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Are You Getting Enough Iodine in Your Diet From Real Food?

Iodine is an important nutrient no one should be without. Our soil used to contain adequate amounts of iodine and other important minerals, but commercial farming methods have depleted our once fertile soils.

Iodine deficiency is a common problem in the U.S., even though all refined table salt has iodine added to it. This is because fortified, white table salt is highly refined and contains mostly sodium chloride with most of the trace minerals removed and synthetic iodine added back in, and our bodies have a difficult time absorbing it. Although a lot of real food folks are switching to sea salt, which does contain a great deal of trace minerals we are missing in our diets, there isn’t enough iodine in sea salt to provide what humans need.

Other reasons for iodine deficiency are due to the high consumption of processed foods in the U.S.  As well as being deficient in nutrients, these foods actually block the uptake of iodine in our bodies when we eat them.  These foods are goitrogens, which means they block the uptake of iodine in the body.

Soy, found in proliferation in our industrial food supply in many, many products like cereals, crackers, chips, bread, cookies, breads, baby formula, sauces, dressings, marinades, and even canned soups. It is also fed to livestock animals and birds slaughtered for meat on the commercial market – cattle, poultry, and pigs.  When you go out to just about any restaurant, the oil used to cook your food and to pour over your salad is soybean oil.

Water supply and many food products also contain halogens such as chlorine, fluoride, bromine and perchlorate (rocket fuel). Most commercial beverages like soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee and some dairy beverages contain at least one of these halides.  If you eat a diet heavy in processed foods from the commercial market, the chances of you consuming a lot of substances that are completely deficient in iodine and also blocks the uptake of iodine is quite high.

Natural goitrogens such as cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and others may inhibit the uptake of thyroid if auto-immune diseases are present. But these foods are fine to consume and won’t interfere with iodine absorption if fermented or cooked and eaten with healthy fats such as butter, ghee, lard, tallow, olive oil, or coconut oil.

Why we need iodine for health

When iodine is combined with the amino acid tyrosine, it produces important thyroid hormones that control the synthesis of enzyme and proteins in our bodies, regulate metabolism, and are critical for developing nervous and skeletal systems of growing fetuses. Because unborn children are so dependent on this mineral for growth and development, pregnant mothers especially need regular intake of iodine. Miscarriage is another common side-effect of iodine deficiency.

Iodine regulates our thyroid and other hormonal function. Without it, low thyroid function will occur. It is necessary for the activation of thyroid hormones T3 and T4.

Iodine deficiency can cause weight gain, fatigue, low energy, and depression.  Low iodine stores in the body are also connected with arrested mental development (mental retardation), and neurodevelopment disorders in children, fibrocystic breast disease and fibroids, enlargment of the thyroid gland, increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer, and mental and physical compromise in adults.

Real food sources of iodine

Even though this important mineral is no longer found in our soil in abundance, there are still real food sources where we can get iodine such as animal products that come from healthy animals on pasture, especially in areas where commercial farming has not taken over, and also in seafood. Our bodies can’t produce iodine by themselves, so we must obtain this nutrient regularly, but in moderation, from our diet:

  • Seafood such as fish like herring, whiting, haddock, and mollusks like clams, mussels, oysters, snails, octopus, squid
  • Butter, milk, and other dairy products  (raw is best) from cows on pasture eating grass from iodine-rich soil – especially near the sea
  • Fruits and Vegetables grown by the sea, including coconut products
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Sea vegetables such as dulse, nori, kelp, wakame, and dried kelp
  • Eggs
  • Fermented or cultured vegetables (see video recipes below)

Iodine supplementation

Obtaining iodine from real foods such as those listed above is much safer than taking iodine supplements. This can be especially dangerous for pregnant women and can trigger allergic responses in the body. Taking inorganic iodine can cause toxicity (especially heavy metal) since iodine is prone to combining with pro­tein, which is how it destroys bacteria (also a protein).

Placing any iodine supplement in your mouth causes it to mix with the protein found there, in your esophagus, stomach, and all throughout the body. The result is irritation, allergies, and other issues. Those with a normal thyroid can experience a reduction in the synthesis of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 when taking large, sud­den doses of iodine.

It is important to exercise extreme caution when using iodine supplements. Many women with unknown thyroid issues have Hashimoto’s, an auto-immune disorder. Iodine can turn any auto-immune disease into hyperthyroid quickly.  Iodine supplementation can also significantly increase heavy metal toxicity in those who have mercury issues.

Kombu recipe

Here is a recipe for traditional Japanese Kombu, a variety of kelp. It is one of the most abundant sources of iodine. Eat it as a side dish or condiment with foods or add to soups, stocks, casseroles, or other one-pot meals.  Add this food to a pot of cooking beans to make them more digestible.


  • 1 oz. kombu, soaked in a bit of filtered water
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp sucanat or rapadura
  • 1 tbsp naturally fermented soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp black or white sprouted sesame seeds


  1. Slice rehydrated kombu into thin strips.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, place kombu, vinegar and sake in and blend together.
  3. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and fill with enough filtered water to cover. Place a lid on the saucepan and heat to a boil.
  4. Reduce and simmer until the kombu is tender.
  5. Add sesame oil, rapadura or suacanat, and soy sauce. Continue until the liquid has evaporated. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Fermented or cultured vegetables are also a good source of iodine, especially when you use seaweed or other sea vegetables such as dulse, nori, or kelp.  Fermenting increases digestibility and bio-availability of all nutrients in food.

Here’s an informative video showing how to prepare these powerhouses of nutrients from Renegade Health and Donna Gates from Body Ecology:

Part I

Part II

Part III

This post is part of Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday carnival/link festival.

