Your thyroid is a very important gland because its healthy functioning is crucial for pretty much every important metabolic and growth function in your body. This includes functions like maintenance of heart rate and body temperature, hormone regulation, cell growth, reproductive function, and tissue differentiation (modification of tissues during growth). So, anything that hampers thyroid functioning is bound to affect other important body functions as well.
Goitrogens are naturally occurring compounds that affect the functioning of your thyroid. They’re found in several foods you normally eat and are usually okay to consume. However, they are likely to be a cause for concern among those with already-existing thyroid problems as they further hamper thyroid functioning. Your doctor may analyze your diet if you have thyroid issues to see if you’re consuming goitrogen-rich foods in excess.
Here’s everything you need to know about goitrogens and what you can do to prevent the harm caused by them.
Effect Of Goitrogens On Your Body
Goitrogens, when consumed in excess, are likely to spell trouble in those with thyroid problems because:
- They prevent your thyroid from absorbing iodine, which is necessary for thyroid hormone production. Insufficient iodine availability causes a drop in thyroid hormone levels, affecting the production of other hormones required for body functions.
- They lower the production of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is also important for thyroid hormone production. If there isn’t enough TSH being produced in your body, your thyroid is likely to malfunction and produce more cells, causing it to swell up and result in a condition called goiter.1
Types Of Goitrogens
There are 3 main types of goitrogens.
- Goitrins: These compounds are released by chewing or slicing plant foods. They have been found to reduce the uptake of iodine by the thyroid, making way for problems like insufficient thyroid hormone production. Foods like collards, Brussels sprouts, and some varieties of Russian kale contain goitrins.2
- Thiocyanates: These compounds are also released from plant foods when they are either sliced or chewed. They tend to be harmless unless consumed in excess. An overdose of thiocyanates can affect the ability of your thyroid to concentrate iodine.3 Veggies belonging to the Brassica family like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard contain compounds called glucosinolates. These glucosinolates get converted into thiocyanates under the action of certain enzymes in the body and affect the functioning of your thyroid gland.
- Flavonoids: These are pigments occurring in most plants and responsible for colors. Although usually considered beneficial because of their ability to ward off free radicals and prevent serious illnesses, they can be harmful to those with thyroid problems when consumed in excess. Flavonoids affect iodine absorption and the interaction of thyroid hormones with target tissues.4 Soybeans, soy extracts, and foods made from like tofu are abundant in flavonoids.
Lowering Effects Of Goitrogens
Considering their abundant presence in several commonly eaten foods, you might be worried about consuming foods with goitrogen in excess. There’s no reason to be alarmed unless you have an already existing thyroid problem. Continue eating these foods without worrying about how much to eat. However, if you have a preexisting thyroid problem, these steps should help you limit their intake:
- Include different kinds of plant foods in your diet to ensure a balance of all nutrients while limiting goitrogen intake.
- Roast, steam, or sauté goitrogen-rich foods before eating them to break down the enzyme myrosinase and reduce the effect of the goitrogens.5
- Add foods rich in iodine to improve thyroid functioning and counter the effects of goitrogens. Iodine-rich foods include seaweed, white fish, milk, and dairy products. It’s a good idea to consult your doctor before increasing your iodine intake as consuming it in excess could also be a cause for concern.
Try these simple tips to steer clear of the possible side effects of goitrogens and keep your thyroid healthy.
|↑1||Chandra, Amar K. “Goitrogen in food: cyanogenic and flavonoids containing plant foods in the development of goiter.” In Bioactive Foods in Promoting Health, pp. 691-716. 2010.|
|↑2||Felker, Peter, Ronald Bunch, and Angela M. Leung. “Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism.” Nutrition reviews 74, no. 4 (2016): 248-258.|
|↑3||Vanderpas, Jean. “Nutritional epidemiology and thyroid hormone metabolism.” Annu. Rev. Nutr. 26 (2006): 293-322.|
|↑4||dos Santos, Maria Carolina de Souza, Carlos Frederico Lima Gonçalves, Mário Vaisman, Andrea Claudia Freitas Ferreira, and Denise Pires de Carvalho. “Impact of flavonoids on thyroid function.” Food and chemical toxicology 49, no. 10 (2011): 2495-2502.|
|↑5||Rungapamestry, Vanessa, Alan J. Duncan, Zoë Fuller, and Brian Ratcliffe. “Effect of cooking brassica vegetables on the subsequent hydrolysis and metabolic fate of glucosinolates.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 66, no. 1 (2007): 69-81.|