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  • Archive for the ‘iodine’ Category

    Q&A Roundup #3

    Here are some more questions I have received from Small Bites readers over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

    If you would like to submit a question for these round-ups, you can do so via e-mail, Twitter, or the Small Bites’ Facebook page wall.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Seaweed

    895835I consider myself an adventurous eater, but other than a few sushi rolls when I go to a Japanese restaurant, I don’t eat much seaweed.

    Whenever I am at Whole Foods, I see a pretty good-size chunk of one aisle devoted to different kinds of dried seaweed.

    What are some ways I can eat them?  Do they offer any real nutrition  benefits or are they healthy just because they are low in calories?

    – Joanna MacKay
    New York, NY

    Seaweed — which is literally available in thousands of varieties — offers an array of flavors, textures, and health benefits.

    All varieties are good sources of B vitamins, calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and zinc.

    Most varieties also provide substantial amounts of lignans — the compounds found in flaxseed that are linked to decreased cancer risk AND lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels!

    Nori is the most commonly consumed seaweed, as it is the one used in sushi rolls.  However, many people also like to add a few slivers of nori to salads and soups.

    You can even buy sheets of nori and make home-made vegetable rolls.

    For example, roll up mesclun greens, sliced avocado, sliced mango, and julienned (that’s chef-speak for “thinly sliced”) red peppers in a nori sheet, cut the long roll into round bite-size chunks, drizzle a bit of dressing on top (this peanut-cilantro one complements the flavors fabulously), and you have yourself a fun — and nutritious — lunch!

    In Japan, toasted nori snacks are immensely popular (almost as much as potato chips are in the United States).

    Kombu is a type of seaweed mainly used for stocks, while kelp is often added to soups (like miso) or used in granule form to add fishy flavors to vegetarian items that aim to mimic seafood.

    Arame is used in many savory dishes, including stews and grain-based side dishes, while hijiki is often steamed and consumed as a side dish of its own (one restaurant I frequently establish serves up hijiki as part of a platter alongside brown rice, chickpeas, and stir-fried tofu).

    Dulse is mainly available as granules to add fishy flavors to food, although whole dried dulse can be eaten right out of the bag as a snack or used as a salad topper.

    FYI: most seaweed salads at Japanese restaurants use a combination of seaweeds.  The downside?  They contain a substantial amount of added sugars and oils.  If you want to start your meal with it, keep that in mind and make light entree selections.

    The biggest mistake I come across when it comes to the nutritional aspects of seaweed is the completely erroneous claim that they are a good source of vitamin B12.

    They are NOT.  Seaweed contains B12 analogues — compounds that mimic the vitamin.

    Vegetarians and vegans need to be very mindful of B12 analogues; they attach to B12 receptors in the body, and prevent real B12 in the diet from being absorbed properly!

    Also, since seaweed is very high in iodine, anyone with thyroid issues should first consult with a Registered Dietitian before adding it to their diet on a consistent basis.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Soy & Thyroid Issues

    iStock_Soy_Bean_On_PodI’ve read the soy is a goitrogen.

    Could it exacerbate hypothyroidism?

    – Corey Clark
    (location withheld)

    Certain compounds in soy can exacerbate — but not cause — thyroid issues by limiting the uptake of iodine and thereby causing goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland).

    Keep in mind, though, that these same compounds are also found in vegetables that belong to the Brassica family of plants (i.e.: broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, mustard greens, kale) as well as strawberries, pears, and peanuts.

    These foods are only a concern for people who already have underactive thyroids.

    Two tips to keep in mind:

    1. Cooking the above-mentioned vegetables lessens their inhibiting effect on thyroid function.
    2. It appears that fermentation reduces goitrogenic compounds, so tempeh (fermented soybeans) can be safely consumed in small amounts by those with underactive thyroids.
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    You Ask, I Answer: Iodine

    The only salt I have at home (and use for everything) is sea salt. The packaging states that it is not a source of iodine.

    Do I need to use regular table salt in order to get iodine in my diet?

    How would I know if I had an iodine deficiency?

    How much should I get each day?

    – Crystal Fales
    Philadelphia, PA

    Iodine has a very specific function in the body — without it, our thyroid gland is unable to produce an important hormone called thyroxine.

    Consequently, an iodine deficiency results in the enlargement of the thyroid gland (a condition known as goiter, pictured at left) as well as hypothyroidism (some of the main consequences of this include a slowed down metabolism and increased total blood cholesterol.)

    Thyroxine is also crucial for brain growth and development in babies (both inside and outside the womb) and children.

    Although table salt contains iodine (a direct result of fortification), so do many other foods.

    Ironically, although iodine is not in sea salt, anything that lives in the sea (whether it’s fish or plants) is a great source of the mineral.

    Dairy and eggs are also fairly good sources of iodine, as a result of food processing techniques.

    Vegetables are a little tricky because their iodine content varies on the amount of the mineral found in the specific soil in which they grow.

    Adults should aim for approximately 150 micrograms a day. This figure is not too helpful, though, since most foods that contain iodine do not contain nutrition fact labels, and those that do do not list it.

    A three-ounce serving of fish (the size of a human palm and as thick as the average adult’s pinky finger) provides approximately 150 to 300 percent of a day’s worth of iodine.

    Vegans can sometimes be low in iodine (again, depending on the specific content of iodine in the vegetables they are eating,) so supplementation is always an option.

    Be careful with over-supplementation, though. An excess of iodine results in hyperthyroidism, which can lead to insomnia, restlessness, and rapid heartbeat.

    Lastly, allow me to point out that the sodium in processed foods is not fortified with iodine. So, a frozen meal containing sky-high levels of sodium provides absolutely no iodine.

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