Iodine And Vegans

High potassium foods provide a diet that is complete in all nutrients. If you restrict your diet to just certain types of food groups, however, you can have deficiencies. Several types of diet have unique potential deficiencies that you can guard against, if you know about them.

Kelp In Freycinet Tasmania
Kelp – A Common Source Of Iodine

Potential Deficiencies

Multiple reports have examined the potential deficiencies in a vegan diet. There is no one single vegan diet, but all the vegan diets avoid animal food sources. The major potential deficiencies include Vitamins D and B12, various amino acids, iron, selenium and some other trace elements, and iodine.

One study found vegans to only get about 40% of the recommended iodine intake (Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003 Aug;57(8):947-55.). Findings were similar in other studies, including one done in the U.S. (J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Aug;96(8):E1303-7.)

The high potassium diet is not a vegan or vegetarian diet, but does include a lot of fruits and vegetables. A great many plants and plant products are high in potassium. But if you limit your diet solely to plants, you must give attention to getting enough of other nutrients commonly deficient in vegan diets. Some individual reports of iodine deficiency in vegans have shown pregnant or lactating women and young children on a vegan diet are especially prone to iodine deficiency.

How To Avoid Deficiencies

You have several ways to avoid deficiency. Some common foods have iodine added. In the U.S., table salt is iodized, but the salt added to processed food is not iodized. Adding salt goes against the high potassium foods diet. Those vegans who do not add salt to their dishes need another source of iodine.

For omnivores, the simplest way to avoid iodine deficiency is to eat food that has come from the sea. Most omnivores can simply eat fish, especially those from the ocean. However, this is not open to vegans. Alternatively, some vegans resort to eating vegetables from the sea, usually a variety of seaweed.

Problem With Seaweed

The problem with seaweed is that the iodine content is variable. The recommended daily intake of iodine for an adult is 100 to 150 micrograms. The upper limit is 1100 micrograms (1.1 milligrams). Most seaweeds, such as kelp or kombu, only require a fraction of a gram of the seaweed to deliver the recommended amount of iodine. Thus they present the risk of getting too much iodine. And you should totally avoid one species, hijiki (hiziki), since it also has too much arsenic.

Additionally, some seaweeds have too much sodium. But raw lavar and agar have good ratios of potassium to sodium, as well as a good amount of potassium. There are also commercial products made from these seaweeds, but the processing changes the ratios of potassium to sodium. Check the label for the amount of each element.

The commercial products do retain the iodine, though. Eden Foods Agar-Agar, for example, provides 80 mcg (80% of RDA) of iodine in a tablespoon of agar flakes, which will make a cup of agar gel. You can use the gel similarly to gelatin for thickening, pie fillings and custards or Jello type desserts.

Alternative solutions for most vegans include getting iodine in a supplement, or eating vegetables grown in soil with adequate iodine, such as land that is seaside. The plants absorb the iodine from the soil, and thus transfer the iodine to anyone who eats the plants.

You can find potassium and sodium values for lavar and agar in the vegetables table. To look for tables of potassium and sodium values in various food categories, click the “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab at the top of the page. Then click the link to the type food you are interested in.

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