Mother Earth Living

Best Foods for Hypothyroidism

Find out which are the best and worst foods for hypothyroidism.
By Debbie Whittaker
September/October 2001
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Nutrient-rich, Fresh vegetables are some of the best foods for hypothyroidism.

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• Butternut Squash Purée
• Poached Salmon with Pumpkin Seed Parsley Sauce 
• Mixed Greens with Sesame Tahini Dressing
• Wild Rice Pilaf 

Skip the raw peanuts, pass on the coleslaw and hold the broccoli sprouts. After a lifetime of eating all I wanted of these and many otherwise-healthy foods, it came as a shock that they may have set me up to develop the same hypothyroid condition experienced by other members of my family.

Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) is believed to be one of the most underdiagnosed health conditions in the United States. Many of its symptoms—lethargy, depression and weight gain—can be easily attributed to other factors, making hypothyroidism difficult to diagnose. Some reports estimate that around 15 percent of the population suffers from the condition; other reports estimate more than twice that. Risk increases with age, particularly in menopausal women. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), the opposite of hypothyroidism, is considerably less common and is characterized by extreme nervousness and restlessness.

A diet for hypothyroidism

Goitrogens are naturally occurring substances in certain foods that interfere with the production of thyroid hormones (the hormones that people with hypothyroidism lack). They include some of the most commonly consumed foods of the health-conscious community: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, radishes, soybeans, peanuts, pine nuts, peaches and millet. The good news is that many health professionals believe that cooking may inactivate goitrogens.

Although these foods provide many benefits for healthy people, goitrogenic potential should be considered by at-risk groups: people who have a family history of hypothyroidism, those who already have symptoms, and women approaching menopause.

Some goitrogens, such as soy isoflavones, pose a particular quandary for menopausal women—they can reduce certain menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, but are thought to aggravate hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism could explain menopausal symptoms such as depression, weight gain, and lethargy. People with deficient thyroid function often feel cold, which might help differentiate the two conditions. It is unknown whether other phytoestrogenic foods are thought to affect thyroid functioning. While avoiding goitrogens may mitigate symptoms of hypothyroidism, many other dietary and nondietary factors are also involved.

At least a dozen vitamins and minerals are recommended for preventing low thyroid function—iodine, an essential trace element present in the thyroid gland, being the most widely recognized. Iodized table salt generally contributes enough iodine to the American diet to prevent goiter, a swelling of the thyroid gland visible around the Adam’s apple and associated with hypothyroidism; however, it may not be enough to counter other effects of low thyroid function. Iodine may be available in land-grown foods, but because the amount varies considerably depending on the minerals in the soil, seafood is a more reliable source. A significant amount of iodine is found in kelp, but excessive amounts (more than 600 mcg per day for prolonged periods) may actually trigger hypothyroidism, so moderation is the key.

Iodine combines with the amino acid tyrosine to produce thyroid hormones. Fish, dairy, oats, sesame seeds, bananas, avocados, and almonds are all good sources of tyrosine. Some goitrogenic foods such as mustard greens, soybeans, spinach, and cabbage are also high in tyrosine. Because current conventional wisdom says that cooking may inactivate goitrogenic potential, these foods may still have a place in a varied, balanced diet.

Zinc, vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E are also involved in improving thyroid function. Eggs, dairy, and shellfish and other seafood—key components of the protein-rich diets often recommended for weight maintenance for those with hypothyroidism—supply many of the above nutrients. The variety of vitamins and minerals involved in boosting thyroid function makes a balanced diet of whole foods particularly important for nourishing the thyroid.

Debbie Whittaker, the Herb Gourmet, lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Post a comment below.


Adele Virtue
11/14/2014 12:58:14 PM
You also need to keep in mind that Chloride and bromide along with the flouride you mentioned all are stronger at attaching to the thyroids receptors than the iodide that it needs. So get rid of the flouride, chloride and bromide but putting in a lot of iodide into your system to kick the bad guys off the receptors so the good guys can use them. After you get through the bromide withdraw syptoms things get much better, but it is something that can take up to a year. More info that helped me get off of synthroid and back to feeling healthy can be found at: HTH Adele

6/3/2014 4:02:47 AM
Great post.Thanks for sharing.

5/29/2014 1:36:20 AM
This post is helpful. We should adopt healthy diet and live a fulfilling life. Thanks for sharing.

7/16/2013 4:52:20 PM

please write one for hyperthyroidism! 

7/15/2013 4:59:21 PM

Due to fatigue (nice excuse but true) I did not finish my sentence in my previous comment. Re: lack of iodine/iodide (Iodoral is good supplement but testing before that is needed to see how much one needs and whether there is a lack of iodine at all). Humans might need from 6 mg to 50 mg per day and every possible amount in between depending on the person's testing/needs.

7/15/2013 4:56:25 PM

I think blaming healthy organic foods for causing hypothyroidism completely misses the point. Actually, I think it is wrong to even suggest that as a given. What you do not point out is that the majority of people suffering from this potentially (life)dangerous disease is the lack of iodine and iodide. And that is not (NOT) in table salt. Nor sufficiently in sea salt. It is said that humans need (after testing of course and a regular practitioner is not able to do that since they do not cover that in med school; the opposite: they are being taught that iodine is dangerous so they treat some patients with radioactive iodine. (Yes) until the thyroid is destroyed. 

Another thing which I saw in one of your articles is that some foods - "coincidentallly" all with B-complex in them prevent Alzheimer's. Also multiple sclerosis. Rather if you reverse it: people are being misdiagnosed for Alzheimer''s and multiple sclerosis when they often suffer massive lacks of B-complex vitamins. I have experienced it myself in my close environment years ago and I have seen enough scientific (!) proof of MD's who get ignored subsequently.


5/31/2013 5:50:59 AM

I just read another post at

I got a better understanding of hypothyroidism and why it occurs. This article gives me more information about foods and diet for this disease that I might have been affected without symptoms. Thanks

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