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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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