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How To Get Enough Iodine in Your Vegan Diet

Iodine in vegan diet

Researchers in the UK are concerned that people are missing out on important nutrients when switching to a vegan diet. One mineral of concern is iodine, which is important for thyroid function.


One major source of iodine in the typical diet is milk. By avoiding cow’s milk and switching to a plant-based milk, you may be coming up short, states a team of scientists at the University of Surrey who published their findings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Many milk-alternative drinks, they note, do not fortify iodine back into their products.

"A glass of a milk-alternative drink would only provide around 2 mcg of iodine which is a very small proportion of the adult recommended iodine intake of 150 mcg/day," says Margaret Rayman, Professor of Nutritional Medicine.

In addition to dairy products, other rich sources of iodine include shellfish and eggs – of course, not components of a vegan diet.

So where do vegans get their iodine?

If you use regular iodized salt, you are likely getting enough. One tablespoon in the US contains 45 micrograms of iodine per gram of salt. Most Americans typically eat much more than this. But if you do not, or you consume a salt that is not fortified with iodine, you should be sure that you have other sources, such as seaweed, some bread products, or a multivitamin that contains iodine.

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Symptoms of Iodine deficiency include:

GOITER – Without adequate iodine, the thyroid progressively enlarges (develops a goiter) as it tries to keep up with demand for thyroid hormone production. Worldwide, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of thyroid enlargement. Patients with a large goiter may experience symptoms of choking, especially when lying down, and difficulty swallowing and breathing.

HYPOTHYROIDISM – As the body’s iodine levels fall, hypothyroidism may develop, since iodine is essential for making thyroid hormone. While this is uncommon in the United States, iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide.

PREGNANCY-RELATED PROBLEMS – Iodine deficiency is especially important in women who are pregnant or nursing their infants. Severe iodine deficiency in the mother has been associated with miscarriages, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and congenital abnormalities in their babies. Even mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy, which may be present in some women in the United States, may be associated with low intelligence in children.

Journal Reference:
Sarah C. Bath, Sarah Hill, Heidi Goenaga Infante, Sarah Elghul, Carolina J. Nezianya, Margaret P. Rayman. Iodine concentration of milk-alternative drinks available in the UK in comparison with cows’ milk. British Journal of Nutrition, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1017/S0007114517002136

Additional Resource:
American Thyroid Association

Photo Credit:
Wikimedia Commons