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Where to find iodine?

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In the last couple of days I received quite a few worried e-mails with the question where I get my iodine from. Is it because of the Dutch television programme of Editie NL the other day? Where to find iodine?

If the programme of Editie NL had the intention to get us to eat bread again, I would have expected a little bit more effort. The programme suggested that because Dutch people are eating less bread we are developing a huge deficiency of iodine in our body. Even a doctor admits in the programme he secretly also had a iodine deficiency and therefore now you can find table salt with added iodine (Jozo) in his kitchen cupboard. A deficiency can cause, among other disorders, huge developmental issues in adolescents. So we should all (again) add Jozo salt into our diets or at least eat daily 6 slices of brown bread. Other alternatives are 8 eggs per day, 1 kilo of cheese a day, a few kilos of beef, a pound of fish (often contaminated with mercury) or 3 liters of milk per day. However, the Dutch ”Nutrition Center” claims that those alternatives are also not very healthy, so we should all convert to Jozo salt. I eat a fully plant-based diet and eat an almost entirely gluten free diet too, so bread is not a good option for me. So in my case, I should turn to table salt with added iodine?

What‘s wrong with ordinary table salt?

The main differences between sea salt and table salt are in their taste, texture and processing. Sea salt is produced through evaporation of ocean water or water from saltwater lakes. Depending on the water source, this leaves behind certain trace minerals and elements. The minerals add flavor and color to sea salt, which also comes in a variety of coarseness levels.Table salt, on the other hand, usually comes from underground salt deposits. Table salt is heavier processed to eliminate minerals and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping. The good thing about table salt is that it usually contains added iodine. In the Netherlands, kitchen- and table salt with added iodine contains 21 milligrams of iodine per kilogram of salt. So in order to get to 150 (mcg) iodine per day, so we need at least 2.4 teaspoons of salt with added iodine (each teaspoon of salt is 3 grams) which is 6.9 grams (6900 mg) salt per day.

But whatever kind of salt you’re using, keep in mind the recommendations. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams (mgs) per day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

In my opinion, table salt is not really naturally anymore and is too much processed. If I use salt, I personally go for Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt. But keep in mind, these healthier options are still salt. This doesn’t mean that you can use much more just because it’s labelled as healthier salt. So if I don’t use table salt with added iodine, where do I get my iodine from as a vegan?

How do I know if I have an iodine deficiency?

The good thing about the Dutch televison programme is that they shined a light on the iodine deficiency, because it seems that quite a few people have a iodine deficiency (1). The thyroid stores a lot of iodine in our body. But also in other parts in the body you will find iodine, such as the glandular system ( breast, prostate, sweat glands, ovaries and brains). Iodine is very important for our overall health. Our entire body needs iodine. A deficiency can lead to diseases and iodine is very important for the development of children. You can imagine that iodine is especially important for pregnant women. Symptoms of deficiency only occurre after many years, such as a slower heartbeat, dry hair and/or hair loss, depression, excessive weight gain, decreased libido, feeling cold, hoarse voice, dry skin, swollen ankles, muscle cramps, muscle pain and impaired concentration.

How much do you need?

You basically need more iodine if youre pregnant (7), breastfeeding, or if there is the threat of a nuclear disaster. Adults need 150 (mcg) per day. (3)

Where to find iodine?

The beauty of a plant-based diet is that nature provides us with everything. Of course, I follow a healthy vegan diet. If I would eat vegan cookies and potatoes every day I would be considered vegan, but that has nothing to do with a healthy balanced vegan diet. What about iodine? If you do eat animal products you will get some iodine in your body without even knowing it. For example, if you drink dairy you will get some iodine, because the disinfectants used to sanitize cow udder contain iodine, but can also increase the concentration of pus in milk from cows with staph infection mastitis (2). I get my iodine from all natural products. Seaweed (6) and kelp powder are my biggest sources of iodine, but I’m careful with kelp. Kelp seaweed contains a high amount of iodine, per 100 grams a whopping 7553 (µg) . Nori contains much less iodine.

If you eat a healthy and balanced diet I would not worry too much about an iodine deficiency. Just several times a week a small teaspoon of kelp powder in your smoothie, a sushi wrap here, a sushi bowl there, a soup for lunch, or just snack on a piece of nori, it all helps to prevent a deficiency. 

Figuring out how much you need and/or taking extra jodium to prevent an iodine deficiency is not advisable. Always consult your GP or health practitioner if you’re in doubt, pregnant, have a high blood pressure, (maybe) thyroid problems, heart- or kidney failures before taking in extra iodine.

(1) WHO rapport “Iodine deficiency in Europe, A continuing public health problem”, 2007
(2) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/pregnant-vegans-at-risk-for-iodine-deficiency-2/
(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3635203/
(4) Mark Sircus, AC., OMD: Iodine – Bringing Back the Universal Medicine (2011)
(5) WHO Secretariat, Andersson M, de Benoist B, Delange F, Zupan J. Prevention and control of iodine deficiency in pregnant and lactating women and in children less than 2-years-old: conclusions and recommendations of the Technical Consultation. Public Health Nutr. 2007 Dec;10(12A):1606-1611.
(6) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/avoiding-iodine-deficiency-2/
(7) http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/iodine/
(8) (8) http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/sea-salt/faq-20058512
(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377875/

photos by the green creator (c) (copyright)

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