Using Nutrition to Heal Your Thyroid: The Best and Worst Foods For Thyroid Health
Why Nutrition Affects Your Thyroid’s Health
Every cell in your body depends on your thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, there is a high probability that you have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease which can devastate your health.
Certain foods have the power to reverse typical symptoms of Hashimoto’s such as hair loss, tiredness, anxiety, tissue inflammation, and digestive issues while other foods can cause negative effects on your health or exacerbate your immune system’s response to certain environmental triggers.
If you are interested in trying to heal your body naturally, here are 10 foods that can help your thyroid’s health and the 5 foods you should avoid.
10 Best Foods That Support Thyroid Health
Many people with an underactive thyroid struggle to absorb enough nutrients from their food, so therefore many of the foods listed below contain large quantities of vitamins and minerals to help correct nutritional deficiencies.
Others increase the production of T4 and T3 hormones or reduce inflammation. Many people find it hard to change their diet, but simple adjustments like adding a small salad to your evening meal or adding real bone broth to a soup or stew instead of canned broth or bullion can instantly add needed vitamins and minerals to your diet.
Just a few simple changes can make all of the difference so get creative and start to think about how you can add some of these nutrient dense superfoods to your diet.
Fruits and Veggies Rich in Antioxidants
Fruits such as blackberries and blueberries and vegetables like leafy greens are packed full of antioxidants such as vitamin C and have long been touted for their health benefits. You’ve probably heard of free radicals which can damage the genetic material within your cells and even give rise to cancers through a process known as oxidative stress.
In simple terms, antioxidants help bind these free radicals and prevent them from doing damage to your body. You may have a buildup of free radicals if your thyroid’s function is impaired. Furthermore, antioxidants support immune health, prevent cognitive disruptions, cardiovascular disease, and a number of secondary issues related to your thyroid’s health.
High Antioxidant Fruits and Veggies:
• Berries like raspberries, blueberries, or cranberries
• Leafy green vegetables
• Orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and squashes
Wild Caught Fish
Wild-caught oily ocean fishes such as mackerel, sardines, and salmon are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce inflammation and are crucial for optimal health for anyone fighting an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also help reduce high cholesterol levels, a common side effect of a malfunctioning hormone system. Furthermore, seafood contains iodine. Iodine is also found in sea vegetables such as seaweed and kelp and is critical to the production of thyroid hormones. It’s important to know how your body reacts to iodine, since certain people with hyperthyroidism may need less iodine in their diet, not more.
Gut health is crucial to ensuring that you’re able to absorb all the nutrients in your food. One of the best things you can do to improve gut health is to eat fermented foods. Not only do they provide an army of healthy bacteria but they also contain beneficial vitamins and amino acids. Fermenting vegetables, dairy, legumes, and grains also breaks down some of the antinutrients in milk, cruciferous vegetables, and soy which would otherwise be difficult for some people to digest.
Commonly consumed fermented foods include:
• Lactofermented vegetables such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi
• Fermented dairy including yogurt, kefir, and fermented cheeses
• Fermented soy products such as miso
Eggs are a great source of protein, but also provide several key nutrients needed by anyone concerned about their thyroid’s health. Selenium, Iodine, B vitamins, healthy fats, and vitamin A are all present within the egg’s yolk and all help regulate key hormones.
Try and eat only organic (preferably grass pastured) eggs since they contain higher levels of these key nutrients. Keep in mind that for some people with autoimmune disease, eggs may be difficult to digest or can even cause a mild to severe food reaction. Some diets such as the AIP diet (Autoimmune Protocol diet) which is used by some people with Hashimoto’s to help heal their bodies discourages the consumption of eggs until you are certain your body will not react to them.
Coconut oil is a great addition to your diet if you are concerned about inflammation or high cholesterol and are looking for a healthy cooking fat. Used as a substitute for unhealthy solvent-extracted oils like canola and corn oil, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are known to increase metabolism, regulate cholesterol, and improve insulin sensitivity. Use it in the same way you would use other oils during sauteeing and baking, or add it to smoothies or healthy desserts.
Avocados are another source of beneficial fats. Used for millennia in the Americas as a healthy food source, avocados can be used for more than just guacamole. You can add them to smoothies for a creamier texture or slice them over salad. The healthy monounsaturated fatty acids in this tropical fruit aid the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, offer a wide range of nutrients such as vitamin K, and aid healthy digestion by preventing constipation.
Grass Fed Liver and Organ Meats
Liver is one of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat besides leafy green vegetables. In all animals, the liver acts as a storehouse for certain vitamins, and thus is a highly valuable food. It is rich in iron, B-12, vitamin A, vitamin E, and copper, all of which are needed to manufacture and regulate T4 and T3, two of your thyroid’s key hormones. It’s important to find organ meats from animals which have been fed an organic diet and pasture raised, as pasture raised meat has more nutrients. If you have a hard time eating organ meats on their own, consider eating them as part of a meatloaf or in a sausage such as liverwurst.
Organ Meats to Try:
Bone broth is an invaluable addition to the diet of anyone who values their thyroid’s health. Bone broth provides two things necessary to recovery: gelatin and bone minerals.
