Radioactive Iodine Diet

People who suffer from thyroid cancer often receive radioactive-iodine (RAI) scans or treatments for which they have to maintain a low-iodine diet. In this case, the purpose of the low-iodine diet is to deplete the body's iodine stores, so that when radioactive iodine is administered, the thyroid will absorb the idoine, killing it off. An RAI can also be used to determine the amount of iodine your body uses.


Foods to Avoid

Until after your RAI, you must avoid iodized salt and sea salt; all types of seafood and seaweed; food or products that contain the additives agar-agar, algin, alginate and nori; dairy products and often nondairy creamers; eggs except the whites; baked goods; fast food and restaurant meals; cured meat; red dye No. 3; milk chocolate; most soy products and iodine-containing vitamins and supplements.

Low-Quantity Foods

Foods containing moderate amounts of iodine are OK to eat, but they must be eaten in small quantities. You can eat up to 5 oz. per day of fresh meat or poultry, but whole cuts usually contain less iodine than ground meat. You can also have four servings of grains containing no iodine. Rice should be limited, as the quantity of iodine it contains varies. Always check labels to see how much iodine a product contains.

Foods to Eat

You can eat unlimited quantities of fresh fruits -- except rhubarb and maraschino cherries -- vegetables besides potato skins, unsalted nuts and nut butters, sugar, spices, herbs, ketchup, vegetable oil, soda, lemonade, alcohol and non-instant coffee and tea.

Length of Diet

RAI diets can vary in length, but they usually begin about two weeks before you have your scan or treatment. You can usually return to a normal diet within 24 hours of the treatment, but sometimes people must stay in the hospital for several days after the treatment, in which case they must remain on the diet until they return home.


When you ingest radioactive iodine, you are at risk of contaminating your surrounding environment or people nearby. To lower the risk of this, you should minimize contact with other people for five days, sleep in a separate room and do your laundry separately. You should also wash your hands frequently and rinse the sink and bathtub after use. Flush the toilet multiple times after use, and if you are a male, you should sit when urinating.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or