30 Bananas a Day!

30BaD FADs:  Frequently Added Discussions

Are vegans iodine deficient?

How do I get iodine in my vegan diet?

Can iodine be harmful?

  1. What is Iodine?
  2. Recommended Iodine Intake
  3. Iodine Plant Sources
  4. Iodine Deficiency Symptoms
  5. Iodine Deficiency or Thyroid Issues?
  6. Health Risks from Excessive Iodine


A frequently added discussion and concern  here at 30BaD is regarding dietary iodine in the diet.  Many people want to know if vegans are at risk for being iodine deficient, what the symptoms of deficiency are, do they need to supplement, and what are good sources of iodine on a low fat raw vegan diet.  

This blogpost will provide some basic information and answers to these frequently posted discussions. However, the information provided here is not all inclusive regarding iodine.  

What is Iodine?

Iodine  is a rarely occurring element in the universe and in earth's crust. 

The more commonly know forms of iodine occurring in the earth's crust, soil, oceans, and iodine in food and iodized salt is present in several chemical forms including sodium and potassium salts, inorganic iodine, iodate, and iodide, the reduced form of iodine. Iodine rarely occurs as the element and or gas form, but rather as a salt; for this reason, it is referred to as iodide and not iodine.  (1)

For ease of understanding in this blogpost, the commonly understood and general term iodine or dietary iodine will be used.  

Iodine is a trace element that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. (1)

Iodine is a trace mineral and a nutrient found naturally in the body.  Iodine is needed for the normal metabolism of cells. Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. Humans need iodine for normal thyroid function, and for the production of thyroid hormones. (2)

Iodine may have other physiological functions in the body as well. For example, it appears to play a role in immune response and might have a beneficial effect on mammary dysplasia and fibrocystic breast disease.  (1)

Recommended Iodine Intake

Adolescents and adults need about 150 mcg of iodine a day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women may need more and about 220 mcg a day. (2)

Iodine is an essential mineral, meaning the body is not able to make iodine on its own, and iodine must be absorbed via nutrition or emergency medical supplementation under the supervision of medical professionals.  (5)

Iodine Plant Sources

Most plant sources grown on iodine rich soils are good sources of dietary iodine.  (1) (2)

Depending on the quality of the soil grown in, on average, a serving of vegetables or fruit could have about 10 mcg of iodine, but sometimes this could go as high as 1000 mcg (1 mg) per serving.  (1) (4) 

Strawberries are a fruit considered to be a rich source of iodine and 1 cup of strawberries has 13 mcg of iodine.  A cup of strawberries is only about 46 calories, so many servings can be consumed.  

A head of raw romaine lettuce is equal to about 6-7 90 oz servings and may contain between 20 mcg to 60 mcg of iodine. (1) (5) (6) 

Other foods thought to be rich in iodine are pineapple, mushrooms, coconut, and some nuts and seeds such as black walnuts, and hazelnuts.  

Although not optimum foods, some lentils and white potatoes are considered good sources of iodine.  However, because they are high in oxalate acid, there may also be evidence that these foods could possibly interfere with thyroid function and or uptake of iodine in sensitive individuals.  

30BaD FADs: Oxalate Health Impact - 30 Bananas a Day!

Iodine Deficiency Symptoms

Risk Factors

  • Pregnant women. Women who are pregnant need up to 50% more iodine than other women to provide enough iodine for their baby. Surveys show that many pregnant women in the United States may not get quite enough iodine, although experts do not know whether this affects their babies.
  • People living in regions with iodine-deficient soils who eat mostly local foods. These soils produce crops that have low iodine levels. Among the regions with the most iodine-poor soil are mountainous areas, such as the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Andes regions, as well as river valleys in South and Southeast Asia.
  • People who get marginal amounts of iodine and who also eat foods containing goitrogens. Goitrogens are substances that interfere with the way the body uses iodine. They are present in some plant foods including soy, and cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts and brassica vegetables such as kale, spinach, and from beets and chard.  (3) (8) (9) (10)
  • Cooking some foods such as soy and millet and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli can cause them to be more goitrogenic.  
  • Many grains, especially the gluten containing wheat and gluten products may also be goitrogenic.  (11)


 People who do not get enough iodine cannot make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. This can cause many problems. In pregnant women, severe iodine deficiency can permanently harm the fetus by causing stunted growth, mental retardation, and delayed sexual development. Less severe iodine deficiency can cause lower-than-average IQ in infants and children and decrease adults' ability to work and think clearly. Goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, is often the first visible sign of iodine deficiency. (3)

Iodine Deficiency or Thyroid Issues?  

Historically, some cases thought to be related to iodine deficiency were actually thyroid issues.  The diet was sufficient in iodine, rather, the thyroid may have not been uptaking iodine, and or some other goitrogenic foods in the diet called may have interfered with iodine uptake and assimilation.  

If in doubt about iodine deficiency, one should see a medical professional and have a physical and bloodwork done to ensure what the exact problem is, and only take iodine supplements under the care of a medical professional.  Never try to self diagnose or self medicate.  

