We all need iodine. We don’t need much – but being low on it can lead to problems, especially in young children.

  • If unborn babies and infants don’t get enough iodine, their brains may not develop properly.
  • Iodine deficiency can cause thyroid diseases such as goitre, where the thyroid gland in the neck swells up.

These conditions were common in the past, until people started using iodised salt. However, now they’re on the rise again and this is why store-bought bread now has iodine added to it.

Getting enough iodine

Because New Zealand’s soil is naturally low in iodine so are many of our foods. Our normal diet doesn’t give us all the iodine we need. 

Iodised salt kept us healthy in the past but, because too much salt can cause high blood pressure, people now use less when they cook. Also, we now eat more pre-packaged foods and foods made outside the home that are typically made with non-iodised salt.

Foods to choose that are rich in iodine

  • Store-bought bread (except organic or unleavened bread)
  • Seafood (fish, shellfish and seaweed)
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Getting enough iodine when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

Iodine is very important for your baby’s brain development.

You need more than usual when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Even if you eat a well-balanced diet, including store-bought bread, it’s hard to get enough iodine.

Therefore, it’s recommended that you:

  • eat plenty of iodine-rich foods (make sure they’re cooked safely)
  • take the daily recommended iodine tablet.

You can get the daily recommended iodine tablet from your local pharmacy either over-the counter or cheaper on prescription. You should take it from when you first find out you are pregnant until you stop breastfeeding. It contains 150 mcg of iodine.


  • Other iodine-containing supplements such as kelp tablets aren’t recommended – they may not contain enough iodine, or may contain far too much.
  • Other multi-vitamin and/or mineral supplements should only be taken in consultation with your lead maternity carer.

More information on iodine supplements can be found in the HealthEd pamphlet Folic Acid and Iodine.

Find out more from the Ministry

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