Iodine intake levels dropped so low in Australia, the Federal Government introduced a mandatory food standard in 2009 to make sure we were getting enough in our diets.
Why is it so important? According to the Thyroid Foundation, the most “alarming consequences” of iodine deficiency is brain damage in babies and young children.
The naturally-occurring mineral is “essential” for brain development and without it the risk of neurological problems increases. It’s why pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised to consume a higher daily intake.
“Iodine deficiency may cause miscarriage and other pregnancy complications such as premature delivery and infertility,” the Thyroid Foundation published.
“Thyroid hormones – and therefore iodine – are essential for normal development of the brain. If the foetus or newborn is not exposed to enough thyroid hormone, it may not survive or may have permanent mental retardation.”
What is iodised salt?
Health experts believe one of the reasons we’re not getting enough iodine is a shift in our habits of using salt. Researchers have found there has been a reduction in the use of salt in cooking, for health reasons, particularly table salt that is iodised.
Iodised salt is just salt with iodine added and contains 25 to 45 micrograms of iodine per gram of salt. If salt is iodised it should say so on the label.
“Iodine deficiency has re-emerged in Australia with the introduction of new practices of sanitisation in the dairy industry and a decline in use and consumption of iodised salt,” according to Nutrition Australia.
“Use of iodised salt has been reduced due to increased awareness of the association between high salt consumption and hypertension.”
Many of us have also switched to fancier salts like sea salt and Himalayan pink salt which don’t always have iodine added to them.
How much iodine do we need?
Compared to other nutrients the amount of iodine we need is very small. It’s actually around one teaspoonful over a lifetime, for most adults however the recommended daily intake depends on age and lifestage.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand recommends the following amounts:
- Young children (1 to 8 years): 90 micrograms
- Older children (9 to 13 years): 120 micrograms
- Adolescents (14 to 18 years): 150 micrograms
- Adults: 150 micrograms
- Pregnant women: 220 micrograms
- Breastfeeding women: 270 micrograms
It has a handy list which breaks down how much iodine there is in specific foods to help you work out what you could add to your diet each day so you’re getting enough of the mineral.
- Seafood. Eating fish twice a week will provide most adults with enough iodine to fulfil their average iodine requirement. This includes tinned tuna and salmon
- Bread. Nearly all bread in Australia is made using iodised salt but Organic breads and ‘no added salt’ breads are the only exceptions to this rule
- Seaweed. The dried seaweed used in sushi has iodine in it or you can buy packets of nori from most health food stores to eat as a snack. One small serving (5 grams) can provide 100 per cent of your daily recommended iodine intake
- Dairy products. Cheese, milk and yoghurt
- Fruit. Apple, oranges, grapes and bananas
- Vegetables. Some vegetables may contain iodine, but only if they are grown in iodine-rich soils.
If you can’t get enough iodine naturally, supplements may be necessary. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your intake.