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What is a Low-Iodine Diet?

Anna T.
Updated May 17, 2024
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A low-iodine diet is a type of eating plan that restricts a person's consumption of iodine, which is an important element essential to the survival of every human being. Fortunately, most people get the appropriate amounts of iodine without trying because it is abundant in table salt, of which most processed foods are full. Certain health conditions, such as problems relating to the thyroid, may make it necessary for a person to limit his or her daily intake of iodine. Doctors often place people who have thyroid cancer or hyperthyroidism on the low-iodine diet.

Foods that are safe to consume on the low-iodine diet include fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Anything with a label indicating that no salt was added is typically acceptable. A good rule of thumb for following the low-iodine diet is to avoid overly processed foods because they almost always contain massive amounts of salt. A person on the low-iodine diet does not necessarily have to avoid salt entirely; he just needs to limit his intake of iodized salt and sea salt, which contains iodine. Most grocery stores sell non-iodized salt in the same section with iodized salt and sea salt.

In addition to iodized salts and most processed foods, it may be necessary to eliminate most seafood on the low-iodine diet. This is because, like sea salt, fish that come from the sea are typically very high in iodine. Other foods that may contain iodine are milk and eggs. Milk and other dairy products typically contain varying amounts of iodine due to it being present in cattle food and some ingredients people use for cleaning udders and milking equipment. Egg whites are also considered acceptable because they normally do not contain iodine, but the yolks typically do contain it. It may also be beneficial for a person following this diet to check the iodine content in any vitamins or other supplements she regularly takes.

The low-iodine diet is not always meant to be long term. People with thyroid cancer are usually placed on this type of diet for just a few weeks. The purpose of it is normally to prepare them for a radioactive iodine scan. Consuming smaller amounts of iodine in the weeks preceding the scan typically helps the body eliminate much of its iodine, which can make the scan more effective when it is done. People who suffer from hyperthyroidism may be required to remain on the low-iodine diet for an extended period of time in order to keep the thyroid from producing too many thyroid hormones.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Anna T.
By Anna T.
Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to WiseGeek. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.

Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On May 21, 2011

A diet that is low in iodine is very important for those with a history of thyroid cancer. One of the most helpful things is to avoid a lot of processed food - something that we should be doing whether we need to watch our iodine intake or not.

Sometimes it can be hard to make the changes in our diet that we need to, but there are many websites that offer information on low iodine diet recipes. Our bodies usually respond pretty quickly when we give them the nourishment they need with the right foods. It takes some effort and some time, but is worth it in the long run.

By SarahSon — On May 19, 2011

I am a label reader and read labels on just about everything I buy, but have never really focused on how much iodine is in something. I have never given much thought if I have too much or too little iodine in my diet. My first thought when I hear of iodine is using it on cuts and scrapes on your skin. I still remember the distinct smell and the orange color.

When I was a teenager I also used it in baby oil when I was suntanning, because was told it would help you tan faster. Now I know how that was really not a good idea - kind of scary when you think about it. No sunscreen - just iodine and baby oil!

Anna T.

Anna T.

Anna Thurman is a skilled writer who lends her talents to WiseGeek. Her ability to research and present information in an engaging and accessible manner allows her to create content that resonates with readers across a wide range of subjects.
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