If you’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or are at risk of developing it due to family history or otherwise, you may want to consider taking a closer look at what’s on your plate. Diet can play a big part in helping your cause or making things worse. So, deciding what to eat and what to let go off can make all the difference to your condition.
Diet Plays An Important Role In Managing Hypothyroidism
Goitrogenic foods can interfere with iodine uptake by your thyroid and the production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and lead to enlargement of the thyroid – a condition known as goiter, further compounding your thyroid issues.1
Hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid could result from autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or might be the result of some medication, the surgical removal of your thyroid, or even having radiation treatment of some kind. When your thyroid is underactive, the gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone for normal body functions, resulting in weight gain, feeling tired easily, dry skin, feeling cold, forgetfulness, and even feeling depressed.2
You may not need to cut out all the vegetables and fruit on this list entirely. Cabbage or kale when cooked is fine. Others may be fine if eaten in small amounts or occasionally. But do consult a nutritionist or your doctor to come up with a diet plan that compensates for nutrients you may be missing out on by avoiding these potentially problematic foods.
While the disease is treated with medication, what you eat can also make things better or worse for you. Certain foods are known to compound the problem. For instance, because your body needs adequate amounts of iodine to produce thyroid hormone, foods that interfere with iodine absorption – like goitrogenic foods – may be best avoided.3
The first step, of course, is to work out the cause of your hypothyroidism and whether or not you have any other deficiencies, like an iodine deficiency. Then, check your meal plan to ensure you’re not having too much of the foods on the list that follows. These foods include some that you may need to avoid altogether, some that you can eat once cooked, and others that you just need to time right in relation to when you take your thyroid medication.
1. Soy Foods
You need to mind your soy intake if you have also got an iodine deficiency as this may just raise your risk of developing hypothyroidism or could cause you to need a higher dose of thyroid hormone. Soy product isoflavones interfere with iodine absorption and usage by the body and could make an existing deficiency worse.4
Soy and soy foods are considered known offenders when it comes to hypothyroidism as they may interfere with thyroxine absorption. You may need to cut out tofu, tempeh, and soy milk or soy milk-based products from your diet. And don’t forget, green edamame beans and mature soybeans would be off the cards too.
If you do decide to go ahead and have your soy foods, keep as much of a gap between your meal and your medication to reduce the chances of the soy hampering absorption. That way, you can have your soy without worrying about your thyroid.5
2. Raw Leafy Greens Like Spinach, Mustard Greens, And Kale
Cook your brassica vegetables. As one study found, that can produce enzymes that help reduce levels of glucosinolate, a substance that forms the goitrogens that interfere with iodine absorption and thyroid function. In the study, Brussels sprouts, a vegetable that has 220 mg/100 g of glucosinolates, a level high enough to pose problems, caused no adverse effect on thyroid function when consumed cooked.6
Raw kale, mustard greens, and spinach are goitrogens, interfering with your body’s ability to use the iodine it gets. Its effect on this nutrient uptake suppresses thyroid function. However, this issue lies largely with the raw form of these leafy vegetables. Cook them before using and you should be fine. Of course, moderation is key, so don’t overdo intake of these greens.7 Collard greens are another leafy vegetable to be mindful of.8
3. Cruciferous Vegetables Like Cauliflower, Broccoli, And Cabbage
While they are very healthy vegetables and packed with nutrients, cruciferous vegetables can be a problem for those with hypothyroidism. Try and avoid having foods like cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli – especially if you are eating them raw. While they are all known to be goitrogenic, some are more problematic than others. For instance, intake of large amounts of raw cabbage is a known trigger for goiter or an enlarged malfunctioning thyroid.9
Serving size matters. Some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or kale contain very small amounts of goitrogenic chemicals, but if you have a large quantity of these foods on a regular basis, you could wind up with higher amounts of goitrogenic chemicals in your body.
