Recently we shared a post focusing on a ‘lesser-known’ nutrient, choline, and it got us thinking – what are some other nutrients we know are important, but often overlook? Everyone knows and loves vitamin C, especially come cold season, and most of us are aware that we are often not getting enough vitamin D3, but what about boron? Manganese? Is there more to iodine than thyroid health?

So that’s what we’re here today to dive into! For our second installment of the Lesser-Known Nutrient series, we’re going to talk iodine. If you’re anything like me, the first thing that pops into your head when you think iodine is seaweed (like the stuff I still enjoy hurling at my unsuspecting father when we’re in the ocean together. Sorry, dad!) And while seaweed is certainly a great source of iodine, there are other ways to incorporate it into the diet. But first, what is iodine, and what does it do?

Iodine is “an essential nonmetallic trace element that exists in nature as elemental iodine or iodide” (Fortify Your Life 160). As we mentioned, it is most notably responsible for the production of our thyroid hormones.

Thyroid Function  

The thyroid is located in the lower front of your neck, and our thyroid hormones are produced there. According to Doctor Low Dog, “There are two primary thyroid hormones, named for how many iodine molecules they contain: T4 has four iodine molecules and T3…has three.” Clearly, without enough iodine, we can’t manufacture these hormones, and that can spell trouble: Thermoregulation is a key function of the thyroid. What is that, you may be saying? It is the maintenance and regulation of our body temperature. The thyroid is also involved in metabolism maintenance, as well as cellular growth.

It is important that we get adequate amounts of iodine throughout all stages of our lives. For instance, iodine is vital during pregnancy to ensure proper brain development of the baby, and thyroid hormones are also responsible for the formation of the protective coating surrounding the baby’s nerves, called myelin. Science is also beginning to look at prenatal iodine levels and their connection to IQ and cognition in children (read more about this in Fortify Your Life, by Doctor Low Dog!).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), iodine deficiency is the most preventable cause of brain damage in the world, and it remains one of the primary causes of diminished cognition in children. They estimate that over 30 percent of the population (~2.3 billion people) do not get sufficient iodine in their diets.

But that doesn’t apply to us here in the United States, right? According to Doctor Low Dog, “For decades it was assumed that the U.S. was an iodine sufficient country, but new research shows that certain segments of our population may still be at risk for iodine deficiency, which should concern us all.”

So how do you ensure you’re getting enough in your diet? Seaweed remains the gold-star when it comes to food sources of iodine, however it is also found in shellfish, fish, milk, and eggs. And don’t forget that iodized salt! Many of us are eschewing it in favor of mineral-rich celtic or himalayan salt, however the iodine levels in those are non-existent. Don’t want to trade out your lovely pink salt, however? I don’t blame you! Instead, look for a multivitamin that contains 100% DV of iodine, which is 150mcg, and Mind the Gap that may be present in your diet.