The endogenous contrast in thermoacoustic imaging is due to the water and ionic content in tissue. This results in poor tissue speci city between high water content tissues. As a result, exogenous contrast agents have been employed to improve tissue speci city and also increase the SNR. An investigation into the sources of contrast produced by several exogenous contrast agents is described. These include three gadolinium based MRI contrast agents, iron oxide particles, single wall carbon nanotubes, saline and sucrose solutions. Both the dielectric and magnetic properties of contrast agents at 3GHz have been measured using microwave resonant cavities. The DC conductivity of the contrast agents were also measured. It is shown that the measured increase in dielectric contrast, relative to water, is due to dipole rotational loss of polar non electrolytes, ionic loss of electrolytes or a combination of both. It is shown that for the same dielectric contrast, electrolytes make better thermoacoustic contrast agents than non-electrolytes, for thermoacoustic imaging.