These Foods Support Thyroid Health

by Valerie Demetros

If you have an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, you already know there is no miracle cure. But eating a thyroid-friendly diet can help you manage it and live a healthy life.

Your thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck, controls your metabolic activities. It produces thyroid hormones that regulate the heart rate and burns calories. An underactive thyroid can leave you tired, depressed and easily gaining weight.

The most common treatment is synthetic thyroid hormone. But certain foods can help your thyroid function at its best and may help you avoid taking higher doses of the thyroid hormone.

Your thyroid needs iodine to produce enough thyroid hormone. If you don’t get enough iodine, you risk hypothyroidism or a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland).

Iodine is found in table salt, dairy products and seafood. And if you eat enough of these on a regular basis, you’re probably getting enough.

On the other hand, if you cook with Kosher or sea salt and don’t often eat iodine-rich foods, you may need more. The recommended dietary allowance is 150 mcg. Be aware that more than 1,100 mcg daily can make your thyroid problem worse, so it’s best to monitor your intake.

Consider seafood your thyroid’s best friend. Many types of fish are rich in iodine and other nutrients your body needs to make and use thyroid hormone efficiently. The best are cod, tuna, seaweed, shrimp and other shellfish.

Many types of seaweed are packed with iodine, and some seaweed sheets can have 16 mcg/g to 2,984 mcg/g. Stick to one day of seaweed and sushi per week to be safe.

Dairy products contain an average of 85 mcg of iodine per cup, although this can vary slightly. The good news: plain, low-fat or Greek yogurt can make up about 50% of your daily intake of iodine.

A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences reported that those with hypothyroidism were more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, so dairy products like yogurt and cheese have the added benefit of vitamin D along with iodine. Salmon also packs the double kick of iodine and vitamin D.

(If you have Hashimoto’s disease, a common cause of hypothyroidism, getting too much iodine may cause side effects. Check with your physician.)

If you want to make your thyroid happy, eat a few Brazil nuts. Just about eight nuts can provide a huge 544 mcg of selenium, which helps activate the thyroid hormone. Additional selenium sources include tuna, sardines, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.

One large egg contains about 16% of your daily iodine and 20% of your daily selenium, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Finally, oysters, Alaskan king crab and lobster are high in zinc, which helps regulate the release of thyroid hormone and absorption. Lean meats like beef and chicken are also good sources.

Not a carnivore? Beans like kidney, garbanzo and baked beans as well as fortified breakfast cereals also are good sources.