TABLE OF CONTENTS: FOODS TO OMIT || FOODS TO USE WITH CARE || HYPOTHYROID FAVORITES || FOODS TO AVOID || KEY THYROID NUTRIENTS
Hypothyroidism has many causes and types, but I have tried to come up with guidelines for my recipes that are generally agreed upon as supportive to thyroid health. As I learn more and new research emerges, these guidelines may change.
Please note, this is not a place for medical advice or meal plans, but rather my personal recipe lab that I am sharing with you. I am neither doctor nor dietitian, but a passionate cook who wants to know more and feel better.
Every body is different, and I am on a journey to figure out what works for me, and hopefully for many of you. I try to be diligent in categorizing the recipes though so that if you have specific needs (vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, low-carb, etc.) you can easily find what suits your needs under Special Diets, above.
When it comes to choosing thyroid-friendly foods, Goitrogen is a term you should probably get cozy with. Goitrogens are substances that interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. The current thinking seems to be that the super-nutritious foods that contain goitrogens should not be avoided but rather cooked, or in some cases fermented to reduce or eliminate their goitrogenic compounds. In other words, if you have hypothyroidism, choose the stir-fried broccoli over the raw broccoli salad. But know too, that a little raw broccoli probably won’t hurt. You’ll hear more about all that in the list below.
Just a note: Some of us are creatures of habit and I’ve come across a few stories in my research of people overdoing it on certain hyped-up healthy foods (ahem, Kale) and making themselves sick (or worse!). A doctor once told me, “You shouldn’t really eat any food every single day, no matter how healthy we think it is.” That good advice stuck with me. Blasting my body with thyroid-supporting iodine, for example, can lead to problems like goiter and thyroid deficiencies. Overdoing it on fiber can interfere with our thyroid meds. The list goes on, and sometimes what makes a healthy food unhealthy for us is how much of it we eat. Common sense, moderation, and variety are three of my favorite ingredients when it comes to diet. I urge you to give them a permanent place in your pantry.
My compiled list of hypothyroid-friendly foods:
FOODS TO OMIT (see, it’s short)
- Gluten. As a chef and food lover, adopting a strict multi-food group elimination diet gives me the shivers, but I (along with many other hypothyroidism sufferers) have noticed a substantial impact on my symptoms in relation to my wheat intake. If omitting gluten means I might be able to reverse my diagnosis, I’ll do it. The good news is, it’s easier than ever to go gluten-free. Many people with autoimmune related hypothyroidism, like Hashimoto’s, have found relief and healing through omitting gluten. If you want to know more about the how’s and why’s of gluten and thyroid health, you can read about it here. Foods containing gluten include anything made with:
- Others have found relief and/or identified triggers by adopting a Paleo-style, Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet plan. If you are interested in delving into something like this, I recommend first talking with your doctor, and then picking up The Hashimoto’s Cookbook and Action Plan: 31 Days to Eliminate Toxins and Restore Thyroid Health, by Karen Frazier.
FOODS TO USE WITH CARE
- Soy. I use fermented soy products for flavor, such as miso paste, and tamari (a wheat-free soy sauce), because a) I can’t bear to think of cooking without my favorite umami ingredients, and b) fermenting reduces the goitrogenic compounds found in soy. I keep tofu, soy milk, and edamame consumption occasional, on account of their higher levels of goitrogens; however, cooking those foods can greatly reduce their goitrogenic effect.
- Dairy. Be aware that the casein and lactose found in dairy are a trigger for many folks with autoimmune-related hypothyroidism. When it comes to milk, almond milk is a good non-dairy alternative and contains twice the calcium of cow’s milk, but less protein. Personally, I love my dairy and don’t notice much of a difference (besides sadness and longing) when I’ve omitted it, but I often substitute the easier-to-digest goat and sheep’s milk versions of things like yogurt and cheese when possible. If you can stomach it, dairy contains a lot of key thyroid supporting nutrients like iodine, vitamin D, and vitamin A. Also, the probiotic cultures in yogurt are often suggested for healing from leaky gut syndrome and the autoimmune response it causes, sometimes associated with gluten-sensitive Hashimoto’s sufferers.
- Raw cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens (see definition above). These include kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, radish, rutabaga, kohlrabi, mustard greens, and turnip. Simply cook to reduce or eliminate the goitrogenic compounds. A moderate amount of raw cruciferous veggies is okay, and many health practitioners are now shouting from the rooftops that we should NOT be eliminating goitrogenic (and otherwise highly-nutritious) foods, but rather being mindful of our consumption, and opting to cook them when possible. Starting your day with a kale smoothie may not be the best idea if you are hypothyroid. Besides, yuck. Just put that goitrogen knowledge in your pocket so you can make better choices for your thyroid health.
- Other goitrogenic foods: flax seed, pine nuts, peanuts, mustard, spinach, arugula, maca, strawberries, peaches, pears, sweet potatoes, lima beans, watercress, millet, bamboo shoots, and canola.
HYPOTHYROID FAVORITES (a super long and yummy list!)
**Organic is always ideal for a hypothyroid-friendly diet**
Protein & Dairy
- Fish, especially low-mercury, high-Omega 3
- wild-caught albacore tuna
- Bone and meat broths
- kidney beans
- black beans
- pinto beans
- brazil nuts. One brazil nut contains nearly twice the RDA of selenium, which supports thyroid health and reduces inflammation.
