I recently became aware that I should be taking vegan iodine supplements, as my boyfriend and I are in the process of buying a house. We have talked a lot about our future together and the topic of children has come up a fair few times.
I am a planner, always have been and always will be, so I took to the internet to research everything baby-related. This was when I discovered the importance of iodine, particularly in vegan nutrition and pregnant women.
I wanted to share with you what I found in order to encourage you to look at iodine supplements. Before I start, I’ve written out a quick disclaimer:
Neither myself nor the Vegan Sisters are medically trained. Therefore, if you believe you have an iodine deficiency or have any of the symptoms of one then you should seek medical assistance. All of the information in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources and is available to the public. However, you should never self diagnose illnesses or deficiencies.
So you’re probably thinking…
What is iodine?
Good question! I always thought iodine was a chemical used in science lessons in school, but apparently, it is a mineral, which plays an important role in maintaining a healthy balance of thyroid hormones in the body.
In the UK, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iodine for adults is 150 micrograms. Pregnant and breastfeeding women have a higher RDA. This is because iodine also aids the healthy development of unborn and newborn babies.
Read our article on Omega-3 to find out why you also need to incorporate this important nutrient into your vegan diet.
Where is iodine found?
Traditionally, iodine is obtained through the consumption of fish, meat and dairy, but similarly to vitamin B12, iodine actually comes from the soil and not animals.
Vegan sources of iodine
Fruit and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil will contain a small amount of iodine. However, it is difficult to say exactly how much iodine these fruits and vegetables contain.
It is my guess that mass farming operations may be partly responsible for this.
For example, strawberries are grown in many different countries, in many different regions and the luxury of shopping in chain supermarkets does not always give us the option to see where our produce has come from. Therefore, they cannot be relied upon as a sufficient vegan source of iodine.
Pretty much the only significant vegan source of iodine is seaweed.
The downfall of attempting to get 100% of your iodine RDA in seaweed is that it can be very salty- not to mention you would probably get bored of eating seaweed every single day!
What’s more, the iodine content between seaweed species varies considerably, while different methods of cooking and processing can also have an influence. There is even the possibility of eating too much iodine from seaweed!
Iodine deficiency symptoms
- Neck swelling
- Unexpected weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry and flakey skin
You may experience these symptoms for a number of different reasons so it is always best to seek medical advice if you are concerned about your wellbeing.
Do vegans need to take iodine supplements?
Vegan sources of iodine are few and far between so a supplement is a good way of ensuring that you are meeting your nutrition requirements and that you continue to have a healthy vegan diet.
As a vegan, what should you look for in an iodine supplement?
There are lots of iodine supplements on the market, but you will definitely need to check the ingredients or look for vegan certified supplements, as some contain fish.
The other thing to watch out for is that you are not exceeding your RDA.
The thing I found most confusing when trying to decide on the right supplements was…
The difference between mg, mcg and μg:
Mg stands for milligrams, mcg stands for micrograms and μg is the symbol for micrograms.
Therefore, if the dosage of iodine is in mg then you will need to convert it into mcg/ug to see if it contains a suitable dosage.
The first iodine supplement that I purchased was Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful Organic Scottish Seaweed Natural Iodine Source supplements. I purchased them thinking that the iodine content of one capsule was 0.35mcg, except it’s not. It’s 0.35mg, which is completely different so just be mindful of this when making your choice.
Can you eat too much iodine?
By exceeding your RDA of iodine, you are putting yourself at risk of other negative health effects. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism, demonstrates how too much iodine can cause adverse affects, such as the induction/aggravation of thyroid autoimmunity.
After doing my research, I felt a bit on the fence about taking the supplements I had just purchased. I decided in the end not to return them. Instead, I have been taking one every 2-4 days to boost my iodine levels.
If you are like me and you feel concerned about consuming too much iodine then I would recommend looking at iodine powder supplements, as you can control and limit your dosage easily. These types of supplements are readily available at health food stores, including Holland & Barrett.
What vegans really need to know about iodine
When I first went vegan, I refused to take supplements because I felt that in doing so I was somehow fitting the stereotype that vegans are weak, eat grass and require numerous supplements in order to function to half the ability that a meat-eater does.
I don’t know when my views changed, but I know that the most common reason I’ve heard for people reverting to a meat-based diet is that they are experiencing a deficiency of some sort.
The benefits of eating a vegan diet are proven, which is why it is so important to get it right from the get-go. Dietary information isn’t always readily available and can be misleading or hard to interpret so working together to spread this knowledge can help all vegans to lead healthy and happy lives.
Please feel free to get in touch if you have anything to add or you feel that we missed something.
For more information on iodine, please visit the NHS website.
Great stuff. Very informative.