THE need to eat nourishing foods in order to enjoy unbroken cycle of good health cannot be overemphasized. While some people make do with all sort of supplements, experts advise that we get the larger percentage of our nutritional needs from the food we eat.Apart from vitamins and minerals, another important nourishment we must derive from our foods is iodine, a trace element that is naturally present in many foods. It could also be added to others, while it is also available as a dietary supplement.
When a woman is pregnant, the foetus requires iodine for proper development of the skeleton and the central nervous system. And even after the baby is born, as an infant, he still needs this all-important mineral for the development of the brain; otherwise the growing baby might develop cretinism – a thyroid-hormone deficiency resulting in stunted physical and mental growth.
Consultant nutritionist, Dr. Florence Okwusi, says iodine deficiency is one of the leading causes of preventable mental handicaps, and it is needed for normal metabolism of cells.
She says, “Humans need iodine for normal thyroid function and for the production of thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine, the thyroid cells and the thyroid gland become enlarged, and that is why we encourage people to take diets that are rich in iodine.”
She also says iodine deficiency happens more often in women than in men, and is more common in pregnant women and older children.
Indeed, scientists at Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, USA, contend that globally, iodine deficiency is now accepted as the most common cause of preventable brain damage!
As humans, our bodies need sufficient quantity of iodine for our thyroid gland to function optimally. The thyroid gland controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls how sensitive the body is to other hormones.
Iodine plays a huge role in regulating our immunity to diseases; and for women, it can help in staving of certain breast conditions which, though are not necessarily dangerous but can be painful and inconvenient.
According to experts at Washington University School of Medicine, one of such breast issues is fibrocystic breast disease – a non-cancerous condition in which a woman has painful lumps in her breasts. They warn that although fibrocystic breasts are not dangerous, the condition can make the detection of breast cancer more difficult.
The other one is mammary dysplasia, a common condition marked by benign changes in breast tissue. These changes may include irregular lumps or cysts, breast discomfort, sensitive nipples, and itching.
As important as iodine is to human existence, it is present in the soil; and where the soil is iodine deficient, people who eat foods harvested from such soils will develop diseases that result from iodine deficiency, such as fatigue, high cholesterol, lethargy, depression, and swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter).
That is why many countries – including Nigeria – have embarked on salt iodization programmes in a bid to reduce the possibility of iodine deficiency.
But then, we’ve also been warned to minimize our salt consumption in order to reduce incidence of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Yet, when you don’t have enough iodine in your body, it affects the way your thyroid gland (found in the neck) functions. It can lead to quite a lot of diseases, such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer.
Experts at Harvard School of Public Health warn that symptoms of thyroid disease include weight loss or gain, hot flashes, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, etc. Therefore, you need just the right quantity of iodine to keep healthy; and when you derive it from natural sources (as in your foods), you are certain that you can’t overdose on it. Some iodine-rich foods include the following:
Nutritionists advise that if you want to enjoy the iodine content of this root crop, you should bake your potatoes instead of frying it. This is because all the dietry staples such as fibre, vitamins and potassium are contained in the skin. When you bake therefore, you are able to retain the essential nutrients.
Apart from the calcium and the Vitamin D present in milk, it also a good source of iodine. Take it with tea, oats, or as a plain beverage – hot or cold. Yoghurt and cheese are other dairy products that also give iodine.
Apart from being a rich source of protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E, cod fish also features an abundance of iodine. Salmon and tuna are other iodine-rich fish.
Shrimp and Lobster
Generally, the seafood is a great source of iodine, but the shrimp and lobster are the richest of them all if you must get this mineral in reasonable quantity. They are available all the year round, whether fresh or dried. However, eat them in moderation because of their high calories.
Baked Turkey Breast
Again, sensible cooking is what will enable you to get your required iodine content. Bake – instead of frying – your turkey meat.
For an adult, depending on body weight, one or two large hard boiled eggs will do – except if you already have high cholesterol level; for children one year and over, just one egg will do at any time. It makes an excellent combination with oatmeal.
A medium-sized banana is all you need to get your daily requirement of iodine. That doesn’t mean that you can’t eat more of it as pleases you, though.
Green, leafy vegetables are healthy sources of nutrients and vitamins that are essential for you to maintain good health. Also, try seaweed, as it’s the best source of iodine.