Iodine: Functions, Food sources, Absorption and excretion

Iodine: Functions, Food sources, Absorption and excretion

Do you remember the last time you went to buy salt? You would probably have noticed the packets of iodized salt. Iodized salt, in fact, is table salt to which iodine is added. But why are we taking so much care to add iodine to the salt? Why is iodine so important? Let us try to find out.

The adult body contains a very small amount of iodine which amounts to only 20-25 mg. The maximum concentration of this mineral is found in the thyroid gland which is located in the neck region.


Why do we need iodine?

Iodine is a component of the hormone thyroxine secreted by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine regulates the rate of oxidation within the cells. If this regulation does not take place, both physical and mental growth will be affected. Iodine is also believed to help in the functioning of nerve and muscle tissues.

Food sources

The amount of iodine in most foods is limited and it varies widely depending on the iodine content of soil and water. Crops such as vegetables especially those grown in coastal areas where iodine content of the soil is high have substantial amounts of iodine. In hilly areas, however, the iodine content of both the soil and water is low. Hence the crops grown in such areas contain little iodine. The iodine content of animal foods like eggs, dairy products and meat depends, of course, on the iodine content of the food that is part of the animal's diet. Sea foods like fish, shell fish are among the best sources of iodine.

Another aspect that needs mentioning here is that certain plant foods like cabbage, cauliflower, radish, ladies finger, groundnuts and oilseeds contain substances called goitrogens which interfere with the body's ability to produce and use thyroxine. Goitrogens can be easily destroyed on thorough cooking. Hence it is advisable to cook the foods mentioned above properly before eating.

Absorption and excretion

Dietary iodine is absorbed in the small intestine in the form of iodides (compounds of iodine). These iodides are carried by the blood to the thyroid gland. About one-third of the iodine is picked up by the thyroid gland and the rest is excreted.

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