Health Risks from Excessive Iodine

Getting high levels of iodine can cause some of the same symptoms as iodine deficiency, including goiter. High iodine intakes can also cause thyroid gland inflammation and thyroid cancer. Getting a very large dose of iodine (several grams, for example) can cause burning of the mouth, throat, and stomach, fever,  stomach pain,  nausea,  vomiting,  diarrhea,  weak pulse,  and coma. (3)

Iodine supplementation can also interefere with medications one might be taking.  (3) (12)

When iodine is used directly on the skin, it can cause skin irritation, stains, allergic reactions, and other side effects. Be careful not to bandage or tightly cover areas that have been treated with iodine to avoid iodine burn. (12)


Unless one is living in an at risk region for low soil iodine and or locally grown foods being low in iodine, iodine deficiency  in and of itself is very rare.  People who suspect they have iodine deficiency should see a medical professional to rule out other health issues such a thyroid issues and make sure their issues are related to a true iodine deficiency, and or if their symptoms are related to a diet high in goitrogenic foods or substances, and or oxalate acid.  Because of risks of irritation and reactions, supplementation should only be done under the supervision of a medical professional and only on an as needed or emergency basis.  

Raw fruits and leafy lettuce greens are excellent sources of iodine.  Avoid goitrogenic raw foods such as cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and brassica vegetables like kale, chard, and spinach

On a low fat diet, the body is better able to absorb all nutrients including iodine.    


  1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/  Health Professional's Fact Sheet, What Iodine is, dietary iodate
  2. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002421.htm  Iodine in Diet
  3. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-QuickFacts/  Iodine Quickfacts, dietary iodine, deficiency risks, goitrogens.  
  4. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/iodine-rich-foods.html Strawberries
  5. http://www.livestrong.com/article/276622-foods-with-high-iodine-con... Essential to absorb iodine form nutritional sources.  
  6. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-produc...  Romaine lettuce servings. 
  7. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrientprofile&dbid=42 Iodine in lettuce
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen  Goitrogenic foods defined.  Cruciferous and Brassica
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruciferous_vegetables 
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassica
  11. http://www.livestrong.com/article/494669-anti-goitrogenic-diet-for-...
  12. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/35.html  Iodine Supplementation and Side Effects.  


This blog is for informational purposes only.

Never try to self diagnose or treat a disease or symptom.  Many diseases and conditions have similar symptoms.  In case of a medical emergency, seek medical care to get a proper diagnosis.  

The medical and/or nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional  medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health 
provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional 
medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site.

Updated October 18, 2014  By PK

Views: 5063


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Comment by chooselove4all on February 5, 2017 at 4:42am

THIS IS COMPLETELY UNTRUE. The RDA was developed for rats and for their thyroid only, not the whole body need for iodine. The Japanese eat 13.8 mg of iodine per day (more than 100 times the US RDA) and have lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. Iodine was used in standard medical practice to cure cancer and thyroid disease in high doses until the late 1940s, when patented medicine took over- because iodine is cheap and unpatentable, there was a campaign to discredit it. However, read the book by Dr. Brownstein, called "Iodine- Why you need it, Why you can't live without it" for HUNDREDS of citations of studies as to why 96% of the population is not getting enough iodine. Dr. Brownstein has cured patients with cancer and thyroid disease with doses as high as 50mg/day- read his book and you will understand how this works scientifically. I am personally taking 12.5 mg of iodine to treat my Hashimoto's, which had supposedly led to hypothyroidism. Only after reading Dr. Brownstein's book did I realize I did not have hypothyroidism. I went to a lab that tested for iodine deficiency and it came back positive, along with B-12 and Vitamin D deficiencies. I am taking a holistic approach to curing my hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, including supplements of 12.5 mg iodine/iodide &selenium, tyrosine, Vitamin B12, B2, B3, Vitamin C, trace mineral complex, Magnesium ,and Vitamin D. I have never felt better in my life. The iodine gave me energy from the first day. I got off my meds and I still feel better. However, I am not a medical provider, so go to the source for yourself, Dr. Brownstein. Dr. Jorge Flechas has also successfully treated patients with high dose iodine, for those who have deficiencies. Our bodies need iodine more than ever to flush out the toxic fluoride and bromide, the other halogens that have contaminated our bodies. Read this book, check out their medical lectures on youtube, and decide for yourself. In the book, Dr. Brownstein explains the fallacy of the Wolff-Chaikov effect, which was used to discredit iodine, but which only lasts (26-40 hours) as the body is just adjusting from an iodine deficient state to a non-deficient state. Also, see Wolff's paper himself, that shows it is temporary: Wolff, J. "The temporary nature of the inhibitory action of excess iodide on organic iodine synthesis in the normal thyroid." Endocrin 45:504, 1949. All the research is in the book. The medical establishment doesn't want people to know about iodine as it would cost them a lot of money in unsold medicine. Remember also in the 1940s the campaign to teach people to take fluoride, which the American Dental Association had previously been trying to eradicate? It was all shown to tie into a huge government cover-up (because of the need for atom bombs that used uranium hexafluoride and would have incited worker's comp claims of epic proportions.) Read "the Fluoride Deception" for all the evidence. Iodine is the most misunderstood mineral, even more than fluoride. Also, salt is a very poor way to get iodine into the body (see Brownstein's research on how poor the bio-availabity is), so eating iodized salt is not a good idea. All you need is a supplement.

Comment by PK on December 21, 2013 at 3:40am

Thanks for your kind words Sarah and Shell. 

Thank you for the additional reference by Phil.  

Peace, PK

Comment by ednshell on August 22, 2013 at 7:46am

lovely PK, thank you! :)

Comment by Sarah Wood on August 20, 2013 at 6:14am

Thanks for this! my parents have been bugging me about iodine. They've been trying to get me to dump salt on my food!


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