“Healthy eaters” come to me every day confused about why their thyroid is not functioning properly even though they are eating so well.
This may be surprising, but that’s actually part of the problem! Before you reach for the vegetable crudite at the next party you may want to continue reading to fully understand how these specific healthy eating habits could actually be contributing to poor thyroid health.
1. Too Many Raw Vegetables
Many plants contain anti-nutrients that can inhibit thyroid function. The Brassicaceae (Cruciferous) family of vegetables (think kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) contains glucosinolates that can inhibit iodine uptake, resulting in hypothyroidism and promoting goiter formation.
That doesn’t mean you need to completely avoid these powerhouse veggies – just make sure they are prepared properly. Cooking with heat and salt can help deactivate some of their anti-nutrient properties. And, if you are eating an iodine rich diet, that can help as well. But, if you are currently suffering with hypothyroid or goiter, I would steer clear of the raw cruciferous vegetable platter and kale juice for a while because that may be a recipe for disaster. Veggie soups may be a better option, like this Sweet and Savoury Beet Soup with Creme Fraiche.
2. Eliminating Fat
Many folks think fat will make them fat, or worse yet, lead to a heart attack! The truth is, a no-fat or extremely low-fat diet can negatively affect thyroid health.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble. Vitamins A and D (think whole eggs, organ meats like liver, and grass-fed butter) are required for protein and calcium assimilation, help create hormones, and support endocrine functions. If you are eating no-fat or low-fat on a regular basis, this could be inhibiting your body’s absorption of essentials vitamins. So put a little pat of butter on your vegetables and let them nourish you on a deeper level.
3. A Strict Vegan Diet
While adopting a vegan diet can be a good idea because we are overeating meat and under-eating plants,I’ve witnessed people taking on a strict vegan diet and suffering from nutritional deficiencies that can lead to thyroid disease. Vegan diets can lack protein and animal protein is required to make the thyroid hormone and to convert it to its active form in the liver.
My advice to the vegans is to continue eating plants because they are really good for you, and to supplement with animal proteins because they are good for you, too. Your thyroid gland will love you for it.
4. So Much Soy
Healthy folks in the know already understand that non-fermented soy foods (soy milk, soy meats, soy nuts, soy chips, tofurkey, and others) can be problematic for the thyroid and promote goiter. On the other hand, fermented soy (miso, shoyu, tempeh, natto and tamari) can be quite healthy for many people.
But, what people don’t realize is that they may be eating non-fermented, non-traditional soy ingredients and they do not even know it! Soy can be disguised as isolated soy protein, textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lecithin, bouillon, natural flavors, msg, Mono-diglyceride, and plant protein. Those energy bars, natural snack bars, protein powders, and healthy breakfast cereals may contain highly processed soy ingredients that could be