended dose of iodine is 150 mcg per day. Varieties of seaweed like dulse, laver/nori, alaria, and wakame are the recommended sources. Kelp is another source of high-iodine minerals, but it is not usually recommended unless it is appropriately limited. Kelp powder or flakes are available and a little can be added to a shaker of a salt substitute or other seasoning made from herbs and spices. Maine Coast Sea Vegetables is one of the companies offering a wide variety of sea vegetables online.
It may still be prudent to take certain supplements regardless of what type of diet you follow.
As the practice of eating a whole plant-based food improves and expands, you’ll incorporate the nutrients and vitamins required to meet all of your nutritional needs.