Hypothyroidism, also called underactive thyroid or low thyroid, is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. This can cause a variety of symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, and constipation. While hypothyroidism can’t be cured, it can be managed through medication, supplements, and lifestyle changes like diet.
Foods to Limit or Avoid with Hypothyroidism
Certain foods may worsen hypothyroidism symptoms or interfere with thyroid hormone absorption and production. Here are some of the key foods that those with hypothyroidism may want to limit or avoid:
Soy contains compounds called isoflavones that may interfere with the thyroid’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medications. Isoflavones resemble estrogen and may block the activity of thyroid hormones. It’s best to avoid soy or limit intake from soybeans, edamame, tofu, soy milk, and other soy products if you have hypothyroidism.
Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts contain goitrogens, which are substances that may suppress thyroid function by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. However, cooking cruciferous vegetables can inactivate the goitrogenic compounds. Steaming or boiling these veggies for 3-5 minutes can help reduce their goitrogenic effects.
Those with autoimmune hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease may consider a gluten-free or low gluten diet, as gluten can trigger inflammation. Avoiding gluten from wheat, barley, and rye may help improve symptoms in those with autoimmune thyroid conditions.
A high fat diet can affect thyroid function and contribute to weight gain, which is already a challenge for those with hypothyroidism. Limiting intake of fried foods, fatty meats, whole milk dairy, and other high fat foods can help prevent additional weight gain.
Processed foods like cookies, chips, fast food, and ready-made meals are high in sodium, fat, and sugar. They provide empty calories and few nutrients. As poor nutrition can exacerbate hypothyroidism, it’s best to minimize processed foods and eat a diet focused on whole, nutritious foods.
Foods high in sugar like sodas, candy, baked goods, and desserts provide calories with little nutritional value. They can also cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that worsen hypothyroidism fatigue and brain fog. Limiting added sugars can support thyroid function.
While moderate caffeine intake is likely fine, excess intake can worsen symptoms of hypothyroidism like anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and rapid heartbeat. Those sensitive to caffeine may want to limit coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate.
Alcohol impacts thyroid hormone levels and may exacerbate symptoms. Alcohol also reduces absorption of thyroid medications. It’s best to limit alcohol intake to occasional light or moderate consumption.
Raw Cruciferous Vegetables
Raw cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens that may disrupt thyroid function. However, cooking helps inactivate these compounds. Avoid frequent consumption of raw broccoli, cabbage, kale, and other raw cruciferous veggies if you have thyroid issues.
Foods That May Support Thyroid Health
In addition to limiting certain foods, there are some foods that may benefit thyroid health. Here are some foods to consider including more of in a hypothyroidism diet:
Fatty fish like salmon are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which support thyroid hormone production. Shellfish like oysters and mussels are also high in zinc, which enables proper thyroid function.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide selenium, a mineral that helps convert inactive T4 thyroid hormone to active T3 thyroid hormone. Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and sunflower seeds are particularly high in selenium.
Eggs contain vitamins A and D, selenium, and iodine to help support thyroid function. Selenium-enriched eggs may be an even better choice.
Yogurt provides iodine from the milk, along with vitamin D and probiotics for gut health. Choose plain, low sugar yogurts as the best option.
Berries like strawberries and blueberries are packed with antioxidants like anthocyanins that may protect thyroid cells from oxidative damage caused by hypothyroidism.
Bananas are a good source of vitamin B6, which plays a role in regulating thyroid hormone levels.
Beans provide a healthy dose of zinc, which is important for thyroid function. Options like chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are great choices.
Lean meats like beef, pork, and chicken contain iron and vitamin B12 to prevent anemia, a common side effect of hypothyroidism. Avoid fatty cuts and limit intake to recommended portions.
Sunflower seeds contain selenium and vitamin E, both of which support healthy thyroid hormone production.
Sample Meal Plan for Hypothyroidism
When planning meals for hypothyroidism, focus on incorporating thyroid-healthy foods while limiting foods that may disrupt thyroid function. Here is a sample 1-day meal plan:
- Scrambled eggs with sunflower seeds and salsa
- Greek yogurt with banana and blueberries
- Green tea
- Tuna salad sandwich on gluten-free bread with lettuce and tomato
- Carrot sticks
- Sparkling water
- Baked salmon with kale and roasted sweet potatoes
- Quinoa salad
- Hardboiled egg
- Apple with almond butter
- Kale chips
Following a thyroid-friendly diet can help manage hypothyroidism symptoms and support overall health. Key foods to reduce include soy, processed foods, sugary items, fatty or fried dishes, gluten, and raw cruciferous veggies. Incorporate nutrient-dense foods like seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, yogurt, beans, berries, bananas, and lean meats. With the right dietary changes, those with hypothyroidism can keep symptoms in check and feel their best.