Iodine is a trace mineral that’s generally found in seafood. It’s an essential micronutrient, which means that your body needs it to function properly. On its own, iodine is a dark, shiny stone or a purple dye. However, it’s generally found in invisible trace amounts in water and soil, or as part of other compounds in food.
Your body uses iodine to run several important body processes. While iodine supplements are available, iodine is also frequently added to other foods as a fortification. In places where iodine fortification is common, iodine deficiency is rare.
However, nearly one-third of the world is still at risk for iodine deficiency. Getting enough iodine in your diet has been shown to help improve your metabolism, your brain health, and your hormone levels.
Why You Need Iodine
Your body can’t produce iodine, which makes it an essential micronutrient. Iodine is critical for your thyroid and plays an important role in the production of thyroid hormone.
Since your body can’t produce iodine, it’s important to get enough from your diet. The currently accepted minimum daily intake requirement for iodine is 150 micrograms (mcg). Pregnant and lactating women should consume 220 and 290 mcg respectively.
If you aren’t getting enough iodine, you may start to develop symptoms of hypothyroidism or begin to develop a goiter (abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland).
Getting enough iodine has been shown to help your body in a number of ways, including:
Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when your body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone. This hormone helps your body maintain your metabolism and supports your organ function. Iodine is critical for your body’s thyroid hormone production, so getting enough iodine may prevent or cure symptoms of hypothyroidism.
If your body is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone, then your thyroid itself may start to grow. Your thyroid is in your neck, just under your jaw. When it starts to grow, you will notice a strange lump developing on your neck. This is known as a goiter. Getting enough iodine can prevent goiters.
People who are pregnant should consume more iodine than others. Iodine helps prevent several types of birth defects. In particular, iodine helps support healthy brain development. Getting enough iodine during pregnancy can prevent birth defects that affect the brain, miscarriage, and stillbirth.
Foods With Iodine
Iodine can be found in a number of foods, but it’s most common in seafood. Eating a diet rich in fish can help you get enough iodine to experience the benefits it offers. According to the National Institutes of Health, these eight foods are some of the best sources of iodine available.
Hands down, seaweed is the best source of iodine available. A 10 gram serving of dried nori seaweed (the type of seaweed used in sushi) contains up to 232 mcg of iodine, more than 1.5 times the daily required minimum.
Seafood in general is a great source of iodine, but cod is particularly healthy. A three-ounce serving of baked cod contains 158 mcg of iodine, which meets your daily minimum.
- Iodized Salt
Salt or table salt for human food use to which iodide has not been added shall bear the statement, "This salt does not supply iodide, a necessary nutrient."
- Nonfat Milk
Aside from seafood, dairy is one of the best iodine options available. An eight-ounce serving of nonfat cow’s milk contains 85 mcg of iodine, more than half of what you need daily.
- Greek Yogurt
Like milk, nonfat Greek yogurt is an excellent source of iodine. Because Greek yogurt is denser than milk, it has a higher concentration of iodine: up to 116 mcg per eight ounces.
Another great source of seafood iodine comes from oysters. Just three ounces of cooked oysters can provide up to 93 mcg of iodine, nearly two-thirds of what you need per day.
Animal sources of iodine are generally the richest sources available, and eggs are no exception. A single hard-boiled egg provides about 26 mcg of iodine.
- Enriched Bread
While bread on its own is rarely high in iodine, some manufacturers make it with “iodate dough conditioner.” These conditioners are added to enrich the bread, as with table salt. A single slice of white bread made with an iodate dough conditioner contains up to 185 mcg of iodine.
There are few foods that are as nutritionally dense as beef liver. A three-ounce serving of liver can provide 14 mcg of iodine along with the many other vitamins and nutrients it contains.