Wellness and Lifestyle

10 Iodine Deficiency Symptoms and 15 Iodine Rich Foods

Last updated on October 20th, 2022 at 07:40 am

Iodine deficiency? Iodine is an essential nutrient for humans and animals. It is required by the thyroid gland to produce hormones. However, too little or too much iodine can cause serious problems.

Iodine is found naturally in seaweed, seafood, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. These are some of the best sources of iodine.

Iodine and thyroid

Minerals and vitamins are vital for a healthy life. They play a significant role in the physical and mental development of humans from conception itself. The main micronutrient deficiencies which are creating public health problems worldwide are iodine, iron, folic acid, vitamin A and zinc.

What is iodine?

Iodine is an essential dietary mineral that is stored in the thyroid gland. It is essential for the production of thyroid hormones thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4). Thyroid hormones affect all the cells in the human body, they are important for the proper development of cells. They play a crucial role in increasing the metabolic rate of the body, in protein metabolism; regulate the growth of long bones and for the development of the brain. Thyroid hormones are closely linked to protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism in cells.

The Indian Iodine Story

Iodine deficiency is a reality in India because the soil in our part of the world is iodine deficient; especially in the North and North-Eastern States. It is estimated that 350 million people are at risk of iodine deficiency disorders. To combat this, common salt was fortified with iodine; which now reaches about 91% of households in the country. However, adequate consumption of iodized salt is only 71%. Did you know: Iodine deficiency disease (IDD) is the largest cause of preventable brain damage?

Iodine facts

  • Iodine is an essential dietary mineral that’s stored in the thyroid gland
  • Selling non-iodized salt is illegal in India, to combat iodine deficiency
  • It is estimated that 350 million Indians are at risk of iodine deficiency

Daily iodine requirement

Recommended allowances (ICMR 2010) for various age groups are:

Age RDA-µg/day
7-12 Months 90
1-5 Yrs 90
6-12 Yrs 120
Adolescents And Adults 150
Pregnant and Lactating Mothers 250

Iodine Deficiency

Iodine deficiency can lead to goitre (enlargement of the thyroid), hypothyroidism and mental retardation in infants and children whose mother was iodine deficient during pregnancy. Women who are planning a family should start having adequate amounts of iodine in their diet to build up wonderful stores before getting pregnant. Pregnancy and lactation also demand higher intakes to make adequate thyroid hormones, which play a crucial role in the baby’s brain development.

10 Iodine deficiency symptoms

  1. Swelling in the Neck
  2. Unexpected Weight Gain
  3. Fatigue and Weakness
  4. Hair loss
  5. Dry, Flaky Skin
  6. Feeling Colder Than Usual
  7. Changes in Heart Rate
  8. Trouble Learning and Remembering
  9. Problems during Pregnancy
  10. Heavy or Irregular Periods

Iodine deficiency test

  • Urine test: This is the simplest and fastest test. You’re able to get results in minutes, but it’s not as accurate as some of the other iodine tests.
  • Blood test: This is a simple and accurate test for iodine levels in the body. However, it takes more time to read than a urine test.
  • Iodine patch test: The iodine patch test is a test where doctors paint a patch of iodine on your skin and check how it looks 24 hours later. For those who are not iodine deficient, the patch fades no sooner than 24 hours. But a deficiency will probably cause the iodine to be absorbed into the skin more quickly. This test is not the most accurate, but it’s inexpensive and relatively quick.
  • Iodine loading test: Also called 24 hours urine test. This test measures how much iodine you excrete in your urine over a 24-hour period. It’s not the fastest test; nor is it the most convenient. (You need to collect every urine sample you have in a 24-hour period.) But it’s quite accurate.

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Sources of iodine

Salt: In India, the sale of non-iodized salt is banned. This makes salt the single most important source of iodine for Indians. Daily intake of 10g of iodized salt with 15ppm of iodine provides 150µg/day. The average salt intake in Indian homes ranges from 5-10g/day, 30% is lost during cooking and 70% is absorbed, providing an average amount of 70µg/day.

15 Iodine rich food

  1. Bread: Thanks to the iodised salt rule, the iodine content in bread is considerable at 25µg/100g. Two slices of bread would be good. Choose the multigrain variety for a healthier option.
  2. Milk: It is another source of iodine with 303µg/litre. Milk is also a significant source of protein, vitamins and important minerals like calcium. Half a litre of milk is the minimum quantity needed by adults to get the 150µg RDA.
  3. Yogurt: If you are intolerant to lactose, Dahi or yogurt is another healthy option for getting iodine from milk. Probiotics in Dahi also improve gut health.
  4. Sea Vegetables: Kelp and wakame are extremely high in the iodine content. They are also substantial sources of iron, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, which make them a nutritious choice.
  5. Sea Food: sardines, tuna, shrimps, cod and scallops. All are excellent sources of iodine. Besides, seafood also provides essential omega-3 fatty acids.
  6. Eggs: Yolks of eggs are another source of iodine, great for children as they provide another essential “brain nutrient” folate too.
  7. Vegetables and fruits: Sweet potato, onion, spinach, banana, and cantaloupe contain iodine. Strawberry provides about 13µg/cup.
  8. Shrimps: If you love seafood, you are already making most of your iodine requirement through this food group. Shrimps are iodine enriched. Their bodies soak up the mineral from seawater that gets accumulated in their bodies.
  9. Sardines: These are low in calories and rich in iodine and are also loaded with good fats, PUFAs and MUFAs.
  10. Cheese: Almost all dairy items are enriched with iodine. In cheese, your best options would be Cheddar and Mozzarella.
  11. Seaweed: Iodine is primarily found in sea vegetables and seafood. One of the richest sources of it would include seaweed called kelp.
  12. Tuna: Every 6 ounces of tuna serving gives you 34 micrograms of iodine.
  13. Cod: Iodine is found in good quantity in seafood. Apart from cod, it is also found in other fish like sea bass, perch, haddock, Himalayan crystal salt, and iodized salts.
  14. Scallops: These are one of the best sources of iodine. Every 100 grams of it can meet close to 90 percent of our daily iodine requirement. It is also an excellent source of Vitamin B12, protein and phosphorous.
  15. Other Sources: Apart from the above mention food items – which fall under the ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ sources of iodine, other ingredients that can load you up with iodine would include fruits like bananas, strawberries; veggies like green leafy vegetables, onions and sweet potatoes; grains, nuts and legumes like peanuts, barley, etc.

Iodine adverse effects

Foods containing thiocyanates interfere with the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. If you are on supplements or prone to iodine deficiency, eliminating or reducing the intake of cassava, soy, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, turnip may be an excellent strategy.


Iodine supplementation should only be done under medical supervision. Eating a healthy and varied diet is adequate to meet your iodine needs. Complete elimination of iodized salts or substitution with unfortified rock salt is not an excellent strategy. People with hypertension or heart diseases may reduce their salt intake but ensure that they take other wonderful sources of iodine regularly.

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