Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How important is Iodine in a dairy free diet??

So, six and a half years into our dairy free journey, maybe I could be forgiven for thinking I pretty well know my way around this whole thing by now?? 

Y'know, I've covered the what kind of dairy free milk is (nutritionally) best (see here), I've looked at elements that might be missing from a dairy free diet, such as calcium and vitamin D, but whilst Googling about some other thing that was bothering (I know, I know Dr Google isn't always that reliable, but I have been careful about my sources here).
I've just discovered something else to worry about!!

THIS stuff:


I is for...

What is it?? You may well be wondering... sugar?? 

No - sugar is sooooo last year!! 

This is salt. And I'm not worried about having too much of it (although you do need to take that into consideration, when planning your daily intake), what this salt is lacking is what is bothering me - a certain important element... iodine!!


How does this impact the dairy free??

I hear you ask.

Well, dairy is one of the major ways in which most people in the UK will take in Iodine - without even knowing it. This is because it is used to help clean cow's udders before milking (not so much in organic milk, though, apparently). 

Ah! Slight problemo there, then!!

More recently, iodine deficiency has been detected in breast fed babies with cow's milk protein allergy (see here).


What is iodine and why do I need it??

Iodine is a natural mineral and actually a fairly rare element. The body needs it to help maintain a healthy thyroid. Thyroid hormones play an important role in helping the body's metabolism work properly. They are particularly important during pregnancy and breastfeeding - specifically to aid brain development and also to potentially prevent miscarriage and stillbirth. Got your attention now??


How much iodine do I need??

It is recommended,by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) that adults require 150 mcg (microgrammes) a day, rising to 200mcg a day, if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Something I discovered, through reading around, is that women are more likely to be deficient than men, and also that here, in the UK, we are more likely to be deficient that in some other parts of the world. This is partly because in many other countries, table salt is often iodised - has iodine added - as a matter of course. Also, in the US, processed food is often made with iodised salt.

Why does that not happen here, in the UK?? Well, it is worth noting that too much of a good thing is bad for you, and this is also true of iodine. Too much can also cause problems for the thyroid. 


How can I get enough iodine??

Well, apart from dairy, one of the major ways in which you can get iodine in your diet, is through eating shellfish, such as shrimp, and white fish, such as cod or haddock. It is also present in meat and eggs. It's also worth noting that there is more iodine in conventional milk than in organic milk.

This is particularly problematic for those who are Vegan. That's not to say that Iodine isn't found in plant-based sources - Iodine is present in seaweed products, such as kelp, but it is not recommended that one relies on this as a regular source of iodine, as it is difficult to quantify how much iodine they contain and also, they may contain other toxic substances... such as arsenic!! 

There is also a small amount of iodine found in fruit or vegetables - more in those grown in iodine rich soil, however, it is difficult to quantify how much. Haricot beans (otherwise known as Navy Beans) are a good source of iodine, but Vegan sources, such as The Vegan Society recommend taking an iodine supplement, just to be on the safe side. 

Whilst taking a supplement may be a good idea if you are Vegan or Vegetarian, others of us may well need to take a bit more care, as if we eat a varied diet we may be eating a fair amount of iodine anyway, and, as already mentioned above, too much iodine can be bad for you. That said, the NHS Choices states that taking 0.5mg a day '...is not likely to cause harm'.

If you are at all concerned about how much/little iodine you may be getting, it's definitely worth talking to your Healthcare Providers (GP/Dietitian etc.) about it (although, no-one has ever brought this up with me before, which makes me wonder whether there is enough of a focus on it). There are tests that can be done, and if you are found to be lacking, your Healthcare Providers can help you assess the ways in which you can supplement your diet and can make recommendations specific to your personal requirements.

As for me, I have decided to eat more cod, prawns, corn (one of the few cereals containing significant amounts of iodine) and have added iodised table salt to my shopping list. My plan being not to 'up' my salt intake (it's important not to eat too much salt, especially when very young), but to use iodised table salt wherever I would normally use table or rock salt. So far, I have only found one product, containing iodised salt. This tub comes from Waitrose, but is also available in Sainsbury's:



'Iodised Salt' - meaning Iodine has been added.

Please note that the packaging states that 2g of this salt provides at least 15% of the daily amount of iodine required by an adult.

Strangely enough, although many sea products contain iodine, Sea Salt is not a good source of Iodine.


For more information, please check out the following articles linked below:


Further Reading:

Iodine - BDA Food Fact Sheet

Vitamins and Minerals - Iodine - NHS Choices

How much salt is good for me? - NHS Choices

Iodine status and growth in 0-2-year-old infants with cow's milk protein allergy - Pub Med Journals


Expert reaction to iodine in milk and IQ - Science Media Centre

Iodine and Selenium - The Vegan Society

Database of the Iodine Content of Food and Diets (P.12) - British Geological Survey


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