The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, a small gland shaped like a butterfly and located in the lower part of your neck.
It’s responsible for regulating your metabolism by producing hormones that help cells get energy from food, regulate calcium levels in the blood, and contribute to growth and development.
Approximately 27 million people in the United States have thyroid disease—either too much or too little thyroid activity.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone produced—the most common form is Grave’s disease. This is often hereditary and is more common in young women. It is sometimes the result of a virus that causes a temporary leakage of stored hormone. Treatment varies depending on a number of different factors.
More common is hypothyroidism in which the thyroid hormones produced are too few. There are many potential causes of this condition; the most common is an iodine deficiency. The good news is that an underactive thyroid can be regulated via diet.
Although a lack of iodine may be the culprit, it’s important to get professional nutritional advice before taking an iodine supplement because too much can cause a host of other issues—you must find the balance. Better to start with foods that naturally contain iodine like saltwater seafood, yogurt, eggs, cheese, and seaweed.
Foods that interfere with thyroid function are known as goitrogenic and can be avoided; a list is provided at the end of this article. Cruciferous vegetables—those in the broccoli and cabbage family—are big on the list.
Cooking can reduce the active ingredient in these foods to a tolerable level for some people, sometimes not. Fermenting certain vegetables increases their goitrogens.
Once thyroid function has been restored to normal, you may be able to gradually reintroduce the avoided foods, one at a time to monitor results. Your body will tell you if they are tolerable or not; often eating a goitrogenic food will cause your neck to feel swollen or tight.
- Bamboo shoots
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Canola (rapeseed or yu choy)
- Chinese cabbage
- Choy sum
- Collard greens
- Kai-lan (Chinese broccoli)
- Mustard greens
- Pine nuts
- Soybeans (and soybean products such as tofu, soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin)
- Sweet Potatoes