In a new study, researchers from the University of Surrey examined the iodine content of 47 milk alternative beverages including soy, almond, coconut, oat, rice, hazelnut and hemp – but excluding those marketed specifically at infants and children – and compared it with that of cows' milk.
The majority of non-dairy milks did not have adequate levels of iodine, with concentration levels found to be around 2% of that found in cows' milk. Cows' milk and dairy products are the main source of iodine in the UK diet; findings from the study show that most milk alternatives are not an adequate substitute.
Iodine is required to make thyroid hormones which control the body’s metabolism. The body also needs thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy. Getting enough iodine is important for everyone, especially infants and women who are pregnant. Previous research has shown that low iodine status in pregnant mothers is linked to lower IQ and reading scores in their children (up to 9 years of age).
How much iodine do you need?
A serving of a milk alternative beverage would provide only 2 micrograms (mcg) of iodine, a very small proportion of the adult recommended iodine intake of 150 mcg/day. In pregnancy, that recommendation is 200 mcg/day.
Most milk alternatives are not fortified with iodine and their iodine content is very low. If avoiding milk and dairy products, consumers need to ensure that they have iodine from other dietary sources, where possible. In addition to dairy products, good sources of iodine include:
- Fish (such as cod and tuna), seaweed, shrimp, and other seafood, which are generally rich in iodine.
- Products made from grains such as breads and cereals
- Fruits and vegetables; the amount depends on the iodine in the soil where they grew and in any fertilizer that was used
- Iodized salt. Processed foods, however, such as canned soups, almost never contain iodized salt.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.