Hypothyroidism Diet – What to Eat and What to Avoid?

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones.

These hormones help control your growth, metabolism, and repair.

The result is you may experience tiredness, weight gain, feeling cold, feeling down, weight gain, and other symptoms.

Now, while a hypothyroidism diet will not eliminate the condition, it will help you cope with it.

According to statistics, 1% to 2% of the worldwide population suffers from hypothyroidism [1].

Men are less likely to be affected.

As mentioned, foods won’t cure hypothyroidism.

However, the right combination of nutrients and medications can help you restore thyroid function and minimize the symptoms.

What is hypothyroidism?

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located near the base of your neck [2].

The gland produces thyroid hormones that affect almost every cell in your body.

When the thyroid gland receives a signal, called thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH, it releases hormones into the bloodstream.

The signal is sent from the pituitary gland, a small gland found at the base of your brain.

In some cases, the thyroid gland does not release thyroid hormones, even when there is plenty of TSH.

This is what doctors call “primary hypothyroidism”.

It is the most common type of the condition.

More than 90% of primary hypothyroidism cases are caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland [3].

Other causes include genetic disorder, taking certain medications, iodine deficiency, and a surgery that removes part of the thyroid.

When your pituitary gland is not working properly, this is called secondary hypothyroidism.

Difference between hypo and hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland can produce excess hormone, or no hormone at all [4].

As we described previously, when your thyroid gland is not producing hormone, it is called hypothyroidism.

But there is also a situation in which your thyroid gland is producing too much of the hormone.

The main cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease, swollen thyroid, or nodules on the thyroid.

The symptoms include:

  • Hair thinning or loss
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Excessive sweating
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Flushed and itchy skin
  • Anxiety and shakiness

If left untreated, you might lose bone density and develop an irregular heartbeat, increasing your risk of stroke.

The opposite of overactive thyroid is underactive thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism.

The symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Mood disorders
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Cracked skin

How does hypothyroidism affect your metabolism?

The thyroid hormone is responsible for controlling the speed of your metabolism.

The faster your metabolism is, the more calories your body will burn at rest.

People with hypothyroidism have less thyroid hormone, meaning they have a slower metabolism.

Having a slow metabolism comes with a number of health risks.

For starters, you will feel tired most of the time, and your blood cholesterol will rise.

This makes it harder for you to lose weight.

Maintaining weight is a challenge for people with hypothyroidism, but experts recommend moderate cardio exercises.

Nutrients for hypothyroidism diet

hypothyroidism diet

We will talk later about the foods you need to eat and foods you need to avoid during your diet.

But there are also some nutrients, or call it supplements that are very important.

Iodine

The essential mineral is needed in order to produce thyroid hormone.

People with iodine deficiency are at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Iodine deficiency affects nearly one third of the world’s population, but it is less common in people living in developed countries.

Adding iodized table salt to meals is one way to increase your iodine if you are suffering from deficiency.

Selenium

This is the mineral that helps your body activate thyroid hormones.

Once they are activated, they can be used by your body.

Selenium also has antioxidant benefits, protecting your thyroid gland from damage done by free radicals.

The best way to up your selenium is to consume selenium rich foods like tuna, sardines, eggs, legumes, and Brazil nuts.

While selenium is great, doctors recommend that you avoid selenium supplements that provide large doses of the mineral. In large amounts, selenium can actually be toxic [5].

Zinc

Same as selenium, zinc serves the role of activating thyroid hormones in our body.

Zinc can also regulate TSH, the hormone that tells the thyroid gland when and how much thyroid hormones to release.

Deficiency in the mineral can affect the work of your thyroid gland.

Zinc rich foods like oysters, shellfish, beef, and chicken help you regulate the amount of zinc in your body.

What to eat?

The common misconception is that people with Hashimoto or other forms of hypothyroidism have a very limited menu [6].

But on the contrary, there are plenty of food options [7].

Here are some of those.

  • Eggs are your best option, as they contain high amounts of selenium and iodine in the yolk. In addition, the whites are rich in protein, another ingredient you need to cope with hypothyroidism
  • Lamb, beef, and chicken are great options for your meaty dishes
  • All seafood, including salmon, shrimps, tuna, and other fishes are acceptable
  • In terms of vegetables, you can eat almost all vegetables as much as you like. The only challenge is with cruciferous vegetables, which you have to consume only in moderate amounts, especially when cooked
  • Fruits are another staple in your diet, especially those rich in antioxidants like berries, oranges, tomatoes, and banana
  • Stick to gluten-free grains and seeds like buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds, and rice
  • In terms of dairy, you can consume all dairy products including yogurt and milk
  • For your beverages, you should stick to water and non-caffeinated beverages

Your diet should be based on vegetables, fruit, and lean meat.

All of these foods are low in calories and are very filling, preventing weight gain.

Foods to avoid

  • Foods containing goitrogens, compounds that interfere with the normal function of the thyroid gland [8]. This is why people think the diet is limited, as most everyday foods contain goitrogens, including soy foods, vegetables lie broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, fruits like sweet potatoes, peaches, and strawberries, and nuts like peanuts and pine nuts [9].
  • Foods containing gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. People with celiac disease cannot eat gluten, as their body mistakenly attacks it and causes damage to the surrounding gut area. People with autoimmune disease are at higher risk of developing hypothyroidism
  • All varieties of millet
  • Highly processed foods like hot dogs, cookies, cakes, etc
  • Supplements should be avoided unless prescribed by your physician

Sample Day Menu

With all the talk about what you can eat and what you cannot with a hypothyroidism diet, let’s take a look at a couple of sample days.

This will give you a better idea what you should eat during the day to keep yourself full, but also free of irritants.

Sample 1

  • For your breakfast, grab one large banana, and make sure to have breakfast at least 1 hour after taking thyroid hormone
  • For your lunch, make yourself a Greek yogurt tuna salad, a meal that is high in protein and low in sugar. Tuna is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and iodine
  • Your dinner should be a chicken chipotle
  • During the day, you can have snacks like Brazil nuts that are high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber. They are also a great source of selenium, which is another bonus

Sample 2

  • Prepare an overnight chocolate chia pudding for your breakfast. Chia seeds are a great source of magnesium and fiber. You can prepare chia pudding in batches, and consume when meal time is around
  • Your lunch can be a gluten-free sandwich with tinned tuna
  • For your dinner, prepare egg shakshuka, a Tunisian dish with vegetables and eggs, and some rice to serve
  • For your snacks, you can consume cucumber and carrot sticks, or cottage cheese

Sample 3

  • Your breakfast is a gluten-free toast with eggs over-easy
  • For your lunch, prepare a middle-eastern mason jar salad, which is a simple dish with a lot of healthy vegetables
  • As for dinner, go for shrimp, zucchini, and pesto pasta. Make sure to choose gluten-free pasta
  • Your snack can be one medium sized banana

Sources:

  1. https://doi.org/10.1093/bmb/ldr030
  2. https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/thyroid-diseases/57497-hypothyroid-older-you-may-not-need-treatment
  3. https://medium.com/boosted/a-new-hope-for-hashimotos-45e1ae179b5a
  4. https://www.thyroid.org/clinical-trials/
  5. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/415585
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24619663
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4980994/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2464986
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740614/

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