- cottage cheese
Fruits & Vegetables
- Citrus fruit
- Cranberries. 400 mcg iodine per 1/2 cup
- Asparagus, cooked
- Bell peppers
- Green Beans
- Beets and beet greens
- Cooked Cruciferous and Goitrogenic Vegetables (see FOODS TO USE WITH CARE, above)
- Zucchini and summer squash
- Winter squash
- kombu, nori
- Cilantro (Coriander)
- Gluten-free Whole Grains
- oats (certified gluten-free if possible)
- wild rice
- brown rice
- buckwheat (aka kasha)
- Natural or Sea Salt (richer in mineral content than table salt)
- himalayan salt – widest variety of minerals
- celtic sea salt
- french grey sea salt
- Sesame seeds and Tahini
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Coconut Milk
- Coconut Oil, good for high-heat cooking
- Ghee from grass-fed cows, good for high-heat cooking
- Olive oil, best for no or low-heat cooking
- Dark Chocolate and cacao (yessss)
FOODS TO AVOID
- Processed foods
- Junk foods
- High-sugar foods
- Cereals and most whole grains
- Candy and other processed sweets
- Soft drinks and diet soft drinks
- Artificial sweeteners
- Alcohol (I have begrudgingly noticed that this one makes a huge difference in my energy level…phooey)
- High caffeine beverages (I know…)
- Green Tea
A FEW KEY THYROID NUTRIENTS
Note: Before you glance at this list and decide to go to the health food store and purchase a bunch of supplements, be warned! I have come across many medical articles that report supplementing the thyroid, even with something as commonly recommended as vitamin D, can cause more harm than good. Without medical advice and tests to determine the cause of someone’s hypothyroid symptoms, the potential for damage exists. This list is here to point you toward naturally occurring FOOD sources of these nutrients. If you are interested in supplements, please, seek medical advice.
- Iodine. In my research, I have come across some strong and contradictory expert opinions on iodine and hypothyroidism. Some say our problem is that we don’t get enough to support thyroid health. Others say we get too much, which leads to thyroid dysfunction. The thyroid wants just the right amount, or else! Too little iodine? Goiter! Too much iodine? Goiter! Sheesh. One fact seems clear and
consistent: the thyroid gland needs iodine to produce thyroid hormone. Not too much, and not too little. Please note: if your hypothyroidism is caused by the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s, avoiding iodine may help restore thyroid function. The article from the previous link explains how addressing a possible selenium deficiency is key to preventing iodine toxicity. Iodine is found in dairy products like yogurt and milk, eggs, meat, kelp, and seafood. Iodized salt provides iodine as an additive, but is stripped of other minerals. Himalayan salt, Celtic Salt, and French Grey salt contain naturally occurring iodine as well as many other minerals that are readily absorbed by the body.
- Selenium assists with production and regulation of thyroid hormones. It also protects the thyroid from damage that can be caused by too much iodine. You might think of selenium as the security guard for our iodine-sensitive thyroid glands. Sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, mushrooms, oysters, sunflower seeds, eggs, turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, pork, onions, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and kale– which are best eaten cooked or steamed to reduce goitrogens.
- Zinc. This mineral is key to so many great and protective functions in the body: reproductive health, immunity, and insulin resistance just to name a few. Low levels of zinc have been linked to inflammation, so making sure you have enough may help reduce the inflammation that sometimes accompanies hypothyroidism. In Healing Foods, by Michael Van Straten, he states that strict vegetarians, and those on slimming diets (like so many of us with hypothyroidism) are more likely to have too little zinc. It’s also a key factor in memory and concentration. Make sure you get enough of The Big Z by eating more oysters, beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, pork, white button mushrooms, spinach, cashews, and (drumroll) cocoa and chocolate.
- Vitamin A. Turns out that one of the best ways to avoid getting hypothyroidism in the first place is to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin A, which many of us are not. The Journal of Nutrition reports that, “…a marginal vitamin A deficiency [in chickens] induces hypothyroidism, which appears quite early in the onset of the disease.” Yowza! Don’t let that A get low. Catherine, a nutritional therapist and blogger at Butter Nutrition credits vitamin A deficiencies to low fat, fat free, and saturated fat avoiding diets (anyone familiar with those?). And she reports that plant sources of beta carotene, like sweet potatoes and carrots, won’t get the job done because that vitamin A has to be converted by the body– a difficult task for those of us who are A-deficient. Catherine says, “The easiest way to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts is to include foods like butter, eggs, whole milk, cream, and liver in your daily diet.” Pass the paté!
- Vitamin D. In an article written by neurologist David Clark, on Hypothyroid Mom— a blog you need to know about if you don’t already– he reported that a 2011 study found that 92% of patients with Hashimoto’s were vitamin D deficient. WOW. The connection, in short, he states as thus: “Vitamin D is a critical regulator of your immune system. Without Vitamin D your immune system can become over-exuberant.” I’m going to guess that a synonym for “over-exuberant immune system” might be “autoimmune disorder”, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. He goes on to caution us against supplementing vitamin D without proper medical guidance, because the wrong amount can do more harm than good. Food sources of vitamin D include: milk (fortified with D), yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, pork, and egg yolks.
- Tyrosine. An article from the University of Maryland Medical Center describes the relationship between Tyrosine and the thyroid gland as such, “The thyroid gland combines tyrosine and iodine to make thyroid hormone.” Some of the best food sources of tyrosine are: cheese, beef, lamb, pork, chicken, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds, eggs, milk, buttermilk, yogurt, beans, oats, wild rice, brown rice, and quinoa.