The sea contains most of the world’s iodine. This mineral which is essential for a healthy thyroid gland, was discovered in 1811 by Bernard Courtois. Yet long before this, from about 1600 BC, Chinese healers were treating goitres… (an enlarged thyroid gland) with burnt sponge and seaweed. Both are rich in iodine which is why these traditional treatments worked for people suffering thyroid disease.
Thyroid disease is relatively common today, affecting one in 20 people in the UK and it occurs more frequently in women. Often misdiagnosed or overlooked, the symptoms can include fatigue, depression, weight gain, insomnia, dry skin and thinning hair.
While seafood, fish and animals that eat fish are good sources of iodine, seaweed concentrates it with levels in kelp up to 100,000 times greater than in the surrounding water. Seaweed is also packed with other nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, manganese and iron.
Seaweed’s mineral content is about 10 times higher than plants grown in soil and is generally a better source of iron than spinach and egg yolks.
Kelp and other brown seaweeds contain more iodine than green forms. Konbu, for example, which is a type of kelp, contains between 100 and 1,000 times more iodine than the purple-red seaweed laver used to make Welsh laverbread (known as nori in Japan).
The amount of iodine depends on where the seaweed grew and the processing involved. It is possible to get your recommended daily intake by eating a healthy diet (it is also found in milk and other dairy products) but some of us don’t get enough.
Results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children published in medical journal The Lancet last year found that two thirds of pregnant women in the UK are iodine deficient. This may imply other people are also deficient but it would take another survey to be sure.
To boost your iodine intake you could try Japanese seaweed recipes but be aware that the British Dietetic Association recommends eating it no more than once a week. Adults, unless advised otherwise by a doctor or dietician, should consume no more than 600mcg of iodine each day to avoid triggering an overactive thyroid.
Extracted from Coping with Thyroid Disease (published by Sheldon Press) at £8.99. Please call The Express Bookshop on 01872 562 310; send a cheque/PO payable to Express Bookshop to Express Bookshop, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ; or order online at expressbookshop.com UK delivery is free.
Photo caption: Japanese nori is rich in iodine essential for a healthy thyroid [ONOKY/GETTY]
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