Iodine is a trace element that is naturally present in some foods and added to some types of salt. Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which help keep cells and the metabolic rate (the speed at which chemical reactions take place in the body) healthy.
Good sources of iodine
- Sea fish
Iodine can also be found in milk and plant foods, such as cereals and grains, but the iodine levels vary depending on the amount of iodine present in the soil where the plants are grown.
Recommended daily Iodine intake
The NHS explain that UK adults need 140 micrograms (μg) of iodine per day, but other health organisations including the World Health Organization (WHO) believe that adults need 150 micrograms per day.
WHO 2007 Recommendations
|Population Group||Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) (mg/day)|
|Children 0-5 years||90|
|Children 6-12 years||120|
|Adults >12 years||150|
Most people should be able to get all the iodine they need by eating a varied and balanced diet. Iodine deficiency results in lethargy and swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck which then forms a goitre. Iodine deficiency is rare in the UK but is still prevalent in many areas of the world, where it remains a major public health issue. If you choose to take iodine supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful. Taking 0.5mg or less a day is unlikely to cause any harm.
If you are following a vegan or plant-based diet and do not eat any fish then you may want to consider taking an iodine supplement. Some types of plant-based milk are also fortified with iodine. Always check food labels to see the nutritional profile of milks to ensure you’re getting bang for your buck nutritionally. If you feel that you’re not getting enough iron from your diet and you’re considering taking a supplement, seek advice from a healthcare professional first to prevent reaching a toxic level of intake.
The importance of Iodine through the lifecycle