12 Best Foods For Thyroid Health

Feeling sluggish, heavy, tired or have trouble with your weight?

Maybe you feel as many do; that thyroid issues are making balance in your life seem difficult.

Thyroid problems can be frustrating, but the food is a miracle worker for this butterfly-shaped gland.

Read below to find out which foods are best for thyroid health, plus one bonus way to get a vital nutrient you need without ever stepping foot into the kitchen.

Thyroid Disease And Nutrition

Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Grave’s Disease, and hyperthyroidism are on the rise. Nearly 200 million people worldwide deal with thyroid disease, while 50% of people don’t know they have them.

Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes the thyroid gland to slow down and produce fewer hormones. This can cause weight gain, sluggishness, and other complications. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is the most common form of hypothyroidism and is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system attacks itself.

Hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, causes your thyroid to go into overdrive and produce too many hormones. People with hyperthyroidism experience weight loss, anxiety, and other symptoms. Grave’s Disease is a common form of hyperthyroidism and is an autoimmune disease.

The good news is that many foods can help prevent thyroid problems from occurring, or improve your symptoms if you have already been diagnosed.  The thyroid gland relies heavily on several essential nutrients – read below to find out what these nutrients are and which foods provide them.

Top Foods For A Healthy Thyroid

1. Seaweed

This briny vegetable is an excellent choice for thyroid health because of a mineral it contains called iodine.

If you’ve ever had your thyroid levels tested, you’ve likely seen amounts of T1, T2, T3, and T4. These thyroid hormones are named this way because of the number of iodine atoms they contain. T1 as one iodine atom, T2 has two, and so on.

In fact, iodine is so critical to thyroid health that we started adding it to table salt in 1924. This means that you could technically increase the amount of iodine in your diet by eating more salt, but most of us eat too much sodium as it is!

Instead, try incorporating more seaweed into your diet. You can make a delicious warm salad by gently wilting seaweed in a wok and adding ginger, garlic, roasted sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for garnish.

You can also find roasted seaweed snacks that are great for munching on in between meals.

2. Brazil Nuts

These unique nuts are loaded with selenium, another mineral essential to thyroid health. Selenium is so essential to the thyroid that it contains more selenium than any other organ in the body!

Selenium helps convert T4, an inactive thyroid hormone, into T3, the active form. It is also needed to neutralize harmful hydrogen peroxide that is created during the conversion of iodide to iodine.

Diets low in selenium have been shown to increase your risk of developing thyroid problems.

Just one single Brazil nut has the recommended daily amount of selenium. Try adding one to your smoothies or enjoy two or three in a homemade trail mix. Just don’t go overboard on these nuts – too much selenium can lead to nausea, vomiting, and other unpleasant symptoms.

3. Maca

Maca is a powder made from the dried maca root and is often taken to improve fertility and sex drive. In addition to these claims, maca also contains iron and iodine, two nutrients vital to thyroid health.

Iodine obtained from food is actually in the form of iodide. Before your thyroid gland can use iodide to make thyroid hormones, it needs to be converted into iodine. Iron is a mineral that allows this conversion to happen.

Iron, like selenium, is also important for the conversion of the inactive T4 hormone into active T3.

Maca has a mild earthy taste that is slightly nutty. It can be added to smoothies and coffee, and is said to provide a boost of energy without the jitters of caffeine.

4. Apples

Apples, along with other fruits like pears and oranges, contain a substance called pectin.

Pectin is a fiber that forms a gel when it absorbs water. This gel binds to toxins like heavy metals and removes them from your body.

Mercury, one such heavy metal that can build up in your system, has been linked to lower levels of thyroid hormones. This is because the structure of mercury is very similar to iodine. Your thyroid gland can get confused and absorb this mercury easily, leaving less room for the iodine that it needs to create hormones.

In one study, women exposed to mercury where twice as likely to have thyroid problems as women who had no mercury exposure.

The pectins in apples can also help with constipation, a common symptom in people with hypothyroidism. Just be sure to drink plenty of water, otherwise, it can make your illness worse!

5. Pumpkin Seeds

These autumnal seeds contain zinc, another mineral your thyroid needs for proper functioning.

Zinc, like selenium and iron, is needed for the conversion of inactive T4 to active T3. It also has the unique ability to regulate your thyroid gland by notifying it when hormone levels get too low.

Low levels of zinc can reduce your thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. In turn, these low levels of thyroid hormone can cause or worsen a zinc deficiency. This means getting enough zinc is very important, as it can be difficult to correct a deficiency in people with hypothyroidism.

Pumpkin seeds aren’t just good for a post-pumpkin-carving snack – they can be sprinkled on top of smoothie bowls, added to salads, and eaten raw by the handful between meals.

6. Legumes

Legumes and beans are loaded with fiber, a substance often overlooked in many people’s diets.

