Iodine for vegetarians

Vegetarianism: problems with iodine in vegetarian diets


Do vegetarian take enough iodine?

Any kind of diet, if not done in a balanced, varied way, with an organized structure, which does not contemplate any possible lack of nutrients, can generate inadvertently nutritional deficiencies.

The important nutrients, and, in some cases, the essential ones, if not properly provided, can bring nutritional deficiencies being a risk factor of multitude of problems, disorders and diseases, unnecessary and avoidable with a proper nutrition.

Among the deficiencies of nutrients that are usually more common in vegetarian food, we found an important mineral deficiency, the iodine deficiency

Iodine, what is is for?

Iodine is one of the the minerals that should be part of our diet to maintain the thyroid glands properly working.

Where to obtain iodine from?

varied seafood
Seafood is very rich in iodine but vegetarian people do not eat it

Iodine can be found in significant amounts in food and marine animals such as fish and seafood, but also in some other foods, such as iodized salt and some algae.

Consequences of iodine deficiency?

When our diet does not contain seafood rich in iodine, it can lead to mineral deficiencies that can have serious consequences. If we do not provide the necessary amounts of this mineral, we can develop the appearance of a very showy anomaly called, goiter, in which the neck swells excessively.

It is not only important not to generate iodine deficiency because we look ugly, but if we do not supply the thyroid the iodine required, it will not work properly and this will be the reason for unnecessary health problems. (Consult hypothyroidism)

Foods rich in iodine

Vegetarians can use seaweed to add iodine to their diet

Some foods naturally rich in iodine are fish, shellfish and seaweed. Other food to which this mineral is added is iodized salt.

Salt, common salt or table salt, is composed chemically of two minerals, sodium and chlorine. So, it is scientifically called sodium chloride. Currently, there is a variety of salt, called iodized salt. In this type of salt, iodine has been added instead of chlorine (sodium iodide) or changed both minerals (potassium iodide and potassium iodate) to simultaneously reduce its sodium content (beneficial in cases of hypertension).

Other foods to whom we often add iodine are water, milk or even in some flours. Usually, only iodine is added to these foods when they are intended to be consumed in areas where it is urgently required to counteract the deficiency of this mineral, and no other thing can be done.

An example might be, those people living in very remote mountains or the sea without many resources, which grow in soils poor in this mineral and that they have no chance of eating foods high in iodine.

When and why to take iodine supplements?

To prevent iodine deficiency, one should consume half a teaspoon of iodized salt a day. If there is already a shortage, doses should be higher and the food mentioned above may not be enough. In this case, it is recommended that you consult your physician.

It is also true that there may be an excess of iodine intake in vegetarians who do a very high consumption of seaweed. In these cases we must regulate its intake, since all extremes are bad. (Consult hyperthyroidism)

The damage caused by iodine deficiency

  • In pregnant women, a lack of iodine can lead to the occurrence of cretinism in the infant, which will involve problems in her/his physical and mental development over the entire life.
  • In children iodine deficiency also creates problems of growth and lack of physical and mental development.
  • In adulthood, however, a prolonged absence can generate the appearance of goiter or myxedema coma, which are a consequence of hypothyroidism

The most serious consequence of having very low levels of thyroid hormones is myxedema coma, which is produce by long-term deficiency of thyroid hormone in the blood. It is preceded by characteristic symptoms such as hypersensitivity to cold, extremely dry skin, hypotension, slow breathing, lower body temperature than normal and mental problems.

Calcium, chlorine, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassiumCopper, chromium, fluorine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, iodine, zinc.

punto rojoMore information on problems in vegetarianism.

This article was endorsed by Elisenda Carballido - Dietitian nutritionist. Postgraduate in Phytotherapy and master in Nutrition and Metabolism.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

11 January, 2021

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