So do you need to avoid all cruciferous vegetables? Not really. Researchers in one study found that while 194 μmol of goitrin impacted radioiodine uptake to the thyroid, taking 77 μmol of goitrin did not. This makes turnip tops, broccoli, and broccoli rabe largely okay to have in moderation since they contain far lower amounts of goitrogenic chemicals. On the other hand, Brussels sprouts are likely to be an issue since they contain high amounts of goitrin.10
4. Radish, Turnip, And Swede
Radishes or turnips may not strike you as being from the same category as cabbage or broccoli, but these root vegetables are also brassica veggies. And they are also goitrogenic and best avoided if you have hypothyroidism.11 Swedes or rutabagas present a similar problem.12
5. Coffee And Green Tea
It may be time to trade in that morning cuppa joe for something milder like a herbal tea or warm water with lemon. It is believed that coffee could cause problems with your thyroid function by interfering with thyroid hormone absorption.13
While you don’t need to avoid them, calcium-rich foods and supplements may interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication levothyroxine. So keep at least a 4-hour gap between the consumption of a calcium-containing food like yogurt or milk and your medication.14
Even green tea can cause issues for you if you wind up drinking too much. A cup a day should be fine, though. Animal studies have found that green tea extracts at high doses caused a significant decline in levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, and rise in thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. In short, bingeing on green tea could mess up the modulation of your thyroid gland function.15
While whole grains are healthy, if you have hypothyroidism, you may want to avoid foods you are allergic to, to reduce inflammation in the body – and that includes gluten-containing grains. Research has found that celiac disease, which causes your body to experience inflammatory stress when you consume gluten, is more common among people who have autoimmune thyroid disease.16
Some people with hypothyroidism, especially Hashimoto’s, may also find it difficult to digest milk protein. Check your tolerance for dairy products to keep inflammation in check. You should also avoid goitrogens like sweet corn, sorghum, and millet.17
If you suspect this could be the case, have yourself tested for celiac disease and make the necessary dietary changes to cut out gluten from your mealtimes. Gluten-containing foods like the breads you eat at mealtimes or that muffin, cupcake, or cookie you treated yourself too could then add to your hypothyroidism problem. Especially if they are also highly processed. There’s plenty of gluten-free options for baked foods on the market and alternatives to glutinous grains as well. For instance, try foods like rice or quinoa.
Nuts like walnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, and almonds could be an issue for those with hypothyroidism due to their goitrogenic effects.18 That said, nuts are also a good source of other nutrients like selenium and calcium and you may want to consider having them in small amounts if you do not have an iodine deficiency.
8. Peaches, Pears, and Strawberries
Tempting though it may be to tuck into fruit like strawberries, peaches, and pears, you’ll need to find alternatives that are more supportive of your thyroid and aren’t goitrogenic.19 Try snacking on antioxidant-rich blueberries or cherries or citrus fruits instead.
9. Processed Foods
Avoid processed foods like ready-to-eat snacks and meals, potato chips, cookies, crackers, mass-produced cakes, or even that snacking staple – the hot dog. That’s because just like insufficient iodine can be a problem, too much can be just as bad! Highly salty processed foods are often high in the mineral and you could wind up getting too much by having these foods on a regular basis. If you have hypothyroidism due to Hashimoto’s disease, higher levels of iodine in the body can send a signal to your thyroid to further drop thyroid hormone production, making your situation even worse.20
Know What Foods To Eat And Get Going!
Avoiding these foods is one thing, but if you’re wondering whether any foods could actually help hypothyroidism, know that there are plenty! Anti-inflammatory foods like ginger or apple cider vinegar or selenium-rich foods like cereals, meat, poultry, and fish can all help your cause. So can iodine-rich foods like iodized salt and seafood – but increase intake only if you have an iodine deficiency.
So go ahead and consult your doctor or nutritionist and draw up that meal plan that’s rich in the good stuff and light on the potentially problematic foods for hypothyroidism. Don’t let it overwhelm you – it is down to a few simple food choices and a little planning with your grocery shopping.
|↑1||Goiter. American Thyroid Association.|
|↑2||Hypothyroidism. American Thyroid Association.|
|↑3||Iodine Deficiency. American Thyroid Association.|
|↑4||Messina, Mark, and Geoffrey Redmond. “Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.” Thyroid 16, no. 3 (2006): 249-258.|
|↑5, ↑14||Thyroid and Diet Factsheet. The British Thyroid Foundation.|
|↑6||McMillan, M., E. A. Spinks, and G. R. Fenwick. “Preliminary observations on the effect of dietary brussels sprouts on thyroid function.” Human toxicology 5, no. 1 (1986): 15-19.|
|↑7, ↑9, ↑11||Dolan, Laurie C., Ray A. Matulka, and George A. Burdock. “Naturally occurring food toxins.” Toxins 2, no. 9 (2010): 2289-2332.|
|↑8, ↑10||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.|
|↑12, ↑13, ↑17, ↑18, ↑19||Hypothyroidism. Thyroid UK.|
|↑15||Bajaj, Jagminder K., Poonam Salwan, and Shalini Salwan. “Various possible toxicants involved in thyroid dysfunction: A Review.” Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR 10, no. 1 (2016): FE01.|
|↑16||Ch’ng, Chin Lye, M. Keston Jones, and Jeremy GC Kingham. “Celiac disease and autoimmune thyroid disease.” Clinical medicine & research 5, no. 3 (2007): 184-192.|
|↑20||Garber, Jeffrey R., Harvard Health Publications, and Harvard Medical School. Thyroid Disease: Understanding Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism. Harvard Health Publications, 2009.|