Who are at risk for iodine deficiency and how to prevent it on a vegan diet

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While it is common for vegans to worry about B12, Iodine doesn’t get nearly as much attention. You’ll soon get to learn about some surprising facts about iodine from this post and know what to do to avoid iodine deficiency.

 

Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones. Deficiency can lead to thyroid enlargement. Pregnant women, in particular, need to pay close attention as inadequate iodine can harm the growth of the developing foetus.

 

Since vegans replace cow’s milk with various plant milk, one concern is that the lower iodine content in plant milk puts vegans at higher risk of iodine deficiency. Is this true that veganism is the reason for iodine deficiency and non-vegans are safe from it?

 

First of all, even the non-vegans are not getting as much iodine out of milk since the dairy industry has stopped using iodine-based disinfectant for cleaning milking equipment. So definitely don’t subscribe to the claim that drinking cow’s milk keeps you safe from iodine deficiencies. In fact, Australians on average have median iodine intake (only about 100mcg!), which makes us mildly iodine deficient. Everyone needs to be more aware of their iodine intake!

 

Here are the iodine intake recommendations:

  • 150mcg   Adults
  • 220mcg  Pregnant women
  • 270mcg  Breast feeding women
  • 90mcg    Children aged 1-8 years old
  • 1000mcg recommended upper limit of intake (too much is toxic too!)

 

Let’s take a look at what other factors can affect iodine levels in people.

 

1. Regional soil

Due to lower soil iodine levels in the South East Australia, children have lower iodine levels when compared to those from Queensland and Western Australia.

 

2. Processed food industry

Iodised salt is an excellent source for iodine, except it is not used as much as the old days. Instead, it is often replaced by all sorts of other processed food flavors, chemicals, that achieve the same or better taste, without the added iodine.

 

3. People avoiding bread on low-carb diets

Believe it or not, the iodine deficiency problem is addressed by legislation that requires bakers to use iodised salt in bread. Therefore, having whole-grain bread is recommended. Nowadays, carb is still falsely perceived as “The devil for weight” in many people’s minds. While it is true that white bread is unhealthy as it is highly refined and poor in nutrition, whole-grain bread is excellent for your nutrition.

 

So how can we ensure adequate iodine intake?

A true whole food, plant-based diet.

By that, I don’t mean processed vegan junk food, grain-free, low-carb diet, but a truly balanced diet that focuses on a variety of whole foods, minimally processed and covering all the essential food groups. For more information on what these food groups are, visit my comprehensive Resources page after this post.

 

Dietitian recommendations on how to avoid iodine deficiency

  • While too much salt is certainly bad for you, do use iodised salt and bake bread with iodised salt on a diet that is low in salt. Completely eliminating salt from your diet is not recommended.
  • Seaweed products are a rich source of iodine.  I recommend Nori (40mcg per 2.5g sheet), wakame (250mcg/g) and dulse (~125mcg/g).

Nori to avoid iodine deficiencywakame to avoid iodine deficiencydulse to avoid iodine deficiency

 

  • For some, getting iodine from diet is simply not enough, be it vegan or other diets. Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant or planning to become pregnant should be extra conscious of iodine. First, have the iodine status checked with a doctor. Or, take a small iodine supplement providing 75-150mgs of iodine everyday.

 

Conclusion

It is certainly untrue that vegans are the only people at risk for iodine deficiency. In fact, the average Australian is mildly deficient! Therefore, drinking cow’s milk is not a safeguard to high iodine level. It is just another false claim from the dairy industry, unfortunately. Keep plant powered folks, and sprinkle a little iodised salt on your amazing plant foods!

 

For more information, I highly recommend Dr. Michael Greger’s videos

 

Feel free to let us know your personal journey on this, our Brisbane-based accredited practicing dietitian, nutritionist is here to help! You can learn about our services and how to get in touch.

 

References

Plant based Health Australia

National Health and Medical Research Council

Nutrition Australia

 

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Have you checked out our comprehensive Vegan Health & Nutrition Resources page? I’ve compiled my gifts, knowledge and tips regarding thriving on a vegan lifestyle in this page, including a dietitian guidebook, grocery shopping list, lifestyle checklists, and the best vegan websites I recommend, all for you for FREE.

 

About the author


Raymond_dietitian_from_Vegan_Palette_with_food_plate

Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.

 

 

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