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Low Iodine Diet

A short-term diet to Prepare for radioactive Iodine treatment or scan

What is a low iodine diet?

Your doctor prescribed a low iodine diet to prepare your body for radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment or scanning. A low iodine diet (LID) means that you should have foods and drinks that do not contain iodine. Iodine is a mineral found naturally in many foods, especially those from the sea. As salt comes from the sea it naturally contains iodine. In Canada, iodine is added to table salt. This is called iodized salt.

In a LID, the total amount of iodine you take in each day should be less than 50 micrograms (mcg). This will be much less than you are used to having. For example, the amount of iodine allowed in a day is equal to the amount found in less than 1/8 tsp of table salt.

To lower iodine in your diet:

  • choose foods and drinks without iodine
  • prepare foods and drinks without adding iodine

You will be asked to follow a LID for 7 to 14 days before your RAI treatment or scan and for about 2 days after your treatment or scan. Then, you can go back to eating as usual. Your doctor or dietician will tell you the exact schedule.

How does a LID help with RAI treatment or scanning?

A low iodine diet starves the body of iodine. Thyroid cells will crave iodine more than others. When RAI is given, thyroid cells take up the iodine, which makes them able to be seen in the scan. When given at treatment levels, RAI destroys the thyroid cells including those that are cancerous.

Is a LID the same as a low sodium diet?

No. It may be confusing because salt is also called sodium chloride. You need to avoid salt (sea salt and iodized table salt) because it contains iodine, not because it has sodium. You can still have foods with sodium.

How can I avoid foods with iodine?

Iodine comes from many food sources.
Iodine is found:

  • naturally in many foods such as fish and other sea foods
  • in dairy products, because the solutions used to clean cows and milking equipment contain iodine
  • in foods made with iodized salt and red food dye

Do not eat foods and drinks that contain iodine. To find out if something contains iodine, check the ingredient list on the package label. Ingredients to avoid are listed in the chart on the next page.

Avoid foods that list salt or sea salt. Salt is used in most canned foods, take-out and restaurant foods, and pre-packaged foods. It is best to avoid them. All table salt packaged in Canada has iodine; however some table salt from the United States may be iodine-free (check the label).

There may be times when you are not sure if a food contains iodine. If you are in doubt, leave it out!

How can I prepare foods without iodine?

Make home-made foods “from scratch” and have fruits and vegetables on hand. Add flavor with fresh or dried herbs, salt free spice mixes or vinegars. Hide or move your saltshaker so that you won’t be tempted to use it.

Look for recipes in low-iodine cookbooks and online at www.thryvors.org or www.thyca.org . Remember that American recipes use iodine-free salt.

Food Guide For A Low Iodine Diet

Food and ingredients to AVOID Foods and ingredients that are ALLOWED

Salt and Seasonings

Iodized salt(all table salt in Canada) fresh or dried herbs
Sea salt salt free spices and mixes
spice mixes vinegars
Any foods prepared with iodized salt non - iodized salt (bought in us)

Fruits & Vegetables

Rhubarb fruits and juices, except colored with red dye # 3
Fruit or juice with red dye # 3 rhubarb & those unsalted vegetables
Such as maraschino cherries  
And red/pink juice with Artificial color  
Potato peel or skin  

Fish & Seafood

All fish and shellfish None
All sea products such as nori, dulse, seaweed, kelp  
Foods made with fish or seafood, such as fish sticks, dips, sushi and maki  
Foods with ingredients such as alginate, algae, agar, carrageenan  

Meats & Alternatives ( no more than 5oz or 150g cooked weight a day)

Any meat or poultry prepared with salt or prepared with salt, as those treated in brine fresh meats or poultry prepared without salt or bring (ask butcher how meat was prepared)
Cured meats such as ham, bacon, corn beef, lox wieners and luncheon meats wild game
Soybeans or soy protein products such as soy sauce, soy milk, and tofu (the exception is soy oil) egg whites
Egg yolks unsalted nuts
Salted nuts lentils, beans and legumes

Grain Products (no more than 4 servings a day)

Breads, cereals or crackers made with salt breads, cereal and crackers without salt, egg yolks or dairy products
Egg yolks or dairy products unsalted pasta, rice, rice cakes, matso and popcorn
Salted pasta, rice or popcorn  

Dairy Products

All dairy products such as milk, cheese, butter, yogurt None
Foods that contain dairy products or ingredients such as whey, casein and caseinates Unsalted peanut butter or nut butters
Oils & Spreads Vegetable oils including soy or soy
Salted peanut butter or nut butters bean oil
  dairy free margarine

Desserts & Sweets

Desserts or sweets made with salt, egg yolks, dairy products, soymilk, tofu, salted nuts, rhubarb or red dye #3 white or brown sugar, honey maple syrup
Jams or jellies with red dye #3 cocoa powder
Milk chocolate plain gelatin
  popsicles, jams, jellies without red dye#3
  Marshmallows, hard candy, dark chocolate
  Sorbet, unsalted meringues
  raisins, sesame snaps


Milk, cream or drinks made with dairy soft drinks(pop) without red dye # 3
milk or cream coffee or tea without milk or cream
Soy milk homemade nut milk and rice milk
rice milk fruit juice without red dye#3
Juice and drinks colored with red dye #3 fruit smoothies made without dairy or soy products
without dairy or soy Beer, wine and spirits if allowed by your doctor

Supplements & Other

All restaurant and take-out food medications, vitamins and supplements without salt,milk,sea ingredients, iodine or red dye #3 (check with your pharmacist)
Red dye # 3 or erythrosine, used in red/ pink Foods  
Medication or vitamins that contain salt or milk  
supplements with iodine or ingredients from the sea, such as glucosamine,
chondroitin,coral or oyster shell calcium skin creams or disinfectants made with iodine such as betadine
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