As a parent, you’re always concerned with your child’s health and wellness. You make sure they’re eating their vegetables and getting enough protein, but vitamins and minerals are a little more challenging to track.
If you’re concerned about your child’s intake of necessary minerals like iodine, here’s what you need to know about iodine in foods, iodine deficiency, and the recommended daily amount of iodine for developing children.
What is Iodine?
Iodine (sometimes called iodide) is a mineral abundant throughout the earth. It occurs naturally in saltwater oceans and fertile soil. Many naturally occurring minerals are beneficial to the lives of humans, animals, and plants. Iodine is among the most important.
What Does Iodine Do for the Body?
The body cannot make thyroid hormones without iodine. These hormones are essential for more than just thyroid function. The body also uses the same hormones for brain development and bone development. Without micronutrients like iodine, children cannot grow.
The thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism, which is one of the most critical processes in the body. Metabolism is responsible for processing every nutrient, vitamin, and mineral you eat. It also helps the body create energy from food.
Iodine is crucially essential for pregnant people, as babies need iodine to grow to term. It’s equally as crucial during infancy when children are growing at a rapid rate. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s essential to receive adequate amounts of dietary iodine.
How Much Iodine Do Kids Need?
The body only needs a small amount of iodine to produce a wealth of benefits. Iodine intake is measured in micrograms (mcg) rather than milligrams (mg). Guidelines for dietary allowances of iodine are as follows:
- Newborn to 6 months old – 110 mcg iodine daily
- Seven months old to 12 months old – 130 mcg iodine daily
- One year old to 8 years old – 90 mcg iodine daily
- Nine years old to 13 years old – 120 mcg iodine daily
- 14 years and older – 150 mcg iodine daily
- During pregnancy – 220 mcg iodine daily
- While breastfeeding – 290 mcg iodine daily
Iodine status needs to be monitored closely throughout pregnancy and infancy. If you ever have any concerns that your child may not be receiving enough iodine, you need to seek the advice of a pediatrician immediately.
Concerns should always be taken seriously. It’s better to be too cautious and ask a lot of questions, even if your child’s iodine intake is sufficient. False alarms are always better than worse case scenarios.
Premature infants and infants with malabsorption may be at a higher risk for deficiency. Speak to your pediatrician about your child’s particular needs if special circumstances are surrounding their health.
Can My Child Have an Iodine Deficiency?
Iodine deficiencies are extremely rare in developed countries. Their symptoms are noticeable and severe. Iodine deficiency typically begins with swelling around the thyroid gland, located at the front of the neck.
Unexpected changes in weight and appetite may occur, and weakness and fatigue set in.
People with iodine deficiency often feel very cold. Their skin may become dry and flaky, and they may lose their hair. Over time, iodine deficiency results in cognitive decline. People with iodine deficiency have trouble reading, learning, remembering, and reasoning. This is because thyroid hormones play a key role in brain development. Without sufficient amounts of these hormones, children can become intellectually disabled.
Children with iodine deficiencies may never reach their full intellectual capacities. This type of severe iodine deficiency is normally only seen in the developing world, and international organizations for the health and welfare of children have taken steps to provide more sources of iodine to children who may be at risk.
Can Children Have Too Much Iodine?
Since iodine is so difficult to come by, iodine overload is exceedingly rare. Deficiency is much more common in developing parts of the world. Even in developed parts of the world, iodine’s natural scarcity makes it difficult to inadvertently overconsume.
Most parents shouldn’t be concerned about iodine overconsumption as long as they’re providing their child with pediatrician recommended amounts of iodine and keeping supplements out of reach of children.
Overconsumption of iodine can cause swelling of the thyroid gland and complications with thyroid health and metabolic health. Excess iodine can cause hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid that leads to a potentially dangerous increase of metabolic rate) and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid that can lead to lethargy, a low metabolism, and unwanted weight gain).
The most common cause of excess iodine is unnecessary iodine supplementation. Some medications used to manage cardiovascular health concerns are rich in iodine, which may accumulate over time and cause unwanted side effects.
Dietary Sources of Iodine for Kids
Iodine is somewhat challenging to come by. While many foods contain necessary vitamins, iodine only naturally occurs in a handful of foods, and it is tough to find good sources of iodine.
While certain vitamins, minerals, and trace elements (like vitamin C) are readily abundant, iodine requires scrutiny. Some parents may find barriers to adequate dietary iodine intake based on the food groups naturally rich in iodine.
Salt is one of the most common cooking ingredients. The majority of recipes call for salt. That’s why so many salt producers add iodine to their finished product. It’s an easy way to incorporate iodine into most meals.
Iodine content will vary from brand to brand. Most brands include about 150 micrograms of iodine per teaspoon of salt. A little salt goes a long way, and children shouldn’t eat excessive amounts of salt. High salt intake can lead to bloating, water retention, urination and kidney function issues, and cardiovascular complications.
Many people have made the switch to using sea salt, believing it to be a healthier alternative to table salt. In truth, sea salt and table salt are almost nutritionally identical. The trace minerals that naturally occur in sea salt aren’t substantial enough to positively impact overall health. Sea salt does not contain substantial amounts of iodine, making it an effective delivery method for the mineral.
While it’s great to have iodized salt as a potential source of iodine, it’s important to remember that salt should be used very sparingly. Salt cannot be your child’s sole source of iodine. A tiny sprinkle of salt on baked sweet potato wedges will improve their flavor and give them a little kick of this vital mineral.
Fish and Seafood
Fish like cod, tuna, salmon, shrimp, and sea vegetables like seaweed, naturally contain iodine. They absorb it from the ocean and pass it onto you when you eat them. Iodine content may not be consistent or predictable from fish to fish, but amounts should be sufficient.
If your child will or can eat fish or shrimp, consider serving it several times a week to improve the overall iodine content of your child’s diet.
A single cup of milk or serving of yogurt can provide enough iodine to satisfy your child’s daily recommended intake. It’s important to note that plant-based milk alternatives or milk substitutes do not contain substantial amounts of iodine. In fact, except for soy milk, there is no plant-based milk alternative that is nutritionally substantial or as wholesome as milk.
What if My Child Can’t Have These Foods?
Since the two primary sources of dietary iodine are dairy and seafood, this may pose a problem for some households. Dairy, fish, and shellfish are among the most common major food allergens. Some children cannot safely ingest them.*
Lactose intolerant children and children in plant-based households will encounter the same barriers. Children being breastfed by parents with the same allergies, restrictions, or intolerances will also lack iodine.
You need to address this with your child’s pediatrician or your obstetrician. Iodine deficiency, especially in early childhood, is something to be taken very seriously. Iodine commonly requires supplementation due to its unique and somewhat elusive nature.
Choosing the Right Iodine Supplements for Kids
Hiya was designed with the needs of growing children in mind. Hiya’s children's chewable multivitamin contains 15 vitamins and minerals that picky eaters, children with allergies, and children on plant-based diets often have trouble acquiring through diet alone.
Hiya contains 50 mcg of iodine per serving, which is 56% of the daily value for children under the age of 4 and 33% of the daily value for children over the age of four. The combination of Hiya and foods with iodine can help your child meet their daily iodine goals.
Hiya is also sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan. Our packaging is eco-friendly, and our vitamins are made in the United States. This makes Hiya the perfect solution for most households with special concerns about ingredients and product sourcing.