The thyroid is the most important – and most neglected – gland in the human body. Although relatively small, the thyroid gland influences the function of many of the body’s most critical organs, including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin. The health and functionality of the thyroid is vitally important to the body’s overall well-being.
Thyroid disorders are becoming increasingly common, and more than 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime. However, making small changes in your diet could have a big impact on your long-term thyroid health. The nutrients the thyroid needs to help it function properly are easily found in many everyday food items. With approximately 30 million Americans currently managing a thyroid condition, we’ve compiled this list of simple tips for eating your way to a healthier thyroid. We strongly encourage speaking with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.
Monitor Iodine Intake
Iodine, a trace mineral, plays a critical role in the formation of the thyroid hormone thyroxin. If there is not enough iodine in the body to do its job, the thyroid will be forced to work harder than normal, causing symptoms such as goiter (enlarged neck), fatigue, constipation, and sensitivity to cold. To avoid iodine deficiency, increase consumption of iodine rich foods like seaweed, iodized salt, and seafood. Seaweeds are a particularly good source of iodine, and are also rich in B vitamins that can help decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Note – too much iodine is not good either. Try to include more iodine rich foods in your diet, but there’s no need to go overboard!
Increase Protein Intake
Protein works as a transporter, carrying the thyroid hormone to all of your tissues. Hormones getting where they need to go helps to keep the thyroid, as well as the rest of the body, functioning effectively. Include eggs, nuts, seed, fish, and legumes into your diet for an added boost of protein. Nuts are a great snack to keep you full and satisfied throughout the day while also providing nutrients your body needs! Soy can impede cell receptors and disturb thyroid function, so we suggest avoiding soy products as an everyday source of protein.
Goitrogens are substances (in this case foods) that disrupt production of thyroid hormones by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. As we mentioned earlier, iodine is essential for proper thyroid health and functionality, so we do not want to consume foods that are known to directly interfere with iodine absorption. Goitrogens are found mainly in raw cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, and kale. However, when these vegetables are cooked their goitrogenic compounds are inactivated and they are safe to eat.
Since the conception of the “low-fat diet” fad in the 70’s, Americans have become increasingly obsessed with cutting fat from their diets. Fats, when consumed in moderation from natural, healthy sources, are of great nutritional importance. Fats help the body to produce and regulate hormones, and insufficient fat/cholesterol intake could exacerbate hormonal imbalances. Natural, healthy fats can be found in foods such as nuts, full-fat cheese butter, coconut oil, chia seeds, and salmon.
By making these small, easy changes to your diet and practicing mindful eating, you can help your thyroid – and thus your body – to remain healthy and efficient. If you or someone you know may be suffering from a thyroid disorder, Palm Beach Diabetes and Endocrine Specialists can help. Our physicians have over 150 years of cumulative thyroid experience from the finest institutions in the U.S. and will work with you throughout the course of your thyroid treatment.