The Best and the Worst Foods for Thyroid

Updated on December 27th, 2019
foods for thyroid

This butterfly-shaped gland lies at the base of the neck. Most people do not even know that their thyroid, which is part of the endocrine system, is responsible for regulating their moods, metabolism, heartbeat, temperature, and more. The best way to keep this gland working optimally is to eat beneficial foods for thyroid.

When the thyroid begins to malfunction, you will notice it. An underactive thyroid will not produce sufficient thyroid hormone, and as a result, you will gain weight, feel fatigued, become sluggish and depressed, and experience increased sensitivity to cold.

On the other hand, if your thyroid is overactive, it means the gland is producing more thyroid hormone than what your body requires. So, you will experience sudden weight loss, have an irregular heartbeat, become nervous and irritable, and you will sweat a lot.

The functioning of the thyroid can be adversely affected due to genetics, stress, autoimmune conditions, and toxins in the environment. While you cannot control these factors, there is one that you can control, and that is your diet. You should try to consume foods that keep your thyroid working like it should and avoid those that can mess up the thyroid.

Did You Know?

Women are more likely to develop issues than men. One in eight women will experience thyroid problems in her lifetime, especially during pregnancy and menopause.

Foods Good for Thyroid

The thyroid requires iodine to stay healthy(1) and produce hormones. However, it requires just a little bit of iodine daily. So, you should be looking to consume foods rich in iodine for thyroid health. Here are some foods that you should try and incorporate in your diet to keep your thyroid ticking away as it should.

[Also Read: Treat Thyroid Using Natural Treatments]

1. Seaweed

seaweed benefits

If you consume iodized table salt, you will get sufficient iodine and minimize the risk of goiter or hypothyroidism. However, if you are on a vegan or low-sodium diet, include seaweed periodically in your diet. Most seaweeds have a lot of iodine, so it will be counterproductive to have them every day.

Remember, to have adequate amounts of iodine, not more or less, as it can have adverse effects on you. So, consume seaweed once a week in a salad and avoid drinking seaweed-based teas or taking seaweed-based supplements.

2. Yogurt

Research published in the Nutrition Reviews(2) states that dairy products are replete with iodine. It comes from livestock being fed iodine supplements and using iodine-based cleaners during the milking process.

When you consume natural yogurt, you not only keep your thyroid hale and hearty, but it will also do wonders for your digestion as yogurt is a rich source of probiotics.

3. Chicken

Grilled chicken
Image: Shutterstock

Your body requires zinc to create the thyroid hormone. If you do not consume adequate amounts of zinc, you could end up with hypothyroidism. If you do have hypothyroidism, you could be suffering from zinc deficiency, as thyroid hormones help the body absorb zinc. Chicken is a good source of zinc, try to eat dark chicken meat as it is one of the best foods your thyroid.

4. Brazil Nuts

Besides iodine, your thyroid also requires another nutrient to regulate thyroid hormones. This nutrient is selenium. A study conducted in France in 2003(3) found that women who consume high levels of selenium are less likely to have damaged thyroid and develop goiters compared to women who do not take selenium.

Selenium can also prevent long-term damage to the thyroid is you suffer from Graves’ or Hashimoto’s disease. Do not eat too many Brazil nuts as you the maximum RDA for selenium is 400 mcg. Excessive selenium leads to hair loss, heart failure, garlic breath, and discolored nails.

[Also Read: Supplements to Treat Thyroid]

5. Shellfish

Shellfish like shrimp and lobster are natural sources of iodine. You will be pleased to hear that shellfish is also an excellent source of zinc. So, if you consume shellfish, you will be killing two birds with one stone! What more could you ask for?

6. Milk


As stated earlier that dairy products are rich in iodine, so is milk, it will fulfill your daily iodine requirement. It is advisable to drink milk that is fortified with Vitamin D, as a study has found that people with hypothyroidism(4) (underactive thyroid) tend to have Vitamin D deficiency.

7. Fish

Fish, like canned tuna and cod, provide people with over 60% of their daily requirement of iodine. It has been observed that people who live in remote areas that are far from the sea are more likely to develop goiters as they do not eat fish and hence, do not have sufficient intake of iodine.

