Which Foods Are Good for Thyroid Patients?by Mary Shomon Patient Advocate
When you have a thyroid condition, it's important to know which foods are good for your thyroid and your health. For example, do you know which foods are rich in thyroid-nourishing vitamins and minerals? What about foods that help your gland produce more thyroid hormone and foods that can help slow your overactive thyroid? Learn more here about what to eat for your thyroid health.
Iodine is a mineral that is found in certain foods. Your body needs iodine as a key ingredient to produce thyroid hormones. If tests show that you are iodine deficient, you may need to supplement with iodine in addition to eating an iodine-rich diet. But most people — especially those with a thyroid condition — can benefit from including iodine-rich foods as part of a healthy diet.
One of the best sources of iodine in the diet is seaweed and sea vegetables, like nori, hijiki, wakame, dulse, and kelp. These sea vegetables are delicious when added to soups and salads, used to wrap sushi, or served as a stand-alone salad.
Too much iodine can worsen thyroid conditions, so don’t go overboard with the sea vegetables. Nutritionists recommend one or two servings per week.
Fish and shellfish
Ocean fish and shellfish are also excellent sources of dietary iodine, as well as healthy fats. Some of the best sources to add to your diet include:
- Sea bass
- Canned tuna
Looking for ideas? Martha Stewart has some mouth-watering quick fish and shellfish recipes.
While salmon has some iodine, its chief benefit to thyroid patients is in its anti-inflammatory power. Since the majority of thyroid patients have autoimmune Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, calming inflammation is a key goal. The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon deliver a healthy dose of these anti-inflammatory properties. Be sure to choose wild salmon, rather than farm-raised salmon, to ensure the highest level of fatty acids and nutritional benefits.
A key mineral needed for healthy thyroid function is zinc, which helps facilitate production and absorption of thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can be worsened by zinc deficiency, and zinc absorption can drop in people with hypothyroidism. The humble oyster is one of the best dietary sources of zinc. Oysters can be eaten raw — delicious with some lemon and hot sauce — or check out these delicious oyster recipes.
Selenium is a mineral that is necessary for healthy thyroid and immune function. Research shows that selenium can help prevent or reduce thyroid inflammation, damage, and antibodies. Selenium also helps improve thyroid hormone production and conversion of the T4 hormone to T3. One Brazil nut has almost 100 mcg of selenium — about half your recommended 200 mcg daily intake of this important mineral. Just don’t overdo it with the Brazil nuts. More than 400 mcg of selenium per day from all sources — foods and supplements — can be toxic.
Eggs pack a one-two nutritional punch for thyroid patients. Not only are they rich in iodine — one large egg has around 16 percent of your daily iodine requirement — but they are also rich in selenium, with about 20 percent of your daily selenium requirement.
Choose organic, free-range eggs for the highest nutritional value. And if you’re concerned about cholesterol, new studies have shown that eating one egg per day does not increase your risk of heart disease.
Your gut is a part of your immune system, so protecting and balancing it can benefit those with Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. Research shows that probiotic-rich fermented foods provide good bacteria to help your gut. Get the probiotic punch by adding fermented foods to your diet, including:
- Yogurt and kefir, a yogurt-like drink
- Pickles, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and Korean kimchi
- Kombucha — a tea-like fermented drink
- Soft fermented cheeses, such as Swiss and cheddar
One serving of yogurt can have as much as half your daily iodine requirement. Yogurt also has two other useful nutrients for thyroid patients:
- Vitamin D: Low vitamin D levels are associated with worsening of hypothyroidism, and increased risk of autoimmune thyroid disease.
- Probiotics: Yogurt contains live bacteria that can help gut health.
Choose a low-fat, organic, hormone-free Greek yogurt without added sugar for the best nutritional benefits.
High-fiber foods have a number of benefits for thyroid patients:
- They make you feel fuller, which helps with weight.
- They can ease constipation — more common with hypothyroidism.
- They help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day from fiber-rich foods, including:
- Fruits such as apples, berries, and citrus.
- Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach.
- Nuts and seeds.
Organic, hormone-free foods
Pesticides, hormones, and toxins are linked to immune function, autoimmune disease, and to your thyroid function specifically, as Amy Myers, M.D., explains in her book, The Autoimmune Solution*. Focus on eating organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free foods as the majority of your diet. Worried about the cost of organic foods? Cornucopia Institute shares 10 helpful ways to eat organic on a budget.
Your diet should include healthy fats for you to feel full, fight inflammation, and help your metabolism function smoothly. Replace unhealthy fats, such as saturated and trans fats, with the “good fat” foods, like olive oil, olives, avocados, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds, and chia. Need some ideas? Cooking Light has delicious recipes for dishes that include healthy fats.
Raw green smoothies
If you are hyperthyroid, food can’t replace necessary treatment. But if you are taking antithyroid drugs, adding a healthy daily dose of thyroid-slowing raw cruciferous and goitrogenic foods may help slow your thyroid slightly, allowing you to lower your dose over time. Consider adding a daily green smoothie heavy on superfoods like kale, spinach, broccoli, and cabbage to your menu. (Note: This is NOT recommended for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or hypothyroidism.)