Iodine is an essential mineral mainly recognized for its effect on maintaining proper thyroid function. Our bodies do not produce iodine so we must get it from external sources. Iodine deficiency can manifest physically with a range of symptoms including fatigue, lethargy, depression, even elevated cholesterol, and can lead to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism symptoms include poor ability to tolerate cold, lethargy, constipation, depression, and weight gain. The symptom most often associated with iodine deficiency/hypothyroidism is goiter, a “slang” term for a swelling of the thyroid gland (presents as a swollen neck).
With a dramatic shift over the past 20 years to many of us using more sea salt as opposed to iodized table salt (which was “invented” to help reverse a high level of iodine deficiency in the US in the early 1900’s, due to iodine depleted soils in a region of northern states known as The Goiter Belt), we want to pay attention to maintaining proper levels of iodine in our diet. When we eat a healthy amount of iodine-rich foods we support our thyroid and protect against deficiency.
Wild caught fish and “good eggs” provide iodine in the diet, but dried seaweed tops the charts of iodine-rich foods, far exceeding iodine levels in any other food. Don’t start consuming a lot of seaweed each day though, too much iodine is no good either, and can be dangerous, even toxic. If you have a thyroid condition talk to your doctor before experimenting with any form of iodine supplementation.
For healthy adults, a couple teaspoons of seaweed flakes such as dulse, wakame or kelp, once or twice a week, provides safe levels of iodine.
I’ve pictured dulse seaweed here. Look at that beautiful deep purple color! In my vegan/macrobiotic days I ate more sea vegetables than I do now, but there is still a place for them in my menus (and a sweet nostalgia that accompanies their unique flavors).
A few of my favorite ways to enjoy dulse:
- add a tablespoon of dulse flakes to a bowl of homemade miso soup and top with sliced scallions. Wakame is the seaweed traditionally served in miso, and is delicious. Dulse is a nice alternative to keep things interesting.
- lightly toast dulse flakes and sprinkle them over a chopped romaine salad with a carrot-ginger-sesame dressing
- sprinkle dulse flakes over steamed kale and drizzle with some olive oil or avocado oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon
- or try replacing the bacon in a BLT sandwich with toasted dulse – surprisingly tasty!
Healthy shoppers can now also enjoy more “gourmet” applewood smoked dulse, I haven’t tried it, but I can see how the flavors would work well together!