8. Eggs

If you love eating eggs, you can now do so without feeling guilty. Eating one large egg a day will ensure you get 20% of the selenium and 16% of the iodine that your body requires. Make sure you eat the yolk, as it contains most of the selenium and iodine. If you have been instructed to stay away from the yolk, opt for the other foods on this list, which are suitable for your thyroid.

[Also Read: Home Remedies for Thyroid]

9. Berries

benefits of elderberries

The best foods for thyroid are those provide iodine, Vitamin D, selenium, and antioxidants. Yes, you heard it right. A study has found that people with hypothyroidism(5) brought on by Hashimoto’s disease tend to have high levels of free radicals that can wreak damage to their thyroid and other organs.

Antioxidants can destroy these free radicals. Berries are rich in antioxidants, so a great way to keep your thyroid healthy.

Foods Bad for Thyroid

Just like some foods are right for your thyroid, you should know about foods that may adversely affect your thyroid. Some of the foods to avoid for thyroid are:

1. Gluten

Image: ShutterStock

Researchers in the UK have found that people who have celiac disease(6) are more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid-related problems. Celiac disease is when you have an intolerance to gluten, which is present in rye, wheat, and barley.

People with celiac disease are prone to getting Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is another autoimmune condition. So, if you do have celiac disease, refrain from eating gluten. It will not only help to control the symptoms of celiac disease but also keep your thyroid healthy and prevent the onset of thyroid-related disorders.

[Also Read: Yoga for Thyroid]

2. Processed Foods

Many people believe that by increasing their intake of salty, processed foods, they can include more iodine into their diet. While most people do get a majority of their dietary sodium from processed and pre-packaged food, it is prudent to remember that food manufacturers are not obligated to use iodized salt.

So, boosting your intake of processed foods can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. It will not help your thyroid in any way whatsoever.

3. Fast Food

Fried Foods
Image: ShutterStock

Just like processed and pre-packaged food manufacturers, fast food outlets do not necessarily use iodized salt in their food. A study published in Endocrine Practice(7) has found that foods served in restaurants are low in iodine. So, consuming fast food to keep your thyroid healthy can result in weight gain and high blood pressure as they have empty calories and saturated fats.

What About Cruciferous Veggies and Soy?

Since you are on a quest to find out what foods are right for your thyroid, you will have some doubts about cruciferous vegetables and soy. Many people will tell you that cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, and kale, can result in a thyroid problem.

Yes, cruciferous vegetables contain compounds known as, glucosinolates, which can interfere in the body’s abilities to produce thyroid hormones. Most doctors recommend that you can eat standard serving sizes of these vegetables without it causing any issue to the functioning, or the health of your thyroid.

If you have celiac disease, you are at a higher risk of developing another autoimmune disorder, like Hashimoto’s disease. So, you should avoid consuming cruciferous veggies along with soy, tofu, starchy tubers, and fruits.

Research states that eating soy can adversely affect your thyroid(8), but only under specific circumstances, like iodine deficiency. If you are vegan, you may have iodine deficiency since you do not consume dairy and animal products.

However, healthcare professionals agree that if your thyroid is healthy, eating soy will not have any effect on the gland. So, if you eat soy in reasonable portions, you do not have to worry about it wrecking your thyroid.

[Read: Herbs for Thyroid Treatment]

To keep your thyroid healthy and working optimally, you should know the best and worst foods for thyroid. That way, you will make a wise decision when planning your meals. You should also know what foods are good for an overactive thyroid. While you need medication to keep hyperthyroidism in check, eating the right foods can ease many symptoms.

It is essential to consume a balanced diet comprising vegetables, lean protein, fruits, and grains. If you have lost a lot of weight due to an overactive thyroid, you can enjoy fast food and packaged snacks in a guilt-free manner. But if you regain the lost weight, cut down your calorie intake, and focus on nutrient-rich foods instead.

On the other hand, if you have an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, they should avoid cruciferous vegetables and soy and focus on foods that are rich in iodine, zinc, and selenium. You can eat eggs, meat, gluten-free grains, fish, and vegetables without worrying about their effect on your thyroid.

People with underactive thyroid have a slower metabolism; hence, they tend to put on weight. Eating more protein can boost metabolism as aerobic exercises.

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