Big Dairy Says Vegans Miss Out On Iodine: Is It Right?

Viva! Health looks at the stories behind the headlines
Dairy: bad for cows and unnecessary for humans

The pro-dairy lobby is grasping at straws now… the latest attempt to scare people into gulping down the white stuff focuses on iodine.

New reports this week in the Daily Mail and Independent suggest that if we drink plant milks, we might go short of this trace mineral. 

The study these reports are based on found that plant milks generally don’t contain as much iodine as cow’s milk, which only contains iodine because of 'farming practices'. 

So what are these farming practices, and where else can you get iodine? 

Natural?

The iodine in cow’s milk is not a natural component of milk, it comes from iodine supplements in cattle feed, and iodine-containing disinfectant used to sterilise milking equipment, and added to teat dips and udder washes! 

Iodine has been used clinically in the treatment of wounds for more than 170 years. 

Dairy cows’ udders are prone to infection (mastitis), and are routinely washed with iodine, which is why some of it ends up in their milk. 

It is also added to animal feed, and levels in milk can vary widely, especially in winter when cows are confined indoors and fed only iodine-fortified feed. 

There is up to 40 percent less iodine in organic dairy products. 

A well-planned plant-based diet is suitable for all ages

Rare

Iodine deficiency is rare in the UK. 

However, vegan diets have been blamed by some for the very few cases seen. 

We only need a small amount of iodine in the diet (around 140 micrograms a day), the vast majority of people in the UK get enough from their diet. 

In fact, the NHS says: "You should be able to get all the iodine you need by eating a varied and balanced diet."

Cow’s milk only contains around 30 micrograms of iodine per 100 grams, so even if you consumed one large glass of milk, a cheese sandwich, a large plate of cauliflower cheese, and a pot of yoghurt, you would still fall short of the daily target. 

Healthier plant-based foods high in iodine include iodised salt, wholegrains, and seaweed. 

Salt

In many countries, including the U.S., iodine is added to table salt. Although too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which puts you at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Adults should eat no more than six grams of salt a day – that’s around one teaspoon. 

Healthier, plant-based sources of iodine include cereals and grains (such as whole wheat and rye), and lower levels may be found in some fruit and green vegetables. 

Levels vary widely depending on the amount of iodine in the soil where the plants are grown. The key is to eat lots of different fruit and vegetables. 

Reports from Big Dairy about iodine are just scare studies

Seaweed

The seaweeds nori and wakame are an excellent source of iodine. 

Nori may also reduce breast cancer risk, while wakame may help those with high blood pressure. Avoid using kelp if you have a thyroid problem as it can contain excessively high levels. 

Some health bodies advise not eating seaweed more than once a week during pregnancy, as it may contain too much iodine which can disrupt thyroid function. If you are concerned about getting the numbers right, you can always take a supplement. 

For most people, the regular use of small amounts of powdered or crumbled seaweed added to soups, stews, salads, pasta dishes or used as a condiment, is an excellent way to ensure a good iodine intake. 

Information

The dairy industry is clearly on the back foot, as the plant milk market is booming and showing no signs of slowing. 

For more information see Viva!'s Thyroid Fact Sheet on why iodine is important and vegan food supports a healthy thyroid. 

For practical information on going dairy-free, see Viva!'s guide Everyone’s Going Dairy-Free

READ MORE:

PROGRESS: Australian Cafés Report Massive Shift Toward Plant Milks

Vegan Takeover? Former Dairy Brand Releases Aquafaba Egg Replacer

Scared Meat Industry Infiltrates Vegan Conference

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PBN Contributor:

Dr. Butler graduated from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology and a BSc First Class (hons) in Biochemistry from UWE before joining Viva! in 2005. She currently researchers, writes and campaigns for Viva!Health.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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