Proper diet and supplementation can effectively manage thyroid disorders.
Foods alone can’t cure thyroid diseases. But, the right combination of diet and thyroid medication helps reduce inflammation, regulate thyroid hormone levels, and promote the growth of healthy cells.
However, selecting the right diet from the plethora of available options can be challenging. You need to identify the disorder, its severity, and which diet suits you. And then, you need to identify a diet rich in nutrients and minerals accordingly.
That’s where this guide can help! With in-depth research by a team of experts, we’ve curated a list of medically reviewed food items that are beneficial for people with thyroid problems. You can select the foods that deliver the best results.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in!
What Is Thyroid?
Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces and secretes hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. When this gland produces too little or too much of these hormones, it’s known as thyroid disease. Some major thyroid diseases include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s disease, and thyroiditis.
Thyroid disease can affect anyone, both infants and adults, and can be present from birth or might also develop with age. Thyroid diseases are prevalent, especially in the United States, where approximately 20 million people suffer from them(1). However, women are more vulnerable to these diseases compared to men. You are at risk of developing thyroid disease if you:
- Have a family history of thyroid diseases
- Take an iodine-rich medication
- Are aged more than 60
- Were previously diagnosed with cancer or had any thyroid disease
What Are The Causes?
Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the two main types of thyroid disease, and both result from other diseases affecting the functioning of thyroid glands. The conditions responsible for hypothyroidism are:
Thyroiditis leads to thyroid inflammation and can lower the amount of hormones produced by the gland, thereby leading to hypothyroidism.
B. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
An autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a painless disease where the thyroid is attacked and damaged by the immune system. It affects the gland’s ability to produce adequate hormones, and it is an inherited condition.
Many people with Hashimoto’s disease have gluten sensitivity and therefore, are recommended to have a gluten-free diet and an autoimmune protocol diet.
C. Postpartum Thyroiditis
Postpartum is a condition that occurs amongst women post delivery, and leads to an enlarged thyroid gland. It can result in hyperthyroidism at first, and gradually leads to hypothyroidism, a temporary thyroid condition.
D. Iodine Deficiency
Iodine is a primary requirement for the thyroid gland to produce hormones required by the body. And, any deficiency of iodine affects its ability to function properly, leading to hypothyroidism.
Conditions leading to hyperthyroidism include:
A. Graves’ Disease
Graves’ disease is a condition that tends to over-activate the thyroid, thereby secreting more hormones than required. Also known as toxic goiter, it leads to inflammation of the gland.
Hyperthyroidism often results from nodules that over-activate the thyroid gland. The number of nodules forming in a gland can range from one to many, known as toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodules and toxic multinodular goiter, respectively.
Thyroiditis is a painless disease where hormones stored within the thyroid are released into the body. This condition lasts for a few weeks or even months.
D. Excessive Iodine
When an excess amount of iodine is present in the body, the gland uses it to produce more hormones than required. Intake of certain medications like cough syrup and amiodarone potentially leads to hyperthyroidism (2).
What Are The Symptoms Of Thyroid Disease
An individual suffering from a thyroid disorder may experience several symptoms. However, most of its symptoms are similar to other medical conditions. So, people might have a hard time determining if the symptoms result from thyroid disease or any other ailment.
Symptoms of these diseases are primarily classified into two categories: hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone production) and hypothyroidism (too less thyroid hormone production). Symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Experiencing irritability, anxiety, and nervousness
- Weight loss
- Inflamed thyroid gland
- Muscle tremors or weakness
- Eye irritation or vision problems
- Heat sensitivity
- Irregular menstrual cycle or stops completely
Symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Weight gain
- Memory loss
- Heavy or frequent menstruation
- Getting a hoarse voice
- Having coarse and dry hair
- Intolerance to cold weather
Nutrients You Need
Antioxidants in the meal will help your thyroid perform optimally, so ensure that you consume a lot of vegetables and fruits. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and should stay on the top of the list. Some vegetables and fruits that contain an ample amount of antioxidants include:
- Bell peppers
Hypothyroidism causes malfunctioning of thyroid glands, leading to lesser production of hormones. Selenium activates the thyroid hormones, ensuring optimal body function (3). It further has antioxidant properties and safeguards thyroid glands from the attack of molecules called free radicals.
Adding foods rich in selenium to your diet is a great way to boost the selenium levels in the body. These foods are tuna, Brazil nuts, eggs, sardines, and legumes. However, taking selenium without consulting a healthcare professional is not advisable. Intake of excessive amounts of selenium without knowing the optimal dosage can be toxic to your body.
When it comes to amino acids, tyrosine is a good choice. Tyrosine is present in most fishes, meats, eggs, cheese, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Besides, it’s found in soy, but medical professionals suggest cutting down on soy when having thyroid disease.
Lower levels of tyrosine in the body often leads to hypothyroidism, so it’s advisable to consume it to improve thyroid function.
Ensuring an optimal level of calcium in your body is essential not only to keep your bones healthier, but also to keep the thyroid glands activated. Some of the calcium-rich foods you can consume are organic milk, salmon, and even sardines, but stay away from calcium supplements that potentially disrupt your health.
