Your body needs iodine, a mineral, to work properly. The thyroid gland, for example, uses iodine to make the thyroid hormone thyroxin. Most iodine is in the form of iodide. These terms are often used interchangeably.
If you do not have enough iodide, your body cannot make enough thyroxin. This slows down the rate at which the body burns energy, so weight gain can become a problem. This lack of iodide can cause a
, or enlarged thyroid gland. This happens when the thyroid gland grows to try and take up more iodide from the bloodstream. A chronic iodide deficiency can result in destruction of the thyroid gland.
Because we have iodized salt in the US, goiter is rarely seen. If eaten in large quantities, some foods, like raw turnips and rutabagas, have chemicals that can cause goiters and inhibit thyroid gland functions. These chemicals, called goitrogens, are destroyed when the foods are cooked, so problems are uncommon.
Too Much Iodide
The thyroid can also become enlarged if you have too much iodide in your diet, though this is rare in the US. This “toxic goiter” is caused by elevated concentrations of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). This is often seen in people who eat a lot of seaweed, which can add a significant amount of iodide to the diet. Iodide levels up to 1 milligram (more than six times the RDA) appear to be safe.
Major Food Sources
Iodide is found naturally in food grown in or near coastal seas. Seafood is naturally high in iodide, as are plants grown near the sea. Molasses and iodized salt are also good sources. Most people get plenty of iodide from the iodized salt in their diets, since only ½ teaspoon of iodized salt provides enough iodide to reach an adult's RDA for the day. The sea salt found in health food stores is generally not a good source because iodide is lost during processing.
Table salt, iodized
When the thyroid gland releases fewer hormones than the body needs, the result is
hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms include:
A low iodide intake can especially impact children, causing a condition called
. If not treated, the condition can lead to
and abnormal growth. Iodine supplements can help reverse some of the affects. People who have a low iodide intake may be at risk of getting
thyroid cancer, although it is not known exactly what causes the disease.
Tips for Increasing Your Iodide Intake
In general, there is little need to increase your iodide intake. Most people in the US get plenty from their diets, much of this coming from iodized salt. But if you use sea salt (or another type of salt) that does not have iodide, you can get the mineral from seafood or other sources. This is also true if you are on a low-sodium diet. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about how much iodide you are getting.
The American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide
. Minneapolis, MN: Chronimed Publishing; 1998.
Food and Nutrition Board.
Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc
. Institute of Medicine website. Available at:
Garrison R, Somer E.
The Nutrition Desk Reference.
New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1995.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a