Gelatin is a protein found in connective tissue, skin, and other inedible parts of a carcass, and it helps promote gut health by supporting healthy microbes and healing gut permeability. Bone broth also provides high levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other minerals found in bones.
Indeed, bone broth is so beneficial that it forms the cornerstone of the AIP diet used by many people with Hashimoto’s to improve their health. Bone broth can, of course, be used in soups and stews but it can also be used to flavor rice dishes, sauces, and numerous other savory foods.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Not only do leafy greens provide more vitamins and minerals than just about any other food, but they also give your digestive tract a large quantity of insoluble fiber. Beneficial gut bacteria benefit from a diet that is high in fiber.
Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli, and cabbage make up a large number of the leafy greens we eat every day. Unfortunately, they do contain a potentially problematic number of compounds known as goitrogens which can inhibit your thyroid’s normal functioning.
However, if you’re concerned about goitrogenic cruciform vegetables, there’s good news: cooking these veggies will reduce the goitrogens by 70% to 80%. Because they are so healthy, you should try to eat dark leafy greens every day. If you’re not fond of the taste of greens, you can add a handful to a smoothie in the morning, or finely chop them and incorporate them into soup or pasta sauces.
While you may feel that a low carb or carb free diet is the best choice after reading this list, it’s important to note that eating healthy carbs is key to maintaining proper cellular function when healing your body.
Not only do you get lots of nutrients from certain carbohydrate-rich foods, but it’s vital to your hormonal health to eat carbohydrates. It’s true that you’ll likely need to avoid certain grains like wheat (you can read more below), but consuming orange starchy vegetables like carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes provides needed energy and vitamins, especially vitamin A. Some people are also able to tolerate other carb sources like white rice or certain gluten-free breads and baked goods.
Foods That Negatively Impact Your Thyroid’s Health
Even foods that would normally be considered part of a healthy diet can negatively impact your body if you are struggling to improve your thyroid’s health. Foods that cause inflammation, negatively impact iodine levels, negatively impact gut health, or reduce nutrient absorption will hinder healing and should be avoided.
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, removing gluten from your diet should be one of the first steps you take to heal yourself.
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, that can closely resemble your thyroid’s proteins. Many health professionals suspect that when a person with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis eats gluten, the protein enters their bloodstream through irritated and weakened tissues of the intestines.
The immune system then recognizes this protein as a foreign substance and triggers an inflammation response. If the body confuses the thyroid’s proteins and the gluten proteins, it may attack the thyroid’s cells in addition to the foreign materials.
If you can’t imagine life without grains, know that there are gluten-free versions of commonly eaten foods like bread, pasta, cereal, and even desserts like cake, brownies and cookies.
Raw Cruciferous Vegetables
As noted above, crucifers are a group of common vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. All members of this family produce compounds known as goitrogens which can inhibit your thyroid’s normal production of hormones. However, it’s vitally important to keep eating leafy greens, so instead of eating crucifers raw, cook them to destroy the goitrogens.
Sugar and sugar substitutes like high fructose corn syrup cause rampant inflammation in your body. Even healthy individuals should limit their sugar intake to avoid irritating organs, blood vessels, and other delicate tissues.
For anyone struggling with Hashimoto’s, sugar can also aggravate problems such as insulin resistance and can disrupt the function of certain hormones. Naturally sweet fruits and foods like honey can be eaten in moderation in place of sugar or other sweeteners.
Milk and other unfermented dairy products can be difficult to digest even if you do not have a full-blown allergy to dairy. The casein protein in milk is hard for the body to break down, and besides causing uncomfortable bloating, gas, and gastrointestinal discomfort, it can trigger an inflammatory response in your body and can contribute to leaky gut syndrome. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt or kefir contain very little casein and do not cause the same uncomfortable side effects.
Dairy products to avoid:
• Ice cream
• Most cheese except for naturally fermented cheeses
Soy is often touted as a superfood and is usually included in healthy diets. However, for people concerned about their thyroid’s health, it is best to avoid foods that contain soy or soy byproducts for several reasons.
First, soy is a goitrogen, and can negatively impact the production of certain hormones. Secondly, soy contains phytoestrogen, a type of plant-based estrogen which can interfere with the production of female sex hormones if your thyroid’s function is impaired. You may think that by avoiding tofu you’ll avoid eating soy, however, soy is a common ingredient in many kinds of junk food and processed foods.
Hidden sources of soy:
• Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) – fake bacon salad topping, and used as a filler in many ground meat products
• Vegetarian meat substitutes
• Soy, shoyu, tamari, teriyaki, and Worcestershire sauces
• Canned tuna
• In dressings, hot cocoa, desserts, and candies as soy lecitin
If your health has been impacted by hypothyroidism, one of the most powerful tools you have to reverse the symptoms you’re experiencing and start healing your body is diet. By making simple changes and substitutions you can reduce inflammation, support healthy hormone production, improve digestive health, and increase your body’s absorption of vitamins and minerals. It may take time, but by eating more of these 10 beneficial foods and avoiding the 5 harmful foods, you can reverse or even fully heal the damage done by Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or other thyroid diseases.