As previously stated, iodine is the most crucial element in the body for the thyroid glands to produce hormones that ensure proper body functioning. So, anything more or less than the optimal level affects the ability of the gland to produce hormones, leading to hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, respectively.
So, maintaining an optimal amount of iodine in the diet is essential. If you have iodine deficiency, consider adding iodized table salt to your meals and consuming foods rich in iodine, like fish, dairy, seaweed, and eggs.
Iodine supplements are available on the market, but we do not recommend taking them as plenty of iodine is obtainable from the diet. Some studies even prove that consuming supplements in large quantities disrupts the thyroid’s functioning (4).
Zinc also plays a valuable role in activating thyroid hormones. Many studies reveal that zinc helps regulate TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone), which stimulates the gland to produce and release enough thyroid hormones (5).
Nevertheless, if you have hypothyroidism, consider intaking zinc-rich foods, such as shellfish, oysters, chicken, and beef.
G. Lean Protein
Support your thyroid by consuming a more lean and protein-rich diet like free-range turkey. A person suffering from hypothyroidism will experience a significant loss of energy, which can be cured with the help of a protein-rich diet. Apart from that, people with hypothyroidism lose considerable weight, so consuming proteins helps in this respect as well.
Omega-3S is a versatile nutrient beneficial for numerous health conditions, including thyroid ailments. Adding more of this to the diet not only boosts your health, but also keeps your thyroid activated to keep producing the requisite amounts of hormones. Some food items that are rich in omega-3S and healthy fats are as follows:
- Brussel Sprouts
Superfoods For Healing Your Thyroid
If you wish to have a healthy thyroid, it’s essential to consume more and more superfoods. Superfoods contain a greater percentage of nutrients compared to traditional foods. So, in simpler words, these foods are much more nutritious and healthy for you.
Some of these foods are incredibly beneficial for people with thyroid conditions. Here are some top foods you can consume regularly to ensure that your thyroid functions more efficiently.
Coconut is the first superfood on the list owing to its variety of nutrients. It’s beneficial in keeping your thyroid healthy and boosting your overall well-being. Coconut is readily available everywhere and in different forms. Adding coconut oil to your diet is an efficient way to get the nutrients in your system.
Although coconut oil contains small amounts of saturated fat, it’s highly beneficial for your body. According to research, the presence of saturated fat in coconut oil presents a whole lot of benefits (6). It includes:
- Controlling blood sugar
- Regulating metabolism
- Boosting brain function
- Promoting healthy skin
- Enhancing thyroid health
Coconut oil can be a viable alternative to any other oil in your recipes. Besides that, you can use coconut butter instead of regular butter, which is a bit sweeter but much healthier.
B. Leafy Green Vegetables
Green and leafy vegetables must be a pivotal part of your daily diet if you have a thyroid condition. The phytochemicals and nutrients present in these serve as your primary defense. These include lettuces like an iceberg, romaine, cooked spinach, and kale.
Vitamins and minerals in leafy vegetables like vitamin B, amino acids, and magnesium help regulate body functions, including the thyroid. So, intake of these vegetables in significant amounts is essential.
C. Other Vegetables
Other vegetables like fermented and cruciferous ones are also beneficial in ensuring a healthy thyroid gland. Fermented veggies are rich in healthy acids and probiotics, so including them in your everyday diet helps. But, make sure to check the preservative used in the product you’re purchasing, and avoid the ones that use sodium benzoate.
On the other hand, cruciferous vegetables are beneficial only in conditions of hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid, and not the other way around. Some of these are rutabaga, Brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy, cabbage, turnip, and others.
However, never eat these vegetables raw, as they contain goitrogens, which can further affect the thyroid. Cooking these would destroy the goitrogens and deliver you the requisite benefits.
Fruits must also be consumed in ample amounts when suffering from a thyroid condition. These are a rich source of phytochemicals that activates the thyroid and helps generate more hormones. However, fruits are rich in sugar, so do not eat more than two fruits daily.
In the case of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, it’s beneficial to include organic, grass-fed, or pasture-raised poultry or meat once a week.
Apart from that, bone broth is another nutritious food you can include in your balanced diet chart. It is made by simmering animals’ connective tissues and bones, and contains a rich amount of amino acids, minerals, and gelatin. So, it is healthy for your gut as well as your thyroid.
Wild-caught fish are suggested, especially sardines, salmon, mackerel, and anchovies.
Salmon contains rich amounts of amino acids, selenium, zinc, vitamin B, and magnesium, qualifying it as a superfood. It’s low in calories and fats, high in protein, and is not difficult to cook. Similarly, sardines with a wealth of vital minerals and vitamins are considered one of the healthiest foods in the world.
In general, seafood is a healthy diet due to omega-3 fatty acids, but salmon is the best fish type to eat in cases of thyroid disorder. But, ensure that the fish is wild-caught and not farm-raised.