Hypothyroidism can cause uncomfortable constipation which can be alleviated by adding fiber-rich foods like beans to your diet.

Beans contain fiber that is both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps with constipation by allowing water to stay in your stool, making it softer and more comfortable to pass.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to your stool, encouraging your body to pass it more quickly.

Fiber needs water to work, so make sure to increase the number of fluids you drink when you increase the fiber in your diet. Otherwise, your constipation will get worse!

7. Salmon

Salmon is one of the best sources of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is helpful for autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease.

Salmon and other animal sources of this healthy fat are your best bet – although plant-based sources like flax seed and walnut also contain Omega-3’s, they are not absorbed very well.

8. Oysters

These sea creatures are an excellent choice for thyroid health as they contain high levels of zinc. Just one serving contains 90% of your daily recommended amount of zinc!

Oysters are often eaten raw, but there are many other ways to prepare them if you’d rather skip that slimy texture. Oysters can be fried, chargrilled, and baked, or added to dishes like stuffing.

9. Greek Yogurt

The tangy flavor of Greek yogurt may take getting used to, but the payoff is a healthy serving of iodine and Vitamin D.

When buying Greek yogurt, choose a product made with whole milk. Vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins rely on the fat from whole milk to be broken down and absorbed by your body. Choosing a yogurt with 0 grams of fat will deprive your body of these important vitamins.

Greek yogurt can be enjoyed as a snack or used as a substitute for sour cream in your favorite dishes. It can even be added to smoothies or stirred into your morning bowl of oatmeal.

10. Eggs

Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years, but recent research has shown that these little gems are worth incorporating into your diet.

Eggs contain an astonishing number of vitamins and minerals, among them selenium, zinc, iodine, Vitamin D, and iron. All of these are required for maintaining the health of your thyroid.

If you’re someone who likes to stick to egg whites, you may want to reconsider – all of the amazing nutrients in eggs are found in the yolk. And remember, fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin D need fat to work, and egg whites contain zero fat. So next time you order an omelet, say yes to the yolks!

11. Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are superfoods that everyone can benefit from.

Berries contain antioxidants, which reduce inflammation throughout the body by getting rid of free radicals.

Free radicals are highly reactive substances created by your body that can cause harm when they aren’t kept under control. Antioxidants do this by binding with the free radicals and preventing them from reacting with your body.

Throw a handful of berries in a blender with a frozen banana to create a nutrient-dense “ice cream”. For added benefits, mix in a sprinkle of maca powder or a handful of pumpkin seeds.

12. Vegetables

Some people think they need to avoid certain vegetables, like broccoli and cabbage, if they want to prevent thyroid complications. This is because these cruciferous vegetables are known as goitrogens.

Goitrogens can decrease the amount of iodine your body absorbs, and as we know, iodine is very important to the creation of thyroid hormones.

The good news is that there isn’t much evidence saying you need to eliminate these vegetables from your diet, even if you have a thyroid disorder. Just don’t eat massive amounts of these vegetables, like one woman who ate over 3 pounds of raw bok choy in one day!

When you do add these vegetables to your diet, you’ll be getting a nice array of vitamins that can benefit your thyroid gland.

Thiamine, or B1, is a vitamin that protects the immune system and allows your body to generate new cells.

Riboflavin, or B2, is a vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, preventing damage to glands like the thyroid.

Niacin, or B3, is a vitamin with anti-inflammatory properties. This is especially useful for people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Grave’s Disease.

Folate, or B9, is a vitamin that can help with cell and tissue growth, including the cells of the thyroid.

Bonus: Get Some Sun!

The ultraviolet light given off by the sun allows your body to create cholecalciferol or Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important to the proper functioning of the immune system. Deficiencies in this vitamin have been associated with a higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto-immune disease.

While you can get Vitamin D from a handful of foods like salmon and fortified milk, the cheapest and easiest source is sunlight.

Vitamin D is not made, however, if you are wearing sunscreen, so spend a few minutes in the sun without it before slathering on the SPF.

Takeaway Notes

  • Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are on the rise, and many people don’t know they have them.
  • The minerals selenium, iron, zinc, and iodine are important for thyroid health and can be found in many foods.
  • Seaweed, Brazil nuts, maca, apples, pumpkin seeds, legumes, salmon, oysters, eggs, Greek yogurt, and berries all make great additions to a thyroid-healthy diet.
  • Cruciferous vegetables, when eaten in normal amounts, should not cause any harm to the thyroid gland.
  • Make sure to get moderate amounts of sun to allow your body to produce Vitamin D, an essential vitamin for thyroid health.
Kelli Yates
Kelli Yates
Kelli Yates is a health and nutrition writer, dietetics student, and co-host and creator of The Nutrition Nerds Podcast. In her spare time she teaches the free class Well-Fed Survival: Eating Healthy After A Disaster, which helps people build nutritious emergency food supplies and prepare for natural disasters.
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