The ORGANic series will focus on eating for your organs. Each installment will discuss a different organ, signs that it’s out of whack, and how to help remedy the symptoms with food and lifestyle choices. Every organ in the body plays a role in your overall health, and it’s important to learn how to pick up on the subtle (or obvious) signs that it’s time to take action. Today we'll examine how to eat for the thyroid.
I get SO many questions about the thyroid and diet. It’s easy to understand why: When the thyroid isn’t happy, nothing in the body is happy.
How I know it’s time show my thyroid some love:
What the thyroid does:
- Sweeps up iodine from the blood to combine it with the amino acid tyrosine to create hormones T3 and T4
- Every cell in the body relies on T3 and T4 hormones to regulate metabolism and generate energy
- Is controlled by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus
- Manufactures the hormone that regulates calcium and phosphorus
The craving: carbs
Make the switch:
If you think your thyroid is off, avoid foods with aspartame (always!), gluten, and non-fermented soy products such as tofu and soy milk.
Non-fermented soy products contain high amounts of goitrogens, which interfere with thyroid’s ability to produce hormones. Stick to fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh. Personally, I’m a fan of small doses of tofu, but if you have a thyroid or hormone imbalance, keep the tofu intake to small amounts or none.
Gluten can cause auto immune responses that may trigger thyroid problems. It also contains goitrogens! There are a ton of non-gluten choices out there like rice and spelt bread. Find ones that are organic, minimally processed, and have small ingredient labels.
Many cruciferous—veggies, kale, brussels sprouts, and turnips—contain Isothiocyanates, which can also interrupt thyroid function, so be sure to quickly blanch these to help break down the chemical. You do NOT want to avoid these veggies as they’re high in iodine and if you happen to have them raw, don’t fret—they’ll do more good than harm.
Focus on foods high in iodine, B-vitamins, selenium and zinc: Nori rolls with Hiziki, brown rice, avocado, carrots, cucumbers and Bragg’s Amino Acids. Nori seaweed and Hiziki are amazing for your thyroid, as they’re super high in iodine, minerals and protein (amino acids).
I’m a big advocate of replacing table salt with Himalayan Salt, which maintains natural trace minerals and contains naturally-occurring iodine. Also, table salt contains additives to prevent clumping. Himalayan Salt adds a nice earthy taste to food! (All of the meals that we make for the Sakara program have Himalayan salt!)
Organic, fresh strawberries are surprisingly high in iodine. For optimal nutrient value, buy from a local farmers market. Find your favorite organic dark chocolate, melt it down and dip the strawberries for a delicious and nutritious treat (also high in zinc)!
Eat sustainable, wild-caught fish like halibut, cod, salmon and scallops for a dose of selenium (also contain your B-vitamins!). If you’re a vegetarian snack on brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.
Try one of my go-to smoothies made with brazil nut milk (so easy, rinse and soak the nuts overnight then toss them in a blender with 3:1 water to nut ratio and blend- you can strain out the nut meal or keep it in for some fiber content), spirulina, banana, strawberry and flax oil.
For zinc content, try oysters and horseradish, organic/raw dark chocolate (find ones with low sugar content) and pumpkin seeds.
One of my go-to meals is romaine wraps with avocado, Hiziki, radish sprouts and horseradish with a dash of himalayan salt and dried garlic. It’s delicious and SO easy.
As always, stay away from processed foods, as most contain hidden soy products (not to mention empty calories and harmful additives). Stick to a whole foods, plant-based diet. By plant based, I do not mean vegetarian- I mean eat mostly plants and think of fruit and animal proteins as sides, not main dishes. Always looks for local, sustainable and organic foods.
If you think you may have a thyroid issue consult your doctor.
I am not a doctor. All of the information I’m giving you is from experience and extensive research. Usually a doctor will test for abnormal TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and, if it’s normal, most physicians will rule out the thyroid as the culprit. But, TSH is actually a pituitary (keep an eye out for my ORGANic series on the this little gland!) hormone, so make sure to ask for additional T3, T4 hormone and thyroid antibody testing.
Feel free to leave comments and questions!