Even though many doctors don’t like to hear this: the right hypothyroidism diet is the most important factor in coping with hypothyroidism. Practitioners are way too often too fond of prescribing all kinds of medicine and supplements, and yet, without the proper diet, their effect will be very limited, and they can only mask the symptoms. To truly change the underlying causes, you must change your lifestyle and eating habits completely to achieve a healthy thyroid diet.
The first problem is to find the right diet for hypothyroidism. There are many diet plans which are very old or based on insufficient research. Over the last decades, a lot of research has been done, and there have been major improvements in understanding the interconnection of different body systems related to hypothyroidism.
Unfortunately, many doctors are not up-to-date on the current developments in hypothyroidism research, and it will take many years till these new findings are accepted by mainstream medicine.
To help you find out more about a healthy hypothyroidism diet, I have written down some points that your doctor might not know about. Please feel free to discuss any suggestions for a hypothyroid diet in this article with your medical practitioner.
Good Foods for Hypothyroidism
There are a couple of foods that should be part of every healthy hypothyroidism diet. Some of the following points are contrary to what is commonly advised for healthy people, but they are good thyroid foods.
1. Eating Fruits for Hypothyroidism
Fruits are a great addition to any hypothyroidism diet. This is because many fruits are high in potassium. Potassium helps to keep your blood sugar regulated by decreasing the need for insulin. This will keep your blood sugar level relatively constant and, in turn, reduce the secretion of stress hormones.
Even though fruits are generally beneficial, some should be avoided for other reasons. For example, you should not eat fruits that are high in polyunsaturated fats like avocados. You should also stay away from fruits that are considered goitrogenic, like peaches, strawberries, and pears.
2. Saturated Fats and Thyroid
Maybe you are aware that saturated fats have been criticized (often unfairly) as being unhealthy. While this may be true for certain individuals, it is certainly a vast generalization to mark saturated fats as an entirely undesirable part of your diet.
The positive effects for sufferers of underactive thyroid are the following:
- Saturated fats help to cancel out the negative effects of polyunsaturated fats (see below).
- Saturated fats help to increase blood pressure (low blood pressure is quite prevalent in hypothyroidism patients).
- Saturated fats help keep insulin levels balanced and decrease stress hormones (which are one cause of hypothyroidism).
Be careful when you are looking for good sources of saturated fats from animal sources. For example, feeding practices in the United States usually employ corn, soy, and other foods that contain lots of polyunsaturated fats. Because of this, the animal’s body fats also become rich in polyunsaturated fats.
Whenever you can, include only the best sources of saturated fat in your thyroid diet. Good examples are grass-fed beef, coconut oil, and butter.
3. Eating Shellfish for Hypothyroidism
Shellfish is the perfect choice when it comes to a good thyroid diet. This is because shellfish are rich in both iodine and selenium—for example, a 4 oz. Serving of mussels provides you with a sufficient daily amount of both. Another advantage of shellfish over other meats and seaweed is that it contains a constant amount of iodine and selenium.
If you keep reading, you will see that fish and shellfish are very prominent in the lists of iodine-rich and selenium-rich foods. So make sure to include at least some shellfish or saltwater fish in your hypothyroidism diet. It will help you maintain healthy levels of iodine and selenium to boost your thyroid.
4. Iodine-Rich Foods for Hypothyroidism
Iodine is one of the elements that enable the body to produce thyroid hormones. It is used as a building block for the T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. Therefore, an iodine deficiency is strongly linked to developing symptoms of hypothyroidism.
An iodine deficiency may lead to goiters as well. For example, the area around the Great Lakes in the United States used to be called the goiter belt because the soil in this area is exceptionally low in iodine. Therefore many residents developed a goiter due to iodine deficiency in the past.
A very important part of a healthy hypothyroidism diet is to incorporate enough iodine-rich foods. Here is a shortlist of foods that are high in iodine:
- Cod (even in fish sticks)
- Other Salt Water Fish
- Canned Tuna
- Dried Seaweed (Nori used in Sushi)
- Turkey breast
- Plain Yogurt
- Cheddar Cheese
- Baked Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Fortified Iodized Salt
- Himalayan Crystal Salt
Please make sure to use plenty of these iodine-rich foods in your daily thyroid diet.
However, it should be noted that in some cases, iodine may not be beneficial for your hypothyroid condition. This is especially true for those suffering from Hashimoto’s disease. Some experts pointed out that high iodine intake can cause or worsen autoimmunity. In addition, there has been an observation that the incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis increases with a higher intake of iodine. So if you are suffering from Hashimoto’s disease, it is better to be cautious and consult your doctor before taking any iodine supplements.
5. Selenium-Rich Foods for Hypothyroidism
Adequate selenium intake is vital to maintain proper thyroid operation. While the thyroid hormones are made up of iodine, selenium is responsible for managing thyroid hormones. For example, it is involved in creating T4 thyroid hormones and helps to convert inactive T4 hormones into active T3 hormones in the liver.
