Lifestyle

The 10 Best Foods for a Healthy Thyroid‎ ‎ ‎ ‎

Looking to support your thyroid health through nutrition? Learn more about what foods can help support your thyroid with Thrivelab.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Nayan Patel

While many of us might not think about our thyroids on a regular basis, this small hormone gland plays an important role in our overall health. That’s why it’s important to eat with your thyroid in mind, making sure to take in nutrients that will support it while it does its job.

There are many ways to support your thyroid health, which can include bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, exercise, and nutrition. Join us as we discuss the thyroid and its function, as well as some foods you can eat to help support its health. 

What Is the Thyroid?

The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck. Despite its small size, the thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism. Thyroid hormone levels can also affect the other hormones in the body, leading to effects that extend beyond metabolism.

The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones help the body convert food into energy and also play a role in growth and development. They also help to regulate body temperature, heart rate, and other bodily functions.

The production of thyroid hormones is regulated by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. The pituitary gland does this by producing a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). 

TSH signals the thyroid gland to produce more or less thyroid hormones, depending on the body's needs. When the thyroid gland isn't functioning properly, it can lead to health problems, like hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones) or hyperthyroidism (when the thyroid gland overproduces hormones) 

What Are Some Symptoms of Thyroid Issues?

Many people experience the following symptoms of thyroid conditions long before being diagnosed:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Sensitivities to either hot or cold
  • Heart palpitations

Some symptoms can also be more subtle. For example, our Nurse Practitioner Katie Jo highlights that “if you are a female client and you're noticing lots of edema underneath your eyes or you wake up in the morning and you're puffy, you're swollen, that could be hormone related. It could be related to progesterone or it could be related to thyroid.”

Some of us are relieved when our healthcare provider diagnoses a thyroid disorder because, at least that way, we know there’s a reason for feeling so unwell. Getting diagnosed can be a feat in and of itself because you may experience symptoms of a thyroid imbalance while having normal hormone levels. However, managing thyroid problems can also be scary and overwhelming, especially in the beginning. 

Fortunately, a Thrivelab provider can help you support optimal thyroid health through personalized treatment plans to include medication, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), or lifestyle coaching to support a healthy thyroid.

What Are the Complications of Thyroid Imbalances?

Thyroid disorders can also increase the risk of other health problems, which is why it’s so important to get a proper diagnosis and work with a doctor who specializes in hormonal wellness. If left undiagnosed or unmanaged, thyroid imbalances can quickly spiral into more serious health concerns.

Cardiovascular Disease

Thyroid dysfunction can impact the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. For instance, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause a rapid heart rate, while an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.

Osteoporosis

Thyroid hormones play a critical role in bone health, and thyroid dysfunction can lead to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones. Hypothyroidism, in particular, can increase the risk of osteoporosis in women.

Fertility Issues

Thyroid dysfunction can also stimulate progesterone production in women. Women with hypothyroidism may also have low progesterone levels, which can contribute to irregular menstrual cycles and infertility.

Mental health disorders

As mentioned earlier, thyroid dysfunction can impact mental health, with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism increasing the risk of depression and anxiety. This is because thyroid hormones play a role in the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is commonly referred to as the “happy hormone.”

Goiter

A goiter is a swelling of the thyroid gland that can be caused by both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland will swell if it detects iodine deficiency, as a greater surface area can help the gland capture more iodine.

How Are Thyroid Disorders Diagnosed?

Diagnosing a thyroid condition typically involves a combination of physical exams, medical history, and laboratory tests. If you suspect you may have a thyroid disorder, it's important to talk to a hormone specialist and get appropriate testing and treatment. Here at Thrivelab, we test for imbalances with a serum blood test that will evaluate all hormone levels in addition to the thyroid.

Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage symptoms and prevent complications. While treatment can vary, it can sometimes involve introducing biothyroid hormones to help supplement your body’s low supply. 

To see if bioidentical hormone replacement therapy can help you, take our simple hormone health self-assessment. If you’re a good fit, our providers can help you discover the root cause of your symptoms and address your health concerns through bioidentical hormones, diet changes, and lifestyle adjustments.

How Can Food Affect Thyroid Health?

First off, let's start with the basics. We all know that food is important for our health. It's what fuels our bodies and provides us with the nutrients we need to keep everything running smoothly. 

However, some foods are more fuel efficient than others. This is especially true when it comes to foods for a healthy thyroid. 

For example, iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones. Without enough iodine, the thyroid gland can't produce enough thyroid hormones, which can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism. Other nutrients, like selenium, zinc, and vitamin D, are also important for thyroid function.

However, these minerals are also essential nutrients, which means the body does not produce them on its own. This means that the only way to get iodine, selenium, and zinc into your body is through your diet.

Megan Spears, one of our nurse practitioners, shares in one of our recent webinars that “things like green leafy vegetables, fish can have iodine. Brazil nuts give us some selenium. We don't have too many Brazil nuts, but they're really good and they give us some selenium. Pumpkin seeds are for your testosterone but also for supporting your thyroid as well with some zinc in there.”

In addition, certain foods can either help or hinder thyroid function. For example, foods that are high in goitrogens (like raw cruciferous vegetables) can interfere with thyroid function by blocking the absorption of iodine. On the other hand, foods that are rich in antioxidants (like berries) can help protect the thyroid gland from damage caused by free radicals.

Overall, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is key for supporting thyroid health and preventing thyroid disorders. By consuming the right nutrients and avoiding foods that can interfere with thyroid function, you can help ensure that your body is producing enough thyroid hormones to keep you healthy and energized.

