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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. So I don’t eat animal products and I don’t eat bread, one reason for that is my IBS. Also, bread only contains “fast” carbohydrates that rapidly increase blood sugar levels. Gluten also causes many digestive problems in general so the alternatives are not a very good plan.

What‘s wrong with ordinary table salt with added iodine?

My philosophy is that every ingredient on our plate should make sense. Does ordinary table salt make sense? Table salt is not natural. Even sea salt is properly processed and stripped away of many minerals. Sea salt can contain a huge amount of minerals (more than 80), but if it’s processed almost all minerals are stripped away and this salt will do nothing good for the body. This salt is so strongly processed that it’s actually a burden for the body. It’s therefore much better to choose a complete salt that will provide your body with minerals. Examples include Himalayan salt and Celtic sea salt. As an example Celtic sea salt contains more than 80 minerals and trace elements. Normal table salt is substantially processed and actually only consists of sodium and chloride, the same applies to Jozo salt. So no Jozo salt for me.

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 you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or if there is a nuclear disaster. Adults need 150 (mcg) per day. (3) Too much iodine can, however, cause severe symptoms. But there is often also  said that these side effects only occur if you are not healthy (for example have a thyroid disorder). If you‘re healthy, you apparently shouldn’t have to worry too much about your iodine intake. (4)

Where to find iodine as a vegan?

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. Avoid hijki at all times! (7). In particular, kelp noodles contain a high amount of iodine. Despite many studies that showed that a healthy body will secrete excess iodine via the urine (5), I’m a little careful with kelp noodles. Just a comparison, kelp noodles contain per 100 grams 100 000 (ug). Half a teaspoon of kelp powder contains 1350 (ug). Nori contains per 100 grams 5600 (ug).

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. Only if I would be pregnant (7) or if there is a nuclear disaster, I would as a vegan pay extra attention to this.

I hope this article created some clarity and I hope you realize that you really don’t have to eat six slices of bread per day or sprinkle some processed salts over your healthy veggies to prevent an iodine deficiency.

(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/

photos by the green creator (c) (copyright)

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