Iodine is a nutrient that you might not give much thought to – where it comes from, why, it matters, or how to get enough. If you’re a vegan or plant-based woman, then it might be on your radar since it’s most commonly consumed in seafood. In this post, you’ll learn how to get iodine from plant-based foods and also why it’s so important for women’s health. Let’s dive in!
Why is it Important to Get Enough?
Iodine is a trace mineral that helps to produce thyroid hormones. It can play a role in PCOS, fertility, irregular periods, and thyroid health. It’s especially critical for pregnant women because it plays a key role in fetal brain and bone development. Most people just barely meet their needs through food. Because it is so important for women’s health, it’s worth making sure you’re getting enough.
What Are The Symptoms of Low Iodine?
How do you know if you’re low in iodine? Here are a few symptoms to look for:
- Unexplained weight gain
- Low energy and fatigue
- Hair loss
- Feeling cold
- Irregular periods
- Miscarriage, still birth, and preterm delivery in pregnancy
Many people who are borderline low may not experience these obvious symptoms. Instead, they might just experience mild unexplained fatigue and other unexplained health issues.
Plant-based Foods High in Iodine
Only a few foods contain iodine, including seafood. Dairy is another common source, but dairy isn’t a natural source. Dairy cows are often given supplements, and iodine from cleaning solutions used on dairy farms leeches into the milk (yikes!).
Plant foods naturally contain trace amounts, depending on how mineral-rich the soil is that it was grown in. Sea vegetables are a notably high source. It’s safe to eat sea vegetables as much as a few times per week to meet needs. Because the iodine content of seaweeds tends to vary widely, you don’t want to overdue it. There is such thing as too much!
Try sipping on this mineral-rich vegan “bone” broth to get your seaweed fix.
In the early 20th century in the United States, deficiency was a common health issue. That’s when iodine started being added to table salt, known as iodized salt. So, you can meet needs with just a 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of iodized salt a day which equates to just 580-1160 mg of sodium. If you’re not a seaweed fan, a small amount of iodized salt each day is an easy and safe way to meet iodine needs. Certain brands like this one now after iodized sea salt options.
If you are concerned about salt or sodium, read more about sodium and women’s health here.
How much iodine do you need?
Iodine needs change throughout a woman’s life. It is one of the nutrients that increases as a woman transitions from pregnancy to breastfeeding. Getting enough is critical at all stages of life, but especially for pregnant and breastfeeding women because of iodine’s role in fetal brain development.
Women’s Iodine Needs
Should you take an iodine supplement?
Because it’s easy to overdue it with iodine and get too much, you should exercise caution with supplements. Only take a supplement after speaking with your healthcare provider. It’s best to start with trying to meet your needs through whole foods and through modest amounts that are included in multivitamins (in a prenatal, for example). You can find vegan supplements – just do your research first!
Tips For How To Get Iodine
- Use 1/4-1/2 tsp of iodized salt daily in cooking and seasoning
- Eat sea vegetables 2-3 times per week (try my vegan bone broth)
- Consider taking a modest (75-150mcg) supplement 3-4 times per week
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, make sure that your prenatal or postnatal multivitamin contains at least 150mcg of iodine
What other nutrients are you missing?
Download the free Supplement Guide to see what you might be missing and how to get enough!