If you fail to have fish for at least a week, cod liver oil is a viable alternative. It is prepared using a traditional fermentation process and is further processed at chilled temperatures. Being rich in Vitamin D, K, A, and omega-3, it helps get your thyroid back to normal working condition (7).
Also, cod liver oil is a food, so it’s safe to consume on a regular basis and available in liquid or capsule form.
G. Gluten-Free Grains
People, especially those with thyroid conditions, must be careful of their daily gluten intake. Gluten is present in barley, wheat, spelt, and rye. Besides that, you’ll find them in bagels, bread, cereals, flour, and pasta.
It’s essential to keep track of the amount of gluten you consume daily and reduce the amount as much as possible. You can look for gluten-free grains like millet, quinoa, amaranth, couscous, buckwheat, and white rice.
H. Dairy Products
Dairy products like ice cream, yogurt, and milk contain iodine. Thyroid glands need iodine to produce necessary hormones and prevent them from becoming enlarged- known as goiter. So, in case of any thyroid-related condition, treat yourself with a low-fat serving of frozen yogurt to get sufficient iodine levels.
But refrain from consuming too much iodine, as it might over-activate the thyroid.
Pastured or organic eggs are considered a thyroid superfood because whole eggs are rich in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B and D, protein, and chlorine. And, yolk is probably the most nutritious part of the entire thing, so doctors and medical experts often recommend eating foods like these (8).
These nutrients help heal your thyroid and help prevent several ailments like heart diseases, gastrointestinal distress, and many others. So, have at least 2-3 eggs daily for breakfast, lunch, or as salads in the evening. You can include these in your diet in thousands of ways.
J. Nuts And Seeds
All seeds and nuts except peanuts are viable choices, especially cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts. If you find it difficult to digest them, you can sprout or soak them.
Now, if you have a thyroid problem, Brazil nuts are an excellent choice and are rightfully considered a superfood. These are high in selenium, which is good for your skin, thyroid, liver, and overall health.
Foods To Avoid
There has long been concern about the potential adverse effects of isoflavones on the thyroid, which are found in soy. Some researchers claim that intake of too much soy increases the risk of hypothyroidism in an individual. On the contrary, a study published in Scientific Reports 2019 found that soy has no potential impact on thyroid hormones and slightly raises the TSH levels (9).
So, which one to believe? We’d advise you to consult a doctor to determine what’s best for you and then stick to a diet plan.
B. Broccoli And Cauliflower
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli are rich in nutrients but interfere with thyroid function, especially if you have a deficiency of iodine. So, limit your intake of these vegetables because they impair the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for optimal thyroid function.
If you’ve been diagnosed with both iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism, there are some things you can do to make these vegetables less harmful. Cooking these veggies limits their effect on the thyroid gland, and consuming five ounces a day actually benefits the body rather than limiting thyroid function.
C. Fatty Foods
Fats limit the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medication. Furthermore, it impairs the thyroid gland’s ability to produce the necessary amount of hormones for optimal body functioning.
So, many wellness professionals recommend cutting off all fried foods and minimizing the intake of fat-rich foods like mayonnaise, butter, margarine, and ghee. Also, people under THR medication must avoid consuming foods rich in dietary fiber.
D. Sugar-Rich Foods
Hypothyroidism potentially leads to slow metabolism of the body, which means it’s easy to gain weight if you’re not careful enough. Therefore, it’s best to avoid foods with excess sugar like cake, sweets, and others, as they contain tons of calories without any nutrients.
E. Processed Foods
Sodium, along with its preservation properties, aids in the binding of ingredients and is used by manufacturers in packaged foods to extend their shelf lives. People with underactive thyroid might be at risk of high blood pressure if they consume too much sodium, so they should avoid these packaged foods.
Read the package description to determine the amount of sodium present in each, and select the ones with the least amount. According to the American Heart Association, people with a higher risk of blood pressure should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day (10).
A study conducted by the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism found that alcohol can wreak havoc on the gland’s ability to produce hormones and maintain thyroid levels (11). Alcohol can have a toxic effect on the thyroid and inhibits your body’s ability to use thyroid hormones.
Ideally, people with a thyroid disorder should cut out alcohol consumption completely or drink in moderation.
Another thing you should remove from your diet is corn. Most corn grown on fields is genetically modified, nutrient-poor, processed, and high in sugar and carbohydrates. This includes all foods that contain corn like corn flour, corn meal, corn chips, popcorn, corn tortillas, and polenta.
That’s all we have to tell you about the thyroid healing diet!
So, in short, to deal with this condition, you must identify the root cause of the imbalance. Based on that, your body type, and thyroid medications, the doctor will provide you with an ideal diet plan that helps deal with a thyroid disorder.
Apart from eating a nutrient-dense diet, you must stay fit. You must engage in high-intensity aerobic exercise daily to avoid gaining weight, which can aggravate the condition. And as hypothyroidism comes with joint pain, stick with low-impact aerobic exercise like riding a stationary bike, walking, or doing yoga.
On that note, we’ll wrap up this guide. Goodbye and take care!