The main point here is that a selenium deficiency can cause your symptoms of hypothyroidism to become elevated and leave your body in a state of constant stress. Here is a shortlist of foods high in selenium:
- Shellfish (Mussels, Oysters, Whelk)
- Fish (Tuna, Anchovies, Salmon, Herring)
- Lobster and Crab
- Caviar (from any Fish)
- Meat (Beef, Lamb, Pork)
- Poultry (Chicken, Turkey)
- Sunflower Seeds
Medical research has only recently discovered the connection between selenium intake and healthy thyroid function. Therefore, please make sure to include at least some of the foods for hypothyroidism in your diet.
6. Hypothyroidism and Coffee
While this is highly controversial and you will hardly find two experts who agree on this matter, I wholeheartedly recommend drinking moderate amounts of coffee. Coffee offers some great benefits for slow metabolism.
First of all, the caffeine contained in coffee helps to stimulate your thyroid and increases your metabolic rate. In addition, coffee contains high amounts of magnesium and B vitamins, which are important for a healthy thyroid.
Be careful to enjoy coffee in moderation, though, and make sure you don’t drink it on an empty stomach. Also, take care to use the right amounts of sugar and milk to keep everything balanced.
Special caution should be taken if you are currently using synthetic T4 hormones like Levothyroxine because coffee can affect the absorption and effectiveness of these thyroid medications. Therefore, it is strongly indicated not to drink coffee for at least an hour after taking Levothyroxine in the morning.
Foods to Avoid with Hypothyroidism
It is very important to avoid certain foods to help your thyroid maintain a healthy level of hormone secretion. The main point is that many foods to avoid hypothyroidism are widely believed to be very healthy.
1. Soy and Thyroid
The most harmful foods for your thyroid are probably those that contain lots of soy. Soy has been proven to be highly estrogenic, i.e., it will increase the level of estrogen, and estrogen has been shown to inhibit the secretion of thyroid hormones.
2. Polyunsaturated Fats and Thyroid
Polyunsaturated fats are another good example of foods that are generally considered to be healthy. They may have beneficial effects for healthy people, but they also slow down the metabolic rate and are a major contributor to hypothyroidism. This is often ignored, and a diet rich in polyunsaturated fat is advocated as very healthy.
Polyunsaturated fats are hurting your thyroid in about any possible way. First and foremost, they lower the number of thyroid hormones secreted by your thyroid gland. Secondly, they inhibit the ability of your blood to transport thyroid hormones. And finally, they keep your cells from properly using the hormones they receive.
Please make sure that you strictly limit your intake of polyunsaturated fats because they are one of the main dietary causes of an underactive thyroid.
3. Processed Foods and Thyroid
There is one thing that almost all hypothyroid diets agree upon; you should avoid processed foods at all costs. But, most importantly, when you consume lots of processed foods, you have no control over what you are eating.
Processed foods and junk foods usually contain lots of processed grains that can negatively influence your blood sugar. They lead to a sudden increase in insulin levels which will ultimately leave you with low blood sugar. Your body will then respond by secreting stress hormones to get blood sugar back to normal, but this will also lower the level of thyroid hormones in the bloodstream.
Another reason to avoid processed food is that they are often treated with toxic chemicals such as preservatives and artificial flavor enhancers. These chemicals cause the liver to be too busy to convert inactive T4 thyroid hormones into active T3 hormones.
4. Raw Vegetables and Thyroid
You have probably heard that raw vegetables contain a lot more nutrients than cooked vegetables. While this is true, the more important question is which portion of nutrients is digested.
Because raw vegetables are much more difficult to digest, the body cannot extract as many nutrients from raw vegetables.
In addition, raw cruciferous vegetables are considered goitrogenic, i.e., they promote the development of goiters. This is because they inhibit the body’s ability to use iodine to produce thyroid hormones. Please see below for more information about goitrogenic foods.
List of Foods to Avoid with Hypothyroidism
To sum everything up, I have developed a shortlist of foods that you should avoid for your hypothyroidism diet.
Vegetables (especially raw)
- Brussel Sprouts
- Mustard Greens
Nuts and Beans
- All Soy Products (including soybeans, soy milk, tofu, and edamame)
- Pine nuts
- Canola oil
I hope that this information will help you to avoid some foods that are bad for your hypothyroidism.
Goitrogenic Foods to Avoid Hypothyroidism
Some foods can suppress the function of the thyroid in such a way that leads to an enlargement of the thyroid. This happens by interfering with the body’s ability to properly utilize iodine. The resulting condition is commonly referred to as a goiter.
Generally, almost all foods that can promote hypothyroidism are also considered goitrogenic foods. But some foods are considered especially harmful for normal thyroid function and pose an increased risk of developing a goiter. These include:
- Bamboo Shoots
- Sweet Potatoes
- Bok Choy
- Choy sum
- Collard Greens
Thyroid and Weight Loss
While it may seem difficult to lose weight when suffering from hypothyroidism, it is still a very desirable and achievable goal. It all comes down to the right hypothyroidism diet, and with the information in this article, I hope it becomes a little easier. Losing weight with hypothyroidism will prevent more serious conditions like obesity and diabetes. A well-balanced diet that contains lots of foods rich in iodine and selenium will keep your hypothyroidism under control. If you feel a little bit more energetic, also make sure to get some exercise. This will help you to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
I hope you found some useful information in this article and please remember that every person is different and might take some time to find out what works best for you. Also, make sure to discuss any changes in medication and diet with your medical practitioner.
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