Your thyroid is a super-important aspect of your overall health that you might take for granted while it is healthy. Located in the neck, the thyroid is a powerhouse of a gland that helps control your metabolism, and by extension, aspects of your weight, temperature, heartbeat, energy and mood, by producing thyroid hormones.
While some factors out of your control can affect your thyroid (including autoimmune disorders, genetics and toxins), diet plays a major role in the lifelong health of your thyroid. In order to keep your thyroid in good working condition, aim to eat a thyroid-supporting diet featuring a few key foods.
Why thyroid support is so important
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system and controls many bodily processes. When the thyroid is damaged or affected by nutritional deficiencies, autoimmune disorders and more, it can produce too much or too little of the necessary hormones, causing unwanted bodily changes.
Thyroid disorders are actually quite common, but they can go undiagnosed for a long time because of the variety of their symptoms. People with thyroid disorders typically experience unexplained weight gain or loss, fatigue and mood issues like anxiety and depression.
Hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) are two common problems that can pose risks to your health long-term. Goiters are also a concern. These occur when the thyroid gland becomes enlarged to make up for the shortage of thyroid hormones within the body.
To avoid these problems, it’s important to pay close attention to your health—and particularly your diet.
Nutritional tips for thyroid health
While eating a balanced diet every day is important for total-body health, there are a few key nutrients that your thyroid needs to operate properly. You can find these nutrients in a variety of foods.
- Iodine: Your thyroid needs healthy doses of iodine to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormone. Most of us typically get iodine through table salt, which is iodized, but people on low-sodium or vegan diets might need to find new sources. Seaweed is a great source of iodine, as are fish and dairy products like yogurt and milk. However, make sure to not overdo it on iodine-filled foods, since too much iodine can also trigger hypothyroidism.
- Selenium: Selenium is also crucial to thyroid health. Research shows that selenium may help prevent against tissue damage in the thyroid and help with hormone production. Brazil nuts are great sources of selenium, but it can be very easy to go overboard and get much more than the recommended daily amount. You only need to eat a few of these each day to get the amount of selenium your body needs. Macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are also great options for selenium. Eggs, too, are healthy sources of selenium, and they also have healthy doses of iodine, making them great for thyroid health!
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for more than just bone health! Research has shown that people who had hypothyroidism were more likely to be vitamin D deficient, so it’s crucial to incorporate leafy greens, vitamin D-fortified products like milk and egg yolks into your diet.
- Collagen: Collagen, a type of protein and one of the major building blocks for the body’s tissues, can help reduce inflammation, support gut health and prevent illness, as well as support healthy metabolic processes. It also helps counteract other amino acids that might have negative effects on the thyroid. Bone broth is a great source of collagen, outside of the collagen your body naturally makes by combining vitamins and amino acids. Collagen powder supplementation may also help ensure you get enough of the nutrient each day.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants help destroy free radicals within your body that could pose a risk to your thyroid’s health. They are also great for the immune system and general health, which also support a healthy thyroid! Eating a variety of fruits like berries will give you lots of antioxidants.
- Zinc: Zinc is needed for your thyroid to effectively create thyroid hormones. If you don’t get enough, you could develop hypothyroidism; in turn, hypothyroidism could make your zinc deficiency even worse. Meats, nuts and eggs are good sources of zinc.
Aim for whole-body wellness
In addition to targeting the specific thyroid-healthy nutrients, you should aim to eat nutritious and well-balanced meals filled with lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables for both thyroid health and health overall. Unbalanced diets or diets filled with added sugars, saturated fats and other inflammatory, unhealthy components can disrupt the way your body is designed to work as a whole.
Taking care of your gut is also crucial to taking care of your thyroid, since many thyroid problems stem from autoimmune disorders, and a large portion of your immune system is located in your gut. Probiotics, or good bacteria, can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, as well as in supplements.
Together, all of these components will provide you with the vitamins and nutrients your thyroid needs to stay healthy and maintain proper function for the long term.