Iodine intake: what vegans need to consider

By Judy Buttriss

- Last updated on GMT

Professor Buttriss: ‘One-in-ten women already have low iodine intakes’
Professor Buttriss: ‘One-in-ten women already have low iodine intakes’
January saw a spike in numbers professing to be vegan.

A vegan diet can deliver the nutrients needed for health, but like any diet that eliminates food categories, it needs more planning and nutritional knowledge.

Iodine is an example of a nutrient typically provided by non-vegan foods, and cow’s milk, yogurt and white fish are important sources. Vegetables provide far less.

Daily needs are met by about 300ml semi-skimmed milk a day, but teenagers and young adults tend to have less milk than other groups. One-in-five teenage girls and one-in-ten women already have low iodine intakes.

Tiredness, weight gain or mood changes

Iodine is needed for thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, so deficiency can cause tiredness, weight gain or mood changes. Iodine is also critical for a baby’s brain development – so it’s vital that young women have sufficient in their diet.

So, what options are available for those who exclude non-plant foods?

Seaweed is an option but levels are variable and the amount in kelp can be very high and result in an excessive intake, which can also prove to be harmful.

Iodine-fortified foods or supplements are also options. The March issue of Nutrition Bulletin​ has more details.

  • Professor Judy Buttriss is director general of the British Nutrition Foundation

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