The thyroid gland is situated just below the larynx, and is a key gland of the endocrine system. Its basic function is the production of hormones that play a key role in regulating the metabolism of the body. The three hormones secreted by the thyroid gland are thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and calcitonin. Thyroxine and triiodothyronine are together referred to as the thyroid hormones. Excessive secretion of these hormones, as well as their deficiency, can cause several health problems. Low levels of thyroid hormones in the body leads to a condition known as hypothyroidism, which is a result of insufficient secretion of the thyroid hormones. Here we shall look at the foods that one should eat, after being diagnosed with this condition.
Diet for Low Thyroid Levels
Experts suggest that there is no specific diet for an underactive thyroid. However, there are certain foods that can stimulate the functioning of the gland, thereby aiding in the process of bringing thyroid levels in the body, to normal. On the other hand, there are also certain foods that are harmful for those with hypothyroidism, and hence one should stay away from these foods. Here we shall have a look at foods that come under each of these categories, in order to help one chalk out a diet plan. So, let's get started.
Essential NutrientsSlow functioning of the thyroid gland causes the body's metabolism rate to reduce significantly, which is why the tendency to gain weight increases. By eating certain foods and avoiding others, one would be able to enhance the functioning of the thyroid gland and thus, check weight gain. Of course, this is likely to be more effective when it is used as a supplement to appropriate medication and hormone replacement therapy, if necessary.
Given below is a list of some of the most essential nutrients for low thyroid, along with a list of foods that are sources of the same.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Weakness, sluggishness and fatigue
- Immune system problems
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Poor memory
- Cold hands and feet
- Pain in joints
- Irregular menstrual periods in women
More than 2/3 of the iodine in the body is utilized by the thyroid gland for the synthesis of the thyroid hormones. Hence, iodine deficiency is the most basic reason behind underactive thyroid glands. However, hypothyroidism due to iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries because of the use of iodized salt (salt that has small quantities of iodine added to it). Rich sources of the mineral include cheese, seafood, seaweeds, and leafy vegetables.
However, note that while iodine is an essential nutrient for bringing back the thyroid levels to normal, an overdose can also negatively affect the thyroid gland's ability to produce the hormone. Thus, one should consult a physician for a thorough diagnosis for iodine deficiency, before making any dietary changes to make way for more of foods that are rich sources of the mineral.
Protein and Fatty Acids
Some health experts attribute low protein levels to the development of hypothyroidism. The thyroid glands may not function efficiently without enough protein, so foods rich in protein must constitute a part of your daily diet. Protein-rich foods are also help you keep a check on weight gain. Protein is present in seafood, lean meat, milk and milk products, eggs, beans, etc.
Seafood (particularly salmon) also contains healthy fatty acids that are essential for the body, and these are known as omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts* are also a rich source of proteins and essential fatty acids. All these foods should form a part of your daily diet.
*Walnuts and peanuts are also good sources of fatty acids, but these are not recommended for those suffering from hypothyroidism as they are known to further impair the functioning of the thyroid gland.
Selenium is a great antioxidant with high amounts of essential anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. This mineral also helps rebuild the immune system. It has been touted as one of the most important nutrients that helps regulate thyroid levels. It is present in nuts, grains, onion, garlic, milk and milk products, meat, and certain types of fish.
However, there are chances of developing side effects of selenium, if it exceeds 400 mg in the body. Hence, it is essential to monitor these levels closely when consuming selenium-rich foods.
*You might have read that soybeans are also good sources of selenium. However, it affects the functioning of the thyroid gland, and should therefore be avoided in all forms including tofu, edamame and soy milk.
Fiber and Vitamins
Dietary fiber* is essential for healthy digestion and aids in weight loss. Vitamins A and D are essential for healthy functioning of the thyroid gland, and deficiencies of the same may result in insufficient production of thyroid hormones. Hence, it is important to include these nutrients in your diet. Most fruits** are beneficial for their fiber and vitamin content. While egg yolks are good for vitamin D, carrots are great sources of Vitamin A.
*Fiber is extremely healthy, but an excess can affect the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone.
**Among fruits, the intake of bananas, avocados, dates, and plums should be limited.
What Foods to ChooseNow that we know what are the nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid, let us have a look at a list of foods that are rich sources of these nutrients.
Meat and Animal Products
Fruits and Nuts
Herbs such as turmeric, ginger and black pepper are also great and allow for the stimulation of the thyroid gland. Some of the aforementioned foods are also rich in iron, which is helpful when trying to regulate thyroid levels in the body. Also, coconut oil is beneficial for patients suffering from hypothyroidism because it has a stimulating effect on the thyroid glands. Also, coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that increase the rate of metabolism, and help in weight loss.
What Foods to AvoidIt is very essential to keep in mind the foods that one should not eat if suffering from hypothyroidism. Here's a list of foods you should NOT be consuming.
- Brussels Sprouts
- Mustard Greens
Additional Diet Tips...
Finally, here are some tips that will make your diet for underactive thyroid a little more effective.
- Excessive amount of sugar intake can actually impair the function of the thyroid as well as adrenal glands
- Junk food, fast food and alcohol should be consumed in minimal amounts.
- Daily exercise is absolutely essential when following such a diet. It enhances the metabolism of the body and therefore, helps regulate thyroid levels. You may choose whatever form of exercise you enjoy and are comfortable with, and perform it for about an hour everyday.
- Since depleted thyroid levels indicate poor functioning of the thyroid gland, health experts suggest eating 5-6 small meals daily rather than three large ones. Doing so keeps the metabolism active by providing constant fuel and energy to the body.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical expert. Any changes in your diet for low thyroid levels should be made only after consulting your doctor.