Iodine: For a Healthy Thyroid and More!

Jun 14, 2022Dairy Council® of Arizona

Why Do You Need Iodine?

Iodine is a mineral found in ocean water and soil. Because the body does not make iodine, it is an essential part of your diet and is needed by your body to perform certain functions. Specifically, iodine is needed for making thyroid hormones so it makes sense that 70-80% of the iodine in your body is stored in the thyroid.1 Your thyroid is a small gland located in the front of your neck and takes part in controlling metabolism, body temperature, heart rate, and more.2-4 When your body lacks the iodine it needs, it cannot make enough thyroid hormone to control these processes.

Iodine’s Role in Childhood

Iodine plays an important role in the development of cognitive and motor functions in babies throughout pregnancy and early childhood. Studies have shown that IQ levels are lower in children who have low or deficient levels compared to children with adequate or higher levels. Other symptoms of iodine deficiency in children include stunted growth, speech and hearing defects, and muscular disorders.

How Much Iodine Do You Need?

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for iodine is 150 mcg for both men and women and 220-290 mcg for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People who are deficient in iodine may experience symptoms such as an enlarged thyroid (goiter), impaired mental function, a lack of interest or enthusiasm, reduced work output, and hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). However, too much iodine in the body can result in goiter and hypothyroidism as well. Excess iodine can also cause hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid function) and thyroid cancer.

Age/Life Stage RDA
14+ 150 mcg
Pregnancy 220 mcg
Breastfeeding 290 mcg

How You Can Maintain Healthy Iodine Levels

It is estimated that 2 billion people in the world are deficient in iodine. Since your body cannot make iodine, it’s important to focus on consuming healthy sources of this mineral in your diet. Eating the following foods regularly can help ensure adequate levels. Most iodine is naturally found in the ocean, therefore fish, such as cod, oysters, shrimp, and tuna are great sources. Dairy is also a great source of iodine. One 8-ounce cup of milk contains about 60% of your daily value of iodine while a 6-ounce serving of plain Greek yogurt will give you 58% of your daily value. Other healthy options include iodized salt, eggs, and cheddar cheese.

Get Plenty of Iodine while Enjoying this Delicious Yogurt Recipe!

PB & J Greek Yogurt

A new twist on an old classic

About the author: Susan Vanoosterhout is currently in her senior year at Arizona State University, majoring in Nutrition. She is also a stay-at-home mom and in her free-time enjoys traveling, cooking, reading, and learning about nutrition.


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Hollenberg AN, Forrest D. The thyroid and metabolism: The action continues. Cell metabolism. 2008;8(1):10-12. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2008.06.008

Gustafson, C. Denis Wilson, md: Low body temperature as an indicator for poor expression of thyroid hormone. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2015;14(3):24-28.

Fazio S, Palmieri EA, Lombardi G, Biondi B. Effects of thyroid hormone on the cardiovascular system. Recent Prog Horm Res. 2004;59:31-50. doi:10.1210/rp.59.1.31

Zimmermann MB. Iodine deficiency. Endocr Rev. 2009;30(4):376-408. doi:10.1210/er.2009-0011

Santiago-Fernandez P, Torres-Barahona R, Muela-Martinez JA, et al. Intelligence quotient and iodine intake: a cross-sectional study in children. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89:3851-3857. doi:10.1210/jc.2003-031652

Qian M, Wang D, Watkins WE, et al. The effects of iodine on intelligence in children: a meta-analysis of studies conducted in China. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14:32-42. doi:10.2254/0964-7058.14.1.0168

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