Thyroid Health: Tips for Eating Right

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What you eat has a profound impact on your thyroid gland, the butterfly-shaped organ at the base of your neck that regulates metabolism, brain development, body temperature, cholesterol levels and more.  

And the easiest way to get it is by using table salt when you cook or season your food.

Unlike processed foods that include sodium but no iodine, table salt has iodine added. Iodine is crucial throughout life, but is especially important during pregnancy and infancy when a baby’s brain is developing. Insufficient iodine can cause irreversible brain damage and is a leading cause of mental retardation throughout the world.

Iodine naturally occurs in seaweed, salt-water fish and seafood. Dairy products also contain some iodine. When a woman is breastfeeding, iodine naturally concentrates in the breast milk, as long as the woman is getting enough iodine in her diet.

Daily Recommendations for Iodine

The Institute of Medicine recommends 150 micrograms of iodine (about 3/8 teaspoon of table salt) daily for anyone age 14 or older. The suggested amount is greater for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and it’s less for younger children.

It’s safe to take a multivitamin mineral supplement, as long as you don’t exceed total intake of 1,100 micrograms of iodine daily.

More Nutrients for Thyroid Health

In addition to iodine, there are other foods that benefit the thyroid, including:

  • Lean proteins and beans 
  • Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, bell peppers and tomatoes 
  • High-fiber foods (in moderation) 
  • Heart-healthy fats and omega-3s    

Also add these nutrients to your diet:

  • Vitamin D. Insufficient vitamin D levels in the blood have been linked to Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that leads to hypothyroidism(underactive thyroid). Low vitamin D levels also are harmful for people with hyperthyroidism(overactive thyroid), who are prone to bone loss. Foods with vitamin D include fatty fish, milk, dairy products, eggs and mushrooms. Being in the sun also produces vitamin D in your body. If your vitamin D levels remain low, you also can take a vitamin D supplement. 
  • Selenium, which is another mineral that helps the thyroid gland function at its best. It strongly affects your immune system, cognitive function and fertility. Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna, crab and lobster all contain selenium.
  • Vitamin B12, found in foods such as mollusks, sardines, salmon, organ meats such as liver, muscle meat, dairy products, fortified cereal and nutritional yeast. 
To function at its best, your thyroid gland needs the mineral iodine.Thyroid Health - Small

What to Limit or Avoid

To help prevent thyroid disease and related problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, limit sugars, added fats, fast food and meals out.

In addition, if you have an iodine deficiency, watch your intake of raw broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, which release a compound called goitrin that can interfere with the function of thyroid hormones if you don’t have enough iodine in your system. Cooking these vegetables seems to limit the negative effect.

Also eat soy in moderation, especially if you have insufficient iodine, and eliminate millet, a gluten-free grain, if you experience symptoms of thyroid disorder

Excessive amounts of minerals and vitamins also can be harmful to thyroid function or the effectiveness of thyroid medications. Avoid excessive amounts of the following in your diet:

  • Iodine. Eating too much can suppress thyroid gland activity 
  • Iron and calcium supplements. Check with your doctor before taking these 
  • High-fiber foods. Too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medicines 
  • Caffeine 
  • Tobacco 
  • Alcohol 

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