You just found out you need to follow the low iodine diet for radioactive iodine scans and/or treatment. Before this, you never even knew iodine was in food.
Then, you find out that iodine is NOT on the nutrition label for foods. And many ready made foods are high in iodine, so you will need to be cooking more.
What in the world should you buy at the store? What will you make with those ingredients?
In this article, we go over the lists of allowed and restricted foods on the low iodine diet, go through some FAQs, provide a shopping list to get you started, and link to recipe ideas to use those ingredients.
Low Iodine Diet Basics
Here is a simplified outline of foods to enjoy and foods to avoid on the low iodine diet. For more details, see my post on Low Iodine Diet Basics.
Foods Low in Iodine to Enjoy
- Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits
- Fresh, frozen, and unsalted canned vegetables
- Unsalted nuts and nut butters
- Unsalted canned or dried black, white, and garbanzo beans
- Fresh meats and poultry
- Sugar, brown sugar, jelly, honey, maple syrup
- Egg whites
- Potatoes (white and sweet) without skins
- Homemade bread/safe bread brands
- Pasta and rice
- Coffee and tea
- Vegetable oil, shortening, and margarine
- Pepper and other spices and herbs
- Soda, beer, wine, lemonade
- Nut and oat milk
- Homemade salad dressing
- Dairy free chocolate
- Hard lemon candies
Foods High in Iodine to Avoid
Many of these are the ingredients you should look for on a food label to avoid.
- Iodized Salt
- Seasoning mixes with salt
- Seasonings with salt in the name – onion salt, garlic salt, etc.
- Fish or products from the sea, including seaweed, sea salt, carrageenan, kelp, dulse, agar-agar
- Dairy products
- Commercial breads with dough conditioners (iodate, iodide in the ingredients)
- Vitamin or supplements containing iodine or high iodine ingredients
- Soy protein products, including soy beans, tofu, edamame, soy burgers, soy milk.
- NOTE: Soy lecithin and soy oil are ok as they do not contain soy protein
- Egg yolks
- Food dye red #3
- Commercial protein shakes or nutrition supplements such as Ensure, Boost, and Glucerna
- Most restaurant and processed foods
- Blackstrap molasses
- Chocolate with dairy
- Potato skins
Low Iodine Diet FAQs
Iodine in Food?
Iodine is found in food. In some foods, it is naturally there from the soil, including plant based foods as well as animal foods (meat) since that animal ate the plants. Iodine can also be added to food as a supplement or via residues from disinfectants on equipment. (1)
How Does My Body Use Iodine?
Iodine is used by the thyroid gland for making thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones have MANY functions in your body and can influence every cell in your body. These include:
- Effects your metabolism, including how your body burns calories – this affects your weight as well as your energy levels
- Regulating your heartbeat
- Regulating body temperature
- Can affect digestion speed – meaning too much can cause diarrhea, too little constipation
Why do I Need a Low Iodine Diet?
A low iodine diet (LID) is used before radioactive iodine treatment to make the body “iodine hungry”. (1) The basic idea is if you deprive your body of iodine, any remaining thyroid cells (specifically thyroid cancer cells) will be very hungry and aggressively take up the radioactive iodine when you receive treatment. This should make the treatment more effective.
How do I know if Iodine is in a Food?
There is not really a great way to know the iodine content of food. Iodine is not required on nutrition labels and is not regularly measured in whole foods.
Most processed foods in the United States do NOT contain iodized salt. However, manufacturers are NOT required to state on the label if they use iodized salt or not. LIDLife has extensive lists of manufacturers they have contacted about what salt they use.
I have contacted some manufacturers, including for any items on this list. However, please note that a manufacturer stating they use non iodized salt DOES NOT mean all of their products are safe. They may contain other ingredients.
For example, Sara Lee Breads use non iodized salt. But, many of their products use iodate based dough conditioner, so you still cannot have many of their products.
Any other foods I should avoid?
While you need to avoid foods high in iodine, you also need to avoid foods that could interfere with your body’s ability to take up the radioactive iodine. Soy products and cruciferous vegetables (spinach, broccoli) may decrease your body’s ability to absorb iodine. (2) (1) So avoid soy bean products (soy oil and lecithin are ok), and try to not over do the spinach and broccoli.
Low Iodine Diet Shopping List
- Frozen berries
- Baby spinach
- Bell pepper
- Sweet potatoes
- Green Beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Liquid egg whites
- Elmhurst oat milk or almond milk
- Orange juice
- Forager Project Cashew Yogurt
- So Delicious Coconut Yogurt
- Kite Hill Dips
- Sabra Hummus
- Wholly Guacamole
- Earth Balance Buttery Soy Free Spread
- Plain oats
- Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets
- Mission Flour Tortillas
- Thomas Bagels
- Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread
- Matzo Crackers
- Basmati Rice
- Dairy free chocolate chips (Enjoy life or Nestle Toll House Allergen Free)
- Brown sugar
- Nutritional Yeast (cheese substitute)
- Fresh chicken
- Fresh beef
- Fresh pork
- Fresh turkey
- No salt added black beans
- No salt added garbanzo beans/chickpeas
- No salt added canned diced tomatoes
- No salt added canned tomato sauce
- Herbox Sodium Free Chicken/Vegetable/Beef broth or bouillon cubes
- Coconut milk
- Unsalted nut butter
- Kosher or plain salt
- McCormick’s taco seasoning
- Black Pepper
- Balsamic vinegar
- French’s mustard
- Olive or canola oil
- Popcorn kernels
- Power Up Trail Mixes
- Gummy Bears
- Swedish Fish
- Junior Mints
- Enjoy Life chewy bars and protein bites
- Sugar free lemon drops (for after RAI)
Low Iodine Recipe Ideas
Need some ideas for what to cook on your low iodine diet? My Simplified Low Iodine Diet Toolkit has 3 weeks of meal plans complete with recipes and grocery lists.
For recipes on the blog, try these:
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