Best Foods for your Thyroid Health

Top 4 Nutrients & Foods for The Thyroid

Our thyroid glands are very nutrient hungry.  When I started studying Nutrition I was blown away by just how many health conditions are rooted in Nutritional deficiency.  Even if your condition is not, there is so much you can do to help your entire body by optimising your diet.  These are my top 4 Micronutrients for optimal thyroid function and how you can maximise these in each meal

Vitamin A for the Thyroid and Immune system

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for your thyroid, immune system (so definitely Endometriosis too), gut lining, skin, eyes and all your other organs. A Vitamin A deficiency contributes to more severe hypothyroidism. Like me you might have heard constantly as a kid to eat carrots for your eyes (vitamin A). While there is truth in that, the form in plant foods is different to that in animal foods. If your gut function is compromised, it may not be converted well.

Carrots and pumpkins are full of carotenoids which need converting in the body into Retinol. Animal foods contain preformed retinol. It does not mean that you should not bother with carrots, they just might not provide enough vitamin A for you if you have a health condition or are in a healing phase. They still are providing you with plenty of antioxidant support and preformed retinol doesn't, so consuming both in balance is best.

Retinol is found only in animal foods and vitamin A supplements. The best food sources are fish oil, liver, egg yolk, whole milk and dairy. Vitamin A supplements require guidance or knowledge and can be toxic in large amounts. I generally only prescribe for short periods and monitor. They are not Vegan also just fyi. The best foods for carotenoids are dark green leafy vegetables, yellow-orange vegetables and non citrus fruits.


So how can you get the most from those carrots?
They are best eaten unpeeled and cooked. A University of California study found that females consuming cooked carrots absorbed 3 x more beta carotene than when they ate the same amount raw. If you do eat raw, the more damage you inflict on raw carrots, the more antioxidants you will get. Grate them and leave them for awhile before eating. Don't waste any cooking water, you can freeze vege water if you must steam in ice or muffin trays to use in stocks and soups etc.

The darker the carrot, the more bang for your buck. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin so consume with fat to increase bioavailability by at least 50%. A low fat diet puts you more at risk of a deficiency in any of our fat soluble vitamins.

Iron for your thyroid

Iron

An Iron deficiency can cause your TSH to go up. It is a very common deficiency in hypothyroidism and a common deficiency in menstruating women in general. It is often undiagnosed too. Even being on the low end of normal it can affect thyroid hormone (T3) getting into your cells. During menstruation adolescent girls and premenopausal Women lose considerable amounts of iron.

Iron in my opinion is a huge topic so I will do my best to summarise. Iron is present in foods in 2 forms - Haem iron (ferrous iron) and non-haem iron (ferric iron). Around 40% of iron in meat, fish and poultry is haem iron and the rest is non-haem iron. Haem iron is well absorbed (around 25%) while non haem is poorly absorbed (2-20%). Non-haem iron is what is present in plant foods and processed (fortified) foods. Non-haem iron absorption is inhibited by plant chemicals like phytates. Non-haem iron is more efficiently absorbed alongside vitamin c, but it can also increase the very common side effects of iron supplements.

Black tea and coffee can reduce absorption of both dietary and supplemental iron so consume it away from iron containing meals and iron supplements. Don’t underestimate this, tea can reduce iron absorption by 90%! Iron can also effect a lot of medications in various ways, including thyroid medication. Take it at least 2 hours away from your meds. On the flip side stomach acid medication like omeprazole and antacids can interfere with iron absorption.

Also please note that high ferritin can be a sign of high inflammation levels in the body. It may be used by your GP to monitor a known deficiency or as routine pregnancy screening, but otherwise the full panel should be looked at, not just ferritin.
Leafy greens are the best plant source of iron and you can also use concentrated plant sources if avoiding animal products and not at the point of needing a supplement. Kelp, blackstrap molasses and brewers yeast are all good examples of this.