It’s also worth noting that you may still need an iodine supplement to help you meet your recommended amount of iodine. To see whether or not you’ll need a supplement, schedule an appointment with a Thrivelab provider.

What Foods Promote Thyroid Health?

Now that you have a general idea of what the thyroid is, what it does in the body, and what NOT to do for thyroid health, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Here’s a roundup of healthy foods that you can eat to support thyroid health, thyroid hormone production, and overall well-being. 

1. Seaweed

Let's start with sea vegetables. Yes, we know they're not exactly everyone's cup of tea, but hear us out. Seaweed and kelp are packed with iodine, which is a key component of thyroid hormones. So if you're looking to give your thyroid a boost, consider adding some nori to your sushi roll or snacking on some dulse chips or seaweed crisps. 

2. Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium, which is another important nutrient for thyroid health. Selenium plays a critical role in the production of thyroid hormones and helps protect the thyroid gland from damage. 

Eating just one or two Brazil nuts per day can provide you with the recommended daily intake of selenium. In fact, too much selenium can be harmful, so it’s generally best to stick to just one or two Brazil nuts per day.

3. Wild-Caught Fish

Wild-caught fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body, which can then help support thyroid function. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in regulating the immune system, which is important for those with autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis or Graves’ disease.

4. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens are rich sources of vitamins and minerals that support thyroid health, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium. Vitamin A is important for the production of thyroid hormones, while vitamin C can help reduce oxidative stress that can damage the thyroid gland. 

Meanwhile, calcium is important for proper thyroid function and bone health. Just make sure you don’t consume raw leafy greens in large amounts, as the goitrogens they contain may interfere with healthy thyroid function.

5. Berries

Berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the thyroid gland from damage caused by free radicals. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, making them a great addition to any healthy diet. Plus, is there anything more delicious than ripe, juicy, in-season berries?

6. Bone Broth

Bone broth is a nutrient-dense food that is rich in amino acids, collagen, and other nutrients that can have health benefits for the thyroid. It is also an excellent source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are important for thyroid function and overall health. 

Plus, it's easy to make — just throw some bones in a pot with some veggies and water and let it simmer for a few hours. Your thyroid (and your taste buds) will thank you.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a healthy fat that has been shown to improve thyroid function. It contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are quickly metabolized by the body and converted into energy. This can help boost metabolism and energy levels, which is important for those with hypothyroidism.

8. Probiotic-Rich Foods

Probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut can help improve gut health, which is important for thyroid function. The gut and thyroid gland are closely linked, and imbalances in gut bacteria can lead to thyroid dysfunction. 

9. Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-fed beef is a good source of iron, which is also important for thyroid function. Iron is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones and can help prevent iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause fatigue and other symptoms.

10. Lentils

Lentils are a good source of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals that support thyroid health. They are also rich in iron, which is important for thyroid function, and contain zinc, which is important for the immune system.

Which Foods Should You Avoid?

Just like all bodies respond to medication differently, we also respond to food differently. Some of the foods listed above, such as cruciferous vegetables, may actually give you unpleasant side effects. That’s why it’s important to work with your Thrivelabs provider to develop the best plan for your unique situation. 

However, there are a few foods that have been shown to exuberate thyroid issues:

  • Soy: Soy-based foods (as well as other legumes) can be high in goitrogens. This includes edamame, tofu, miso, soy milk, soy meat replacements, and soy sauce. 
  • Gluten: Gluten can increase inflammation in many people with autoimmune conditions. Fortunately, gluten-free pasta, bread, and even baked goods have come a long way, and it’s relatively easy to find tasty substitutes to make a gluten-free diet more accessible. 
  • Sugar: Like most items on this list, sugar can be inflammatory. Plus, it’s not just found in the obvious places like cake, cookies, and ice cream. Many products we often assume are healthy, such as yogurt and cereal, can have high amounts of added sugar
  • Processed foods: Many highly processed foods are heavy in the other items on this list, so make sure you check the labels before buying.
  • Coffee: Coffee seems to interfere with many thyroid medications. For some people, waiting to have coffee until a half hour after their medication can help.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol is another liquid that doesn’t interact well with some thyroid medications. Plus, it can exacerbate the symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Our Chief Director of Clinical Excellence, Dr. Bimisa Augustine, points to the importance of maintaining healthy choices: “We all have stress, good, bad, ugly, pretty, you know, but you have to learn how to control it,” says Dr. Augustine. 

“So keep your cortisol down. You know, I know cravings come, but you don't have to snack on this high-saturated-fat food, you know, it’s a choice. Take a walk.”

Eliminating or strictly limiting the foods we love can be very disheartening, especially at first. But if it could help you feel better, it’s probably worth a try. Focusing on what you can eat instead of what you can’t can often make the process easier to handle. 

Support Your Thyroid With Thrivelab

Taking care of your thyroid health is key, whether you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder or are taking preventative measures to promote thyroid health. 

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating many important bodily functions. When the thyroid isn't functioning properly, it can lead to a wide range of health problems that can impact your quality of life. 

While making big lifestyle changes can seem overwhelming, simply start with just one change at a time. Wherever you are in your hormone-healing journey, let the professionals at Thrivelab support you so you can get back to doing what you love.

References

  1. Thyroid Disease | Cleveland Clinic 
  2. Thyroid Disorders in Women: Johns Hopkins
  3. Added Sugars | American Heart Association
  4. Goitrogen - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics
References

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