Iodine: How Much Is Healthy? And What Foods Is It In?

What is the daily iodine requirement? Do children need more iodine than adults or less? And which foods are good for absorbing iodine? We clarify the most important questions about iodine supply.

Iodine is essential for human metabolism, so we have to ingest the trace element with our food.
Small children do not yet need a lot of iodine, and women have a particularly high need during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Sea fish has a high iodine content. Some types of vegetables and nuts also contain iodine, albeit in lower concentrations.
Many people know: Iodine is important for the metabolism. But neither too much iodine nor too little is good for our body. How much iodine should you take in daily and which foods contain enough iodine? We deliver the answers.

Iodine: Important trace element for the metabolism

We humans need iodine for metabolism: without iodine, the body cannot produce the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones are important for growth, bone formation and brain development, as well as for energy metabolism.

To do this, we must ingest iodine through our food. The right amount of iodine is crucial: iodine deficiency can lead to an enlargement of the thyroid gland, the goiter, and the associated metabolic disorders. Severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy harms the development of the child.

But too much iodine is not healthy either and can damage the thyroid gland. For Germany, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) estimates the daily intake of up to 500 micrograms of iodine to be safe, even for people who are sensitive to iodine exposure. According to the BfR, this amount is not exceeded with a normal diet.

What about the daily iodine intake?

Overall, there is no iodine deficiency in Germany, but the supply of iodine is not optimal. However, the BfR assumes that around 30 percent of the total population consume less iodine than the estimated average daily requirement. For children and young people it is even 44 percent.

Current studies are also sobering: The BfR reported in February that the iodine intake in the general population is declining. It is therefore recommended to use more iodised table salt in the industrial and artisanal production of food.

How much iodine do we need daily?

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends different amounts of iodine per day depending on age:

Adults up to 51 years of age 200 micrograms (µg) of iodine per day.
According to the DGE, people over the age of 51 need a little less, namely 180 µg/day.
Women should consume more iodine during pregnancy and breastfeeding: 230 or 260 µg per day. In order to avoid an iodine deficiency and its possible consequences for mother and child, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult their gynecologist and, if necessary, also take iodine in a dose of 100 to 150 μg/day in tablet form.
Babies up to the age of four months only need 40 µg iodine daily, between four and twelve months 80 µg.
100 µg of iodine is sufficient for small children up to the age of 4, and 120 µg is recommended for children aged four to seven.
Children aged 7 to 10 should take in 140 µg iodine daily, up to 13 years it is 180 µg.
Adolescents from the age of 13 should take 200 µg just like adults.

This is how you get enough iodine

Buy and use iodized table salt to flavor your food. The BfR recommends iodised table salt not only for use in the household, but also in gastronomy and in the production of food. However, the use in the food industry is not mandatory. Nevertheless, processed foods such as meat, sausage and bread can be good sources of iodine. It is best to pay attention to the list of ingredients here or, if in doubt, ask the seller.

Milk and milk products such as yoghurt, quark and cheese as well as eggs from Germany usually contain iodine. The background: In this country, iodized feed is fed to cows and hens.

Iodine is also found in some types of vegetables, albeit in smaller amounts than in fish. Vegetables containing iodine include broccoli, mushrooms and spinach. Peanuts and pumpkin seeds also provide the body with iodine.

People who eat vegan are often considered a risk group for iodine deficiency. You should therefore make sure that you consume enough iodine – for example through iodized table salt, algae and broccoli. Iodine tablets can also be useful. It is best for vegans to seek medical advice.

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