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June 12, 2023 6 min read

Managing hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) is all about finding the right mix of nutrients to keep your thyroid happy and healthy. Below, we'll discuss the foods you should be chowing down on to help improve your thyroid function alongside your personal treatment plan, as well as those you need to avoid.

What to eat if you have hypothyroidism

A healthy diet plays an important role in maintaining a healthy thyroid function, though it's important to note that no specific "hypothyroidism diet" that can cure the condition. A balanced diet can help manage symptoms and ensure that you have enough thyroid hormones and the replacement therapy is as effective as possible. Below are some foods you might want to add to your diet:

Iodine-rich foods

Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. However, too much iodine can negatively impact thyroid function, so moderation is key.

If you can tolerate dairy, like yogurt, ice cream, and milk, you can consider adding them to your diet as they contain iodine. Keep in mind that the thyroid needs iodine to prevent its glands from becoming enlarged (goiter). Treat yourself to a low-fat serving of frozen yogurt to get sufficient levels of iodine.

Aside from dairy, seaweed, such as kelp, nori, and wakame, are also naturally rich in iodine. Eat seaweed with sushi or get packaged seaweed snacks to toss in salads.

Selenium-rich foods

Selenium helps the body convert the thyroid hormone T4 into its active form T3. Foods like Brazil nuts, sardines, eggs, and legumes are high in selenium.

Zinc-rich foods

Like selenium, zinc helps the body regulate thyroid hormones. Foods like oysters, beef, chicken, and nuts are zinc-rich.

Whole fish and whole chickens

When consuming fish or chicken with the thyroid gland still intact, you're tapping into a source of natural thyroid hormones. Enjoying dishes like chicken neck or fish head soup can offer a bit of extra support for your thyroid health.

Remember, consume these foods in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Too much or too little of them can lead to other health problems. Focus on a nutrient-dense diet that provides the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for thyroid health.

What to avoid if you have hypothyroidism

A wide range of foods and substances have strong anti-thyroid properties. Thus, adding them to your diet may not be a good idea as they can impair thyroid function. Here are some foods to avoid if you want to improve your thyroid health:

Goitrogenic Foods

Specific substances present in certain foods have the potential to disrupt the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. These substances, known as goitrogens, earned their name due to their ability to potentially contribute to the development of a goiter—a common thyroid issue among individuals with hypothyroidism.

Goitrogenic compounds can impact the thyroid gland by either inhibiting iodine uptake or interfering with the production of thyroid hormones. Generally, these compounds don't pose a threat when consumed in moderation. However, in some cases, excessive consumption or particular conditions might lead to thyroid dysfunction, especially for those who don't have enough thyroid hormone.

Below is a list of some common goitrogenic foods:

  1. Cruciferous Vegetables: Examples of cruciferous vegetables are cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, and turnips, which contain goitrogens.

  2. Soy and soy products: Soybeans, tofu, soy milk, and other soy-based products are known to have goitrogenic properties. Soy, in particular, is estrogenic. Too much estrogen from any source can actually get in the way of how your thyroid hormones do their job. Not only will this lead to a goiter, but it can also mess with your liver's ability to change T4 into T3.

  3. Peaches and Pears: These fruits contain compounds that have goitrogenic effects.

  4. Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are rich in fiber and fats but also contain goitrogens. It's worth noting that the goitrogenic effects of flaxseeds are mainly observed when consumed in large amounts.

Individual susceptibility to the effects of goitrogenic foods can vary. Fortunately, the goitrogenic effects can be minimized by cooking, fermenting, or steaming these foods.

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats can actually put a damper on how your thyroid works. They can slow down the release of thyroid hormones from the gland, mess with how they move through the bloodstream, and even affect how your body reacts to the active thyroid hormone, T3. We will talk about this in more detail in the next chapter.


Carotenes are a type of substance that can mess with your thyroid, just like polyunsaturated fats do. You'll find a lot of carotenes in stuff like carrot juice and cooked carrots. So, sometimes even the healthy stuff can have an impact on your thyroid.


There's a link between autoimmune thyroid disorders, such as Hashimoto's disease, and gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Both are autoimmune disorders, meaning they involve an immune response against the body's own cells and tissues. In people with celiac disease, gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye — triggers this response.

Research suggests that people with one autoimmune disorder are more likely to develop another, and some studies have found that avoiding eating gluten can help reduce antibodies. So, if you have an autoimmune thyroid disease and you're also gluten intolerant, eating gluten can trigger an immune response that exacerbates symptoms of hypothyroidism.

However, if you're not gluten intolerant, there's no evidence to suggest that a gluten-free diet will improve your thyroid function. Gluten-free diets can lack essential nutrients if not carefully planned, so it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or a dietitian before making significant dietary changes.

Certain amino acids

Cysteine and tryptophan are amino acids that show up in large amounts in muscle meats. While your body needs these amino acids, they can sometimes give your thyroid a hard time by affecting how it functions. Balance is key here, so making sure you're getting enough amino acids without going overboard can help keep your thyroid running smoothly.


Fluoride, while beneficial for dental health, can have a detrimental impact on thyroid function. As a potent thyroid suppressor, it is advisable to avoid consuming fluoridated water and be cautious not to swallow fluoride-containing toothpaste. By taking these precautions, you can help maintain your thyroid's overall well-being.


Grapefruit might be a tasty and refreshing fruit, but it contains a certain chemical that can hinder your liver's efficiency. This chemical interferes with a liver enzyme that plays a crucial role in detoxifying estrogen. As a result, consuming grapefruit could potentially lead to a buildup of estrogen, indirectly impacting your thyroid function due to estrogen's influence on thyroid hormones.

Processed foods

It's generally advisable to limit the consumption of processed foods because these foods often contain additives, preservatives, unhealthy fatty foods, and high levels of sodium, which can negatively affect your overall health and potentially exacerbate thyroid symptoms. They tend to be low in essential nutrients while being high in unhealthy additives and also often contain high levels of sodium, which excessive sodium intake can disrupt your body's ability to balance fluids inside it, exacerbate water retention, and potentially make you have high blood pressure.

Don't forget your thyroid hormone replacement therapy

Having a balanced diet is a vital aspect of supporting healthier thyroid function, especially for those dealing with hypothyroidism. A thyroid-friendly diet can help manage symptoms and complement your treatment plan. However, it is crucial to remember that diet alone is not enough to effectively treat hypothyroidism.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy remains an essential part of managing this condition, ensuring that the body receives the right amount of hormones to function optimally. This therapy works by increasing your thyroid hormone levels. Thus, helping you gain normal thyroid function and ease symptoms like fatigue and weight gain.

The most common thyroid hormone replacement medication is levothyroxine. It's the synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4. However, if you're looking for a more natural solution, there is an alternative worth considering: natural desiccated thyroid.

Natural desiccated thyroid is derived from the thyroid glands of animals, typically pigs. This treatment provides a natural source of thyroid hormone that closely resembles the hormones produced by the human thyroid gland. Many individuals with hypothyroidism find that NDT contributes to their overall well-being and helps alleviate symptoms.

NDT is available in both medication and supplement forms. The most popular NDT medications in the US are Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid. However, they can be hard to find. In this case, the best option is the NDT supplement. One such option is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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