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Hypothyroidism: Foods to eat and avoid | BY HEIDI


 


The diet can have a significant impact on the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some foods may improve certain symptoms, while others may make them worse or interfere with treatment.


The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. Having hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, means that this gland produces less of its hormones than the body needs.


This can slow down the body’s metabolism and cause weight gain and fatigue, among other symptoms.


Below, learn about how the diet can affect hypothyroidism symptoms. We also suggest specific foods to eat and avoid and provide a 1-week meal plan.


How does the diet affect hypothyroidism?

Having hypothyroidism means that the body does not have enough thyroid hormones. While changing the diet cannot cure this, it can help manage the condition.



Foods that contain certain nutrients, such as iodine, selenium, and zinc, can help maintain healthy thyroid function.

Some foods may negatively affect thyroid function and worsen symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Some foods and supplements can interfere with how well the body absorbs thyroid replacement medicine, so limiting these can also help.

Foods containing iodine

The body needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones. But because the body cannot make iodine, people need to get it from their diets.


Foods rich in iodine include:


cheese

milk

iodized table salt

saltwater fish

seaweed

whole eggs

Iodine deficiency is relatively uncommon in the United States, due to the wide use of iodized table salt, but it is prevalent in other areas.


A deficiency can cause an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter.


However, it is crucial to avoid consuming too much iodine. This can actually worsen hypothyroidism, and it can also worsen hyperthyroidism, which refers to the body having excess thyroid hormones.


For this reason, a person should only add more iodine to their diet if a doctor recommends it.



Foods containing selenium

SeleniumTrusted Source is a micronutrient that plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones and has antioxidant activity. Thyroid tissue naturally contains it.


A 2017 review found that maintaining selenium levels in the body helps prevent thyroid disease and promotes overall health.


Foods rich in selenium include:


Brazil nuts

tuna

shrimp

beef

turkey

chicken

ham

eggs

oatmeal

brown rice

Foods containing zinc

ZincTrusted Source is another nutrient that may specifically benefit people with low levels of thyroid hormones.


One small-scale studyTrusted Source showed that zinc supplementation, alone or in combination with selenium supplementation, improved thyroid function in females with hypothyroidism.


Foods rich in zinc include:


oysters

beef

crab

fortified cereals

pork

chicken

legumes

pumpkin seeds

yogurt

Foods to avoid and why

Certain nutrients can interfere with thyroid health. While foods rich in these nutrients are not off-limits, restricting the intake of these foods may help a person manage their hypothyroidism.


Goitrogens

Goitrogens are compounds that may affectTrusted Source thyroid function if a person consumes large amounts.


However, in regular amounts, vegetables that contain goitrogens, such as broccoli and bok choy, are beneficial for overall health and do not interfere with thyroid function.


Plus, cooking the vegetables mostly deactivates the goitrogenic compounds.


Foods that contain goitrogens are typically green cruciferous vegetables, including:


collards

brussels sprouts

Russian kale

broccoli

broccoli rabe

cauliflower

cabbage

Soy

Some evidence indicates that soy might interfere with how the body produces thyroid hormones.


In one case studyTrusted Source, a 72-year-old female developed severe hypothyroidism after regularly consuming a soy-heavy health drink for 6 months. The person’s condition improved after they stopped drinking the beverage and started taking thyroid hormone replacement medication.


However, other researchTrusted Source has found that soy has no significant effect on thyroid levels. Identifying the effects of soy on thyroid function requires more research.


Foods that contain soy include:


soy milk

soy sauce

edamame

tofu

miso

Gluten

People with Hashimoto’s diseaseTrusted Source — a cause of hypothyroidism — are more likelyTrusted Source to have celiac disease than the general population. This is because Hashimoto’s and celiac are both types of autoimmune disorder, and a person with one of these disorders is more likely to develop another.


ResearchTrusted Source also suggests that removing gluten from the diet improves thyroid function in people with Hashimoto’s who do not have celiac disease.


This disease causes chronic inflammation and damage to the small intestine due to the ingestion of gluten, a protein in wheat and other grains, including barley, oats, and rye.


Treating celiac disease involves switching to a gluten-free diet. People with autoimmune-related hypothyroidism might try going gluten-free to see whether their symptoms improve.


Processed foods

Reducing the intake of ultra-processed foods and added sugars may help improve symptoms, manage weight, and boost overall well-being.


Examples of ultra-processed foods and drinks that also contain high amounts of added sugar include:


fast food

hot dogs

donuts

cakes

cookies

soda


Other dietary tips

It is important to take thyroid medication on an empty stomach so that the body can absorb it fully. Take it at least 30–60 minutesTrusted Source before breakfast or at least 3–4 hours after dinner.


People should not take this medication within 4 hours of eating foods that contain iron or calcium.


Also, the following medications and supplements may interfereTrusted Source with the body’s absorption of thyroid medication:


antacids or acid reducers

iron supplements

high-fiber foods, such as bran flakes, fiber bars, and fiber drinks

foods high in iodine

soy-based foods



Hypothyroidism meal plan: 7 days

In general, the best diet for a person with hypothyroidism contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, filling proteins, healthy fats, and moderate amounts of healthy carbohydrates.


Still, it is important for each person to experiment and develop a diet that helps them feel their best.


Below, find a sample 1-week meal plan for an omnivorous person with hypothyroidism:


Monday

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salmon

Lunch: A salad with grilled shrimp

Dinner: A black bean and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice

Tuesday

Breakfast: A fruit salad with yogurt and sliced almonds

Lunch: A grilled chicken salad topped with pumpkin seeds

Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted vegetables

Wednesday

Breakfast: An omelet with mushrooms and zucchini

Lunch: Bean soup with a whole wheat or gluten-free roll.

Dinner: Shrimp fajitas with corn tortillas, peppers, and onions

Thursday

Breakfast: A protein smoothie with berries and nut butter

Lunch: A cauliflower rice bowl with ground turkey, black beans, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and veggies

Dinner: Roasted chicken with quinoa and broccoli

Friday

Breakfast: Poached or boiled eggs with avocados and berries

Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce cups with whole wheat or gluten-free crackers

Dinner: A grilled steak with baked sweet potato and a side salad

Saturday

Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with berries and almond butter

Lunch: A turkey burger on a green salad with sweet potato fries

Dinner: Pan-fried crab cakes with brown rice and vegetables

Sunday

Breakfast: A frittata with vegetables

Lunch: A quinoa bowl with vegetables and chickpeas

Dinner: Grilled shrimp skewers with bell peppers and pineapple

Tips for weight loss with hypothyroidism

People with hypothyroidism may gain weight more easily than people without the condition. This is because hypothyroidism can slow metabolism.


Having a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, filling proteins, and healthy fats can help manage weight and boost well-being. These foods are also rich in fiber, which may help people feel fuller for longer.


In addition, regular moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise and strength training can help boost metabolism and promote weight loss. Staying active can also improve levels of energy and the quality of sleep.


In addition, a person may notice a small weight reduction — typically under 10% — when they take medication to treat hypothyroidism.


Summary

Hypothyroidism refers to the thyroid gland not producing enough of certain hormones to meet the body’s needs.


Untreated, it can reduce metabolism and cause fatigue, among other symptoms. Treatment usually involves taking a synthetic version of thyroid hormones.


Some nutrients and foods can help or hinder the thyroid’s function. Overall, it is important to aim for a healthy diet that supports the absorption of thyroid medication and helps with maintaining a healthy weight.

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