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Iodine and your health

If you've wondered why table salt usually comes with iodine (I) added, the reason is simple: we don't get enough of it from the food. Another little remainder that we don't live in a perfect world. Food shouldn't be assumed perfect just because we live on it. The more you know about it, the better your chances to protect or regain your health.

It is not only that iodine food sources are scarce, there is quite a few otherwise healthy foods - so called goitrogenic foods (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables, Lima beans, sweet potato, soybeans, peanuts, spinach, peaches, strowberries and millet) - that suppress iodine absorption and can cause its deficiency even if the nominal iodine intake is satisfactory.

Cooking partly deactivates goitrogenic compounds.

It is hard to comprehend that as small amount of anything can be so important for your health. Iodine DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, the most recent set of dietary recommendations set by the government) for an average healthy adult is set at 0.15mg a day. And if you don't get enough of it, the consequences can be very serious.

The main role of iodine is supporting thyroid gland function. Since the thyroid is a major gland responsible for some key processes in your body, iodine deficiency can result in a number of physical and neurological disturbances, from fatigue, weight gain and infertility (to name a few), to depression, dislipidemia (cholesterol imbalance) and memory loss.

In children, it generally slows down development, and serious deficiency can result in mental retardation.

As always, too much of any nutrient is not good either, and iodine is not exception. It can over-stimulate thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which can end up with overworked, exhausted gland, and turn into hypothyroidism. Also, excessive iodine can cause irregularities in heart contractions, protruding eyes, insomnia, heat intolerance, and a number of other physical and psychological symptoms.

Best natural iodine food sources are kelp, dulse, other seaweed and seafood.