Iodine Deficiency: What You Need to Know & Where to Find Iodine in Your Diet
Spotlight on Iodine
Iodine is an essential trace mineral that the body can not make itself; this means it is incredibly important that we eat the right dietary sources of iodine to meet our needs.
Why do we need Iodine?
Iodine forms a key part of the thyroid hormones which are essential for many body processes throughout our whole lifespan. Iodine deficiency disorders include endemic goitre (enlarged thyroid gland), hypothyroidism, cretinism, decreased fertility rate, increased infant mortality, and mental retardation.  Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy and studies have indicated a low intake of iodine during this critical window may affect brain development resulting in lower IQ, impaired neurodevelopment, and growth retardation (2).
Throughout childhood iodine remains an important nutrient to support optimal growth, metabolism and bone health so it is vital to be vigilant with ensuring sources of iodine feature regularly within the diet.
How common is iodine deficiency in the UK?
The first national survey of iodine status in the UK for more 60 years was reported in 2011 and looked at the urinary iodine results from over 700 schoolgirls (14-15 years). The results revealed mild iodine deficiency in 51% of the population, moderate deficiency in 16% and severe deficiency in 1%. Consequently, the authors urged a comprehensive review of iodine status in the UK.3
How much iodine do we need?
- 1-3yr old: 70 micrograms (mcg)/day
- 4-6yr old: 100 mcg/day
- 7-10yr old: 110mcg/day
- 11-18yr old: 130-140mcg/day
- Adult: 200mcg/day
- Pregnancy and lactation: 220-250mcg/day
Where is iodine found?
Iodine is naturally abundant in the oceans with sea vegetables and fish (especially white fish) having the largest concentrations (390 mcg/portion). In the UK diet dairy products are one of the main sources of iodine due to farming practices. Iodine in plant-based foods relies on the iodine content within the soil which is generally low in the UK and Europe so particular attention needs to be paid to sources of iodine if diets are predominantly plant-based.
The table below summarises the iodine content of different milks:
|Product||Micrograms Iodine per 100ml|
|Standard infant formula||13|
|Cow’s milk full fat/semi skimmed||32|
Alpro toddler growing up milk (1-3yrs)
Alpro no sugars soya milk
Oatly no sugars
Alpro no sugars oat milk
Koko longlife/ koko dairy free unsweetened
Koko dairy free super
|Mighty Pea unsweetened||30|
It is therefore essential that if you choose to use a plant-based milk in your diet that it is adequately fortified with iodine so always check the label; and always ensure you thoroughly shake the carton as a lot of the fortified nutrients can sink to the bottom.
Please note that not all plant-based milks have the optimal nutrient profile for young children as some fall short of energy and protein (e.g. nut and coconut milks) so it is important to look for products with sufficient calories, protein, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins and iodine.
If you have flexitarian approach to diet then ensuring regular intake of white fish, eggs and fortified products will ensure you meet iodine requirements.
What if I am vegan or vegetarian?
It is recommended to consult with a trained healthcare professional such as a dietitian to ensure you are not missing out on any key nutrients, especially if you wish to raise your child on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
V&Me menu planning
At V&Me the weekly menu is planned to consider all nutrients so you can have the confidence that this is being thought of so you don’t have to! Fish and seafood are offered twice a week and we use iodine-containing dairy products frequently throughout the menu. Where dishes are adapted to be dairy-free you can be confident that the plant-based milks used are fortified with iodine.
For more information please see the BDA Iodine factsheet Iodine Food fact Sheet | British Dietetic Association (BDA)