What Iodine Can Do For Your Health

“When it rains, it pours,” claims the Morton Salt motto. With the case of iodine, it’s ironically true. Iodized salt is the most significant source of iodine in the United States—a nutrient once scarce in many parts of the country. Adding iodine to table salt began in 1924 in Michigan to help prevent the spread of goiter that was common in the Great Lakes Region. The practice soon spread across the country.

What It Is

The average adult body contains between 20 and 50 mg of iodine, most of it concentrated in the thyroid gland.

Why You Need It


Iodine helps your body form thyroid hormones, which are vital to physical growth and development. Thyroid hormones control metabolism, improve mental functioning and give you healthier hair, skin, nails, and teeth.

Recommended Intake

RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)

Iodine in mcg/d

Life-Stage Children Men Women Pregnancy Lactation
1-3 years 90
4-8 years 90
9-13 years 120
14-18 years 150 150 220 290
19-30 years 150 150 220 290
31-50 years 150 150 220 290
51-70 years 150 150
70+ year 150 150

If You Get Too Little

The average person only needs a teaspoon of iodine over the course of an entire lifetime. Deficiency of iodine is a world health problem, but is relatively rare in industrialized countries with fortification programs. Sever iodine deficiency in the diet of a pregnant woman can increase the risk of a miscarriage and stillbirth; a baby who survives birth will likely suffer irreversible mental impairment. Mildly iodine-deficient children can have learning disabilities and trouble concentrating. Iodine deficiency in adults leads to a variety of illnesses including hypothyroidism, goiter and cretinism.

If You Take Too Much

Excess iodine may cause acne, confusion, irregular heartbeat, goiter (swollen neck or throat) and bloody or tar-like stools. Less common symptoms include joint pain, swelling of the face and tongue and gum soreness. The minimum toxic dose is 2 mg.

Kitchen Connection

Sautéed Scallops

Most seafood is rich in iodine, and scallops are no exception. The scallops you use here may be small, as in small bay scallops (about ½ inch in diameter) or larger, as in seas scallops (about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter). Either way, this is a delicious and simple way to prepare them.

What you need

  • 3 tablespoons of virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb of scallops
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic
  • 2 small shallots, chopped

How to Make it

  • Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook scallops quickly, stiffing constantly about 3 to 5 minutes or until opaque. Transfer to warm platter.
  • In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté garlic and shallots 3 to 4 minutes or until golden. Pour sauce over scallops. Garnish with lemon slices and parley. Serve immediately.
  • This recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare and are ready to serve in about 20 minutes.
  • Nutritional information: Per serving: 250 calories, 14.5 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 45 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, .5g fiber.