So you’re following a “perfect” Paleo diet… surely you can’t be deficient in any vitamins or minerals that your body needs? Well, you might be surprised; have you thought about your iodine levels lately?
I've been looking into some of the popular supplements that people take, and minerals that some are careful to ensure they are not deficient in. I’ll be writing about a few of the popular ones, but iodine is one of the first minerals that regular seems to be spoken about.
What actually is iodine?
It’s a trace element that has quite a big impact on our health and is especially associated with our thyroid. While iodine deficiency is mainly linked with third world and developing nations, research shows that even those living in developed countries like Australia or the United Kingdom have been found to be deficient. It’s probably no surprise, given the SAD diet so many people in the developed World live on.
Iodine deficiency is not a good thing and can cause a number of health issues.
Conditions such as Goitre can be caused by iodine deficiency. The thyroid gland enlarges, as it lacks the necessary iodine in order to compensate for the imbalance. This produces a large and highly visible lump in the neck. Not pretty.
Cretinism occurs when a woman is iodine deficient during a pregnancy. This can result in the child being born with a lower IQ and abnormal neuro-development.
Another result of iodine deficiency is Hypothyroidism. Iodine is one of the major ingredients in the thyroid hormone, so where thyroid lacks enough, it will reduce the thyroids ability to makes the hormone. Symptoms of a thyroid lacking iodine include – elevated blood lipids, infertility, weight gain and the inability to lose weight, dry skin, hair loss and a lack of libido – just to name but a few.
So why do iodine deficiencies occur?
Especially on a Paleo diet, when you eat natural, real foods? Foods such as sea food and seaweed are rich in iodine – so not having many of these foods in your diet, makes it harder to get decent levels of iodine.
A common source of iodine is iodised salt – which of course on a Paleo diet, is often replaced with mineral and sea salts – naturally iodine free!
Some foods are rich in Goitrogen, such as broccoli. If eaten to excess, these foods may interfere with the iodine uptake needed by the thyroid gland. While this doesn’t lead to a whole body deficiency it does limit the thyroids ability to get the amount of iodine it needs.
Where can you get iodine from?
Seaweed is a great source, especially from kelp (or Kombu) and hijiki, just add a strip to your next pot of chili, soup or curry. Eat more seafood – crustaceans, fish, and shellfish – anything that lives in the ocean, provided it is high quality. While the iodine content of fish varies you can get the most from abalone, codfish and pollack. The way you cook also determines how much iodine will remain. If you boil fish it will lose most of its iodine content but if you fry it most of the iodine content will remain. Grilling retains more than boiling does, but a little less than frying.
Free range eggs are another great source – although the specific amount will depend on the laying hens diet – if there is iodine in the chicken’s diet it will show up in the yolk.
Finally supplements are a popular alternative to ensure you are getting sufficient levels of iodine in your paleo diet.
So how do you ensure you get enough Iodine?