Iodine • Vital trace element

The thyroid depends on the trace element iodine to make hormones. How much iodine does the body need, in which foods it is contained and how to prevent iodine deficiency during pregnancy or in children.

Germans are not optimally supplied with iodine: According to information from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the intake is below the amount required by the World Health Organization (WHO). Nevertheless, Germany is not one of the iodine deficiency areas.

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Foods Containing Iodine: The Best Sources of Iodine

What is iodine and what does the body need it for?

Iodine is one of the trace elements and is vital for the body. Since it cannot be produced by the body itself, it has to be obtained through the consumption of iodine-containing foods. Iodine is mainly necessary for the building of thyroid hormones, which regulate bone formation, growth, brain development and metabolic processes. A severe iodine deficiency can negatively affect these processes. In addition, a deficiency in the trace element promotes diseases of the thyroid gland, which lead to functional disorders such as over- or under-function.

Goiter as a result of iodine deficiency

After a while, iodine deficiency leads to goiter, medically known as goiter. The reason for this is an enlarged thyroid. The thyroid makes this The hormone thyroxine, which increases the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats in the human body and thus controls the basal metabolic rate. To make thyroxine, the thyroid gland needs iodine. However, if the blood is not sufficiently enriched with the mineral, the iodine-filtering cells in the thyroid gland multiply. This is to ensure that a larger amount of iodine can be withdrawn from the blood. This excessive cell formation causes the throat to swell.

Thyroid dysfunction can be detected by a blood test and in most cases it is easily treatable.

Daily need for iodine

Since the body cannot produce iodine itself and almost cannot store it, it has to be ingested daily through food. How much iodine a person needs depends, among other things, on age. Teenagers, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women, need a little more.

Daily iodine requirement according to the German Nutrition Society (DGE):

Alter Jodbedarf
0 to 4 months 40 micrograms (µg)
4 to 12 months 80 µg
1 to 4 years 100 µg
4 to 7 years 120 µg
7 to 10 years 140 µg
10 to 13 years 180 µg
13 to 15 years 200 µg
Teenagers and adults
15 to 51 years 200 µg
from 51 years 180 µg
Pregnant women 230 µg
Breastfeeding 260 µg

Iodine in foods

In order to achieve the recommended values, one should put the following iodine-containing foods on the menu and observe a few simple rules:

  • milk

  • Dairy products

  • cheese

  • Sea fish such as saithe or cod

  • Seafood like mussels, crabs or lobster

  • Use iodized salt for cooking and seasoning

  • Preferably buy foods made with iodized salt

  • Smoking inhibits the body’s absorption of iodine

  • Mustard oil glycosides in foods such as cabbage, cress, radish, flax or millet can reduce the absorption of iodine

  • Deficiencies in selenium, zinc and iron can affect the iodine metabolism

In recent years, iodized salt has also been used increasingly in the production of food, including meat, sausage and bread. In addition, animal feed is now often iodized in agriculture, which is why the content of the trace element in milk and dairy products, for example, has increased.

Table with iodized foods

Food per 100 g Iodine content
Jodsalz 1,500 to 2,500 depending on the enrichment
Pollock (Alaska Pollack) 260 micrograms (µg)
cod 230 µg
plaice 180 µg
Mussel 150 µg
Haddock 135 µg
Scratch 130 µg
Shrimps 130 µg
Pollack (coalfish) 120 µg
Scallop 120 µg
Hummer 100 µg
Alaska Pollock (Pollack) 88 µg
Hard cheese 40-80 µg
Auster 60 µg
tuna 50 µg
Hering 50 µg
Mackerel 50 µg
Scampi 50 µg
salmon 35 µg
Sea bream 24 µg
milk 12 µg
Dairy products 10-15 µg
milk 12 µg
Quark 8-10 µg
cream cheese 8-10 µg
Chicken egg 9 µg
beef 5-6 µg
pork meat 4-5 µg

Also take iodine tablets?

In some cases it may be necessary to take iodine in the form of tablets. For example, during pregnancy or when breastfeeding, when the need for trace elements is increased. Targeted supplementation, however, should only take place after consultation with a doctor and after a confirmed diagnosis of iodine deficiency.

Recognize and prevent iodine deficiency in children

If children do not consume enough iodine over a long period of time, this can lead to a deficiency in thyroid hormones. The consequences are often tiredness, learning difficulties and poor concentration up to and including reduced brain performance. Parents should pay attention to these signs and have their thyroid levels checked.

Around a third of six to 17 year olds suffer from a slight iodine deficiency. This is mainly due to the fact that plant-based foods that grow on German soils are naturally very low in iodine. Fish is also rarely on the table in many households. Another reason: Children and adolescents in particular like to consume fast food that usually does not contain iodized salt.

In order to meet daily needs, however, experts recommend consuming fish on a regular basis. However, since there are children who even spurn fish fingers, parents may have to resort to other sources to avoid an iodine deficiency. Milk and dairy products such as hard cheese or quark are a good alternative. However, iodized salt makes the most important contribution to iodine supply.

Iodine Deficiency During Pregnancy

An iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland in both the expectant mother and the fetus. In addition, too little of the trace element can impair mental and physical development during the embryonic phase and even cause miscarriages and premature births as well as brain damage in the unborn child. The risk of postpartum depression also increases due to an iodine deficiency during pregnancy.

In order to achieve 230 micrograms of iodine during pregnancy, women should eat a balanced diet as usual and observe the above-mentioned tips on a diet rich in iodine. However, raw fish, as in sushi, should not be on the plate during pregnancy, as it can contain listeria.

Avoid dangerous overdose

As with many other nutrients, a deficit is just as unhealthy as an overdose. The DGE therefore recommends not consuming more than 500 micrograms of iodine per day. Caution is advised with dried algae and seaweed products, which are often very rich in iodine. Brown algae such as the arame, kombu, wakame and hijiki species contain particularly high amounts of iodine. Their consumption quickly exceeds the recommended maximum dose of iodine per day. The packaging should indicate that excessive consumption of iodine can lead to thyroid dysfunction. On the other hand, overdosing with other foods such as milk, fish and meat is very rare.

In higher doses (more than 1,000 μg / day), so-called iodine excess can occur, which favors a number of diseases such as hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or rare hypersensitivity reactions.

Thyroid Facts - What You Should Know

Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by

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