Most people don’t give two thoughts to their thyroid, the gland that sits at the base of your neck and helps regulate your metabolism, temperature and heartbeat (among other things), but if it’s not performing at its best you’ll soon know about it. You could suffer weight gain, depression and be more sensitive to the cold if your thyroid is underactive, but when it’s overactive it can result in sudden weight loss, irregular heartbeats, sweating and irritability.
While a lot of how your thyroid functions is down to genetics, there are foods that can help keep your thyroid firing on all cylinders (and some that don’t).
Dairy products such as yoghurt are full of iodine and your body needs iodine to function properly. You could get a good dose from seaweed, but if that doesn’t sound appealing a low fat Greek yoghurt can make up about 50 per cent of your daily iodine intake. If you don’t like yoghurt, one cup of low fat milk will provide you with around one-third of your daily iodine needs, and it’s also a good source of vitamin D.
2. Brazil nuts
Selenium is another nutrient that helps regulate your thyroid hormones and Brazil nuts are packed with it. In 2003, one study out of France found that women who ate higher amounts of selenium were less likely to develop goiters and thyroid tissue damage than those who didn’t. It was also found to prevent long-term thyroid damage in those who suffered thyroid-related problems such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ diseases.
One Brazil nut is thought to contain 96 micrograms of selenium, which is almost double the daily intake recommended (55 micrograms). While Brazil nuts are good for your thyroid, it’s important to remember not to indulge in more than 400 micrograms of selenium each day. Too much can cause hair loss, discoloured nails and even heart failure.
3. Chicken and beef
Your thyroid needs a good dose of zinc to keep it functioning properly and this can be found in meat sources, like chicken and beef. If you have too little zinc in your diet it can lead to hypothyroidism, but it’s interesting to note that if you develop hypothyroidism you can become zinc deficient. Go figure! If you have a poor diet or a GI disorder that limits your ability to absorb zinc, eating a 85g serving of beef can contain up to 7mg of zinc, while an 85g serve of chicken contains roughly 2.4mg.
4. Fish and shellfish
While meats have zinc, fish has iodine and you now know that iodine is good for your thyroid, helping it function just the way you need it to. An 85g serve of baked cod for example contains around 99 micrograms of iodine, or up to 66 per cent of your daily iodine intake. Canned tune is a good option too. If you prefer shellfish like prawns, bugs or lobster then the good news is these also contain iodine with the added bonus of being a top source of zinc too.
A large egg has roughly 16 per cent of the iodine and 20 per cent of the selenium you need for the day, which makes them a super thyroid food. Unless you’ve been given a reason by your health professional not to, eat the whole egg because much of the nutrients are located in the yolk.
Despite what’s been written until now, it’s not just iodine, selenium and vitamin D that helps your thyroid. Antioxidants are good too and berries are one type of food that are packed full of antioxidants. Research in 2010 that featured in the Nutrition Journal found that wild strawberries, blackberries, goji berries and cranberries ranked incredibly high for their antioxidant level in a study of more than 3,000 foods.
Other foods that are good for your thyroid include cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy and soy, but there are some foods you should consider steering clear of.
Gluten: Gluten is particularly bad for your thyroid if you suffer coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease that is traditionally characterised by an intolerance to gluten in wheat, barley and rye.
Processed foods: Sure, salty processed foods would address your iodine shortage, but with more than 75 per cent of our dietary sodium coming from pre-packaged and processed foods it’s worth noting that manufacturers don’t have to use iodised salt in their products. Taking in too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, but it won’t boost your iodine intake.
Fast food: Again, fast food outlets don’t have to use iodised salt in their products.