Your thyroid is your body’s silent workhorse. Most of the time, it functions so smoothly that we forget it’s there.
But this little, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your neck helps regulate your metabolism, temperature, heartbeat, and more, and if it starts to go haywire, you’ll notice.
When the gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone (TH) can lead to weight gain, sluggishness, depression, and increased sensitivity to cold. An overactive thyroid, on the other hand, happens when your body produces too much TH, and can cause sudden weight loss, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nervousness, and irritability.
Genetics, an autoimmune condition, stress, and environmental toxins can all mess with your thyroid. What is more, your diet can also affect the work of this gland, something that you can completely control. Here are the foods that can help keep your thyroid healthy, as well as some that won’t.
Your thyroid needs iodine to work well. Most people in the U.S. get this element from their diet, usually through fish and dairy products. Moreover, make sure you use iodized table salt at home. Sea salt and the salt used in packaged or processed foods usually aren’t iodized.
Spinach, lettuce, and other leafy greens are a great source of magnesium. Fatigue, muscle cramps, and changes in your heartbeat could be signs that you’re not getting enough of this mineral.
Cashews, almonds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of iron. Brazil nuts help your thyroid in two ways. They are a good source of iron, and they’re also rich in selenium, another mineral that supports the thyroid. Just a few each day give you the selenium you need.
Fish, shrimp, and seaweed are a great source of iodine. You need iodine for a healthy thyroid, but avoid large amounts of kelp if you have a thyroid problem. Kelp is high in iodine and may make your condition worse.
Kale is a mild goitrogen — in rare cases it prevents the thyroid from getting enough iodine. But kale should not be a problem for you unless you get very little iodine in your diet and you eat large amounts of kale. This is also the case of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
Some of the chemicals found in soy products like soy milk or edamame could hurt the thyroid’s ability to make hormones. This can happen if you don’t get enough iodine and eat large amounts of soy products. Just like with kale, if your iodine levels are OK, you probably don’t need to worry about eating soy.
If you eat organ meats like kidneys, heart, or liver, you get a lot of lipoic acid. This is a fatty acid found in these and some other foods. You can also buy it as a supplement. But if you get too much of it, it could disrupt the way your thyroid works. Lipoic acid could also have an effect on any thyroid medicines you take.
Gluten and Your Thyroid
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it probably won’t affect your thyroid. Gluten can damage the small intestines of people with celiac disease.
This can cause serious problems and is linked to an increased risk of Hashimoto’s disease (which leads to an underactive thyroid) and Graves’ disease (which leads to an overactive thyroid). If you have celiac disease, sticking to a gluten-free diet may help prevent these thyroid diseases.