Low Iodine Diet & Thyroid Cancer

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jun 08, 2012

Low Iodine Diet and Thyroid Cancer

To improve the effects of treatment for thyroid cancer, patient needs to limit the amount of iodine in his diet. A low-iodine diet should not be started  without consulting a doctor. Learn about the items to be incorporated and avoided, here.

Thyroid Cancer and Diet

While fighting thyroid cancer, a patient must stick to a low-iodine diet. One of the best treatments of thyroid cancer is to deprive the thyroid gland of iodine. Intake of low-iodine diet is followed by injection of radioactive iodine, which the cells of the thyroid absorb and kill the cancer cells.  

Prohibited Low-Iodine Foods

Your oncologist will tell you the appropriate time to begin a low-iodine diet. In most cases, it is not followed for more than two weeks. During this period, consumption of  items, such as iodised salt, seafood, agar-agar (an additive used in ice cream and canned fish), alginate (a thickening agent used in dairy beverages and cream), carrageenan, egg yolks, commercial breads, fish, soybeans, beans, red dye (canned fruits and vegetables contain it) and iodine-containing vitamins must be avoided. Many of these are common additives and are mentioned on labels of food items. Read labels carefully if you want to adhere to a low-iodine diet.

Restricted Low-Iodine Foods

Consumption of some items which are mentioned above needs to be avoided completely, but you can consume some iodine containing items. However, keep in mind that you should abstain from eating those items in gross quantities. Thyroid cancer patient is allowed to eat five ounces of meats per day, and four servings of grains (including pastas, breads and cereals).

Food that can be included

Feel free to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables (except spinach) in your low-iodine diet. According to the University of Pennsylvania, fresh potatoes with no skin, small quantity of homemade rice (not from a packaged mix), pasta with no added salt or eggs, puffed rice, hot cereals, such as oatmeal without added salt, can be incorporated. 1-2 slices of bread with not more than 20 mg of total sodium content can also be consumed.


Patients with low-iodine diet may drink coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, lemonade and water, but beverages containing red dye, such as canned fruit juices and canned milk-related beverages should be avoided.  It is better to drink non-creamy coffee.

Side effects of Iodine Diet

If a patient of thyroid cancer adheres to foods containing iodine, he is likely to experience:

  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • neck tenderness
  • changes in how foods taste.

These side effects are short-term and resolve once the patient starts following low-iodine diet plan.


Read more articles on Thyroid Cancer Treatment.


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