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Low on Energy? Maybe You’re Low on Tyrosine! From The Nourished Life


To mark our 4-year anniversary and 200th post, I am featuring a guest post today from one of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Walling and her web site, The Nourished Life. Elizabeth has great information about natural living and nourishing our bodies through real food and nutrition.

She also offers great tips about reducing stress, exercise, keeping toxins out of your body, and much more. What you’ll consistently find on her site is a great offering of research & personal experience on useful topics that can help you take incremental steps to take toward getting your body back on track and becoming healthy again.

I’ve been reading both The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure by Julia Ross and it has a lot of great information in it about lifting your moods naturally using real food and real food supplementation. I’m still getting acquainted with the amino acid component of health; it’s such an important part of keeping your body feeling good and running optimally. Here is a good overview of the amino acid tyrosine and how it can profoundly affect your energy levels and health.


Did you ever wake up and wonder where all your energy has gone? If life has you hitting the snooze button every morning, you may have a biochemical deficiency that’s sapping your energy, destroying your concentration and smothering your vivacity. The good news is that this deficiency can be easily corrected with the right nutritional therapy.

The Catecholamine Connection

The body produces a group of catecholamines which help you feel focused and energized. These are dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine. When you’ve got plenty of catecholamines floating around, nothing feels out of your reach and it’s easy to be optimistic. The trouble happens a) when you’re not providing the body with the raw material to produce these catecholamines and b) when you’re using up these biochemicals faster than your body can produce them. Then suddenly you have to drag yourself out of bed and don’t feel alive until you’ve had your morning coffee. In general you just kind of feel… flat.

Typically people low on catecholamines turn to stimulants like caffeine, chocolate and nicotine to boost their energy. But this can backfire quickly by causing your body to use up more catecholamines than it can produce. Eventually this can lead to burnout, when no matter how many coffee cups you drink, you can’t bring back your former focus and energy. If you’re constantly exhausted and listless, it’s time to start addressing this at a nutritional level.

Where Tyrosine Comes In

Supplementing with the amino acid tyrosine can prove immensely helpful in conquering these symptoms. Tyrosine is used by the body to make catecholamines, as well as other important hormones produced by the adrenal glands and endorphin-like chemicals that provide us with a sense of well-being.

Tyrosine also plays another important role in energy regulation: it fuels the thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland uses tyrosine to make the hormones T3 and T4. It’s no surprise that low tyrosine levels are common in people with poor thyroid function. Supplementing with tyrosine is often effective for eliminating symptoms of low thyroid function.

Research has demonstrated the power of tyrosine. Studies have shown that tyrosine can:

  • Reverse the side effects of acute stress (such as in military subjects)
  • Improve concentration and focus
  • Treat symptoms associated with depression

In everyday terms, tyrosine can naturally help bring back the outgoing, energetic version of yourself.

My Own Experience With Tyrosine

I’ve used amino acid therapy in the past with great results, but tyrosine never did the trick for me. Recently I’ve felt a little off and I decided to take the Mood Cure questionnaire again. Surprise, surprise! I scored pretty bad on the “Blasting the Blahs” section. So, along with keeping my protein intake up, I tried taking tyrosine again. I started with two 500 mg capsules twice a day and have since moved up to three times per day (early morning, mid-morning and mid-afternoon).

Because I never noticed a big difference before, I wasn’t expecting much from this. But let me tell you: the change was obvious this time! It got me right out of this procrastination slump I’ve been in. I’ve been quicker to answer emails, return phone calls, do the dishes and do all of the other daily tasks that were beginning to seem insurmountable.

I noticed I’m more willing to take on projects around the house now. For example, after spending three hours in the city stocking up on real food the other day, I came home to realize my pantry was a wreck and needed to be revamped before I could store my new groceries. Normally this is an obstacle that would leave me exhausted just thinking about it. Instead, I hopped right to it and had my pantry organized and restocked within an hour. The whole time I was thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I actually have the energy to do this!”

I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking I needed some more willpower. I thought it was a matter of buckling down and making myself get things done, but now I suddenly find I’m having no problem being motivated and enthusiastic about my responsibilities. I didn’t need willpower – I needed nutritional therapy!

Tips for Taking Tyrosine

  • No supplement can take the place of a healthy diet and lifestyle. Use tyrosine as a way to facilitate healing and give you the energy you need to make other positive changes in your life.
  • As with any amino acid, take tyrosine at least 15 minutes before a meal and at least 90 minutes after. Otherwise, the protein from your meal will compete with tyrosine and you may not get the same effect.
  • Always start with the smallest dose (one 500 mg capsule at a time) and work up to the dosage that gives you the desired benefits. Most people find two capsules at a time are plenty, though this dosage may need to be taken 2-3 times throughout the day. Since tyrosine can keep you awake, don’t take it before bed.
  • Taking too much tyrosine can make you feel jittery or agitated. It can also trigger headaches or migraines in sensitive individuals. Over time, as deficiencies are corrected, lower your dosage as needed to avoid taking to much.
  • Consult with a physician before taking tyrosine if you are taking an MAO inhibitor, have manic depression, have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, melanoma or high blood sugar.

Best bets for tyrosine supplements: capsule or powder form (as opposed to tablets which are difficult to digest), use a 500 mg dosage since anything higher might be too much, and of course choose a supplement with as few additives as possible.

Julia Ross recommends NOW True Focus, a product which combines tyrosine with phenylalanine.

For more great information about health, nutrition, and feeding your body well, visit Elizabeth over at The Nourished Life.

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