Is Iodine Friend or Foe? How Lack of This Mineral Can Create Several Health Consequences

Is Iodine Friend or Foe? How Lack of This Mineral Can Create Several Health Consequences

Do you know iodine deficiency has been officially declared by WHO as the most prevalent as well as the most preventable cause of brain damage? Yet, more than 71 million people in India are suffering from iodine deficiency problems including goiter and other conditions, as per government statistics.

Let’s learn about this essential component that maintains proper thyroid functioning and cognitive development.

Iodine – Why it is so critical for health?

Iodine is one of body’s crucial nutrients that are extremely necessary for the regulation of thyroid function and normal growth and development. It is also vital for healthy metabolism and act as a protective shield against chronic condition such as cancer.

A healthy individual has about 15-20 mg of iodine in the body at a time, out of which 70-80 percent are stored in thyroid. Iodine is absorbed in the stomach and then it enters the bloodstream all the way to thyroid gland for synthesis of hormones. The excess of iodine we get from iodine-rich foods is excreted through the urine.

Iodine is available all through the body. It is present in just every organ of the body and needed for keeping us alive. This is the reason why iodine deficiency is considered alarming.

Keeps thyroid healthy

The small butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck performs several functions. It needs an adequate amount of iodine to make essential hormones including thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Thyroid hormones help regulate several biochemical reactions including synthesis of amino acids from proteins, development of the skeletal and nervous system and activity relating to digestive enzymes. For this, it needs adequate amount of iodine.

Maintains normal brain functioning 

Iodine plays a vital role in the healthy growth and development of the brain and your cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that it directly affects the migration of cells into the brain. Iodine is also required for proper formation of nerves.

Prevents development of cancer 

Presence of iodine boosts immunity and influence the self-destruction of fatal cancerous cells. Evidence has shown that iodine has the ability to obstruct the development of breast tumor. This is the reason why Japan has the lowest rate of breast cancer in the world. Women in Japan consume iodine-rich diet in the form of seaweed.

Prevents disabilities in children

Studies show that inadequate iodine consumption during pregnancy can disrupt healthy growth and development in children. Infants who are deficient in iodine are more vulnerable to neuro-degenerative disorders, low growth rate, learning disabilities and even death.

Keep skin healthy and regulate body temperature 

A classic sign of iodine deficiency is dry and irritated skin that can be easily inflamed. Lack of iodine can also disrupt the natural way of removing waste from the body. Iodine maintains sweating, body temperature and discards toxins.

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How much iodine do we need daily?

Iodine deficiency can be prevented by adequate intake of this mineral in the diet. The recommended daily allowance (rda) for iodine is mentioned as below:


  • 0-6 months - 110 mcg
  • 7-12 months - 130 mcg


  • 1-8 years - 90 mcg
  • 9-13 years - 120 mcg


  • 14-18 years- 150 mcg


  • 19 year and above - 150 mcg

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

  • Pregnant women - 220 mcg
  • Breastfeeding women - 290 mcg

How iodine deficiency and overdose can be harmful?

There are millions of people in the world who are deficient in iodine. People too low on this mineral can face serious symptoms including swelling in the neck, memory problems, fatigue, muscle weakness, unexpected weight gain, and pregnancy-related issues. Mostly, the symptoms resemble that of hypothyroidism.

On the other hand, there could be potential risk of getting too much iodine, especially through supplements. Iodine overdose can increase the risk of thyroid disorders, as opposed to preventing it. Although these cases are rare looking at the fact that iodine deficiency is so rampant worldwide, there is much more emphasis on adding more iodine in the diet than actually removing it from the body.

Iodine rich foods besides iodized salt

A person who is taking a well-balanced diet would never face iodine deficiency. However, many developed and developing countries are still in the grip of iodine deficiency. So, in case you are iodine deficient, adding following foods to your diet can bring a world of difference in your life.

Iodized salt is the rich source of including iodine into your diet as 1 gram of table salt can give 77 mcg of iodine. However, there are other healthy food sources that you can include in your diet. Here we mention 10 such foods.

Dairy products rich in iodine

Low-fat yogurt

Among the dairy products, yogurt stands as the richest source of iodine. Yogurt is also high in calcium, potassium, phosphorus and selenium, all of which are crucial for a healthy body.

Dietary value – 1 cup of serving can give about half of the total daily dietary intake.


A wonderful source of calcium and vitamin D, milk can meet your daily need of iodine as well. And it is loaded with folate, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. So you are never out of nutrients.

Dietary value – 1 cup of milk contains 56 mcg of iodine, 37 percent of the recommended dietary intake.

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Cottage cheese (paneer)

Cottage cheese is ranked amongst the highest food containing good amount of iodine. It also contains a decent amount of selenium which boosts fertility in men and increases the chances of conception.

Dietary value – 1 cup or 250ml of serving provides 65 mcg of iodine, about 43 percent daily need of an adult.

Cheddar cheese

If you want to get a delicious option to get iodine into your diet, cheddar cheese is one of finest options out there. They are high in sulfur and zinc as well.

Dietary value – 50 grams of serving can give 22 mcg of iodine, 15 percent of the daily requirement.

Non-veg foods rich in iodine


A good lean source of protein, eggs has immense benefits including a range of vitamins and minerals. However, a majority of the iodine and the minerals come from the egg yolk.

Dietary value – 1 large egg contains 24 mcg of iodine, which is 16 percent of the daily dietary value.


Among the poultry, chicken contains a reasonable amount of iodine. Besides, you are never out of protein, folate, selenium, phosphorus and zinc in your diet.

Dietary value – 75 grams of serving can provide between 11-13 mcg of iodine, 7-9 percent of the daily need.

Fruits, vegetables, and cereals

Baked potato

Another rich source of adding iodine to your diet is by having baked potato. They are also rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin and other essential minerals.

Dietary value – A medium-sized baked potato can provide 60 mcg of iodine, about 40 percent of the daily intake.


The delicious fruit not only contains decent amount of iodine, but is also a nutrient-rich food which gives you a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals. It lowers blood pressure and prevents iron deficiency in the body.

Dietary value – A cup of serving can give 13 mcg of iodine, about 10 percent of what we need on a daily basis.

White bread

One of the daily breakfast essentials, white bread can be a wonderful addition to your diet. However, it should be consumed in moderation as it contains high carbohydrate content.

Dietary value – 2 slices of white bread can provide about 45 mcg of iodine. This is 30 percent of what an average person needs daily.

Kidney beans (rajma)

Beans are superrich in fiber, protein and antioxidants. They also have a good reputation for providing decent amount of iodine.

Dietary value – 3/4 cup of cooked kidney beans can provide between 19-28 mcg of iodine. This accounts for 12-18 percent of the daily dietary consumption.

It is best to have a diet containing variety of nutrients, rather than focusing on getting specific nutrient. Don’t take supplements unless it is recommended by a dietician or health professional.


1. Iodine: Fact Sheet for Consumers(2016, February 17). NIH read more 
2. Delange F(1994). The disorders induced by iodine deficiency read more
3. Liu Y, et al.(2013, January).Maternal marginal iodine deficiency affects the expression of relative proteins during brain development in rat offspring read more
4. Smyth PP(2003).The thyroid, iodine and breast cancer read more
5. Ahad and Ganie(2010).Iodine, Iodine metabolism and Iodine deficiency disorders revisited 
read more