Vitamin D for your thyroid

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with higher TSH levels. Not only that, having your Vitamin D levels optimal is going to help prevent the development and progression of thyroid autoimmunity.
You have probably heard by now that vitamin D is super important for your immune system also, so this info can benefit everyone. With so many people avoiding the sun (this is our main source of Vitamin D) and the fact that over Winter months we can't get it from the Sun in most places asides from supplementing, what can we do?

First off, Vitamin D is probably the hardest nutrient to get via the diet. Cod liver oil is a good source, but we need to consume a lot even to get to 1000iu. Seafood really is the best food source though and of other important thyroid nutrients like iodine. If you don’t eat it or just want to get diversity, the highest plant-based source is mushrooms. It 100% depends on how and where they are grown though and they could have next to nothing. Many commercial mushrooms are grown in the dark so contain very little. There is a solution - pop your mushrooms on a sunny windowsill and they will create more vitamin D to defend themselves from solar radiation. Scientists have found exposing white button mushrooms to a UV lamp for as little as 1 second skyrockets vitamin D to the point where one serving contains more than 824 per cent of RDI’s. So it is very worthwhile to do this.

Zinc

Zinc deficiency is one of the more common deficiencies I see in clinic - especially in clients with gut issues which is most of my clients. Zinc is another of the micronutrients important for thyroid hormones and it also supports the functions of vitamins A and D - which we have already discussed as being super important for thyroid function.

Zinc is also important for our sex and stress hormones, and supports healthy blood pressure and sexual function. I see so many ladies who say they have no libido so if this is you read on. Zinc also protects against heavy metal toxicity and our thyroid is very sensitive to metals and chemicals. Conversely zinc is blocked by nearly every heavy metal.

Some signs of zinc deficiency include - frequent infections, skin issues including acne, boils, eczema, dermatitis etc, UTI's, brittle nails, reflux, leaky gut, hair loss, psoriasis, stretch marks, loss of smell and taste, body odor (teenage boys are the highest risk group), white spots on nails, warts, cold sores, mouth ulcers, sinus infections and premature greying of the hair. The best food sources of zinc are animal based – red meat, poultry, shellfish, egg yolks (not whites) and cheese. You can enhance absorption with sour acids from fermented foods and fruit.

Unfortunately, phytates from whole grains, nuts and seeds can hurt absorption, same with coffee. This is why it is good to take an ancestral approach if you are relying totally on plant foods for your micronutrients and soak, sprout and/or ferment them, and again like with iron, drink your tea and coffee away from meals.

If you are plant based you should really consider supplementing if you have signs of a zinc deficiency like those above. Sugar also displaces zinc so the more sugar you consume the more zinc you need. If you are low in other minerals like iron you need to be monitored and not take excessively high amounts of zinc.

Remember that high amounts of one mineral can effect your others so your best bet is to work with a health professional like myself in conjunction with your GP.

Make Food the Foundation of your treatment for Thyroid Disorders

What we eat really is  foundation of our health.  You can’t out supplement a poor diet and lifestyle. In clinic I do use supplementation to replenish nutrient deficiencies and speed up the healing process as clients are more compliant with dietary changes if they can see the results.

 

I can’t give you supplement doses outside a consultation and without taking your case and maybe testing. Some supplements can be overdone, some need co factors and some can make things worse.  Helping Women Heal their thyroids is one of my biggest passions.  If you would like my help you can book a consultation and we can get started.  Life is so much more enjoyable when you have a clear head, plenty of energy and your health is moving in the right direction.  You can also download the “Is it your Thyroid?” guide below if you are unsure.

Find out in the guide

Join the VIP list and get the free guide. Includes an easy at home test and info on why thyroid disorders are underdiagnosed.
Julie McGill

Julie McGill

Holistic Nutritionist, Mother to 4 young Humans.
Women's Health advocate.

Meet Julie a Nutritionist at Nurture Nutrition
Hi, I'm Julie

I help Women get to the root cause of their hormonal issues so they can have more energy and  thrive.  Helping you be the best version of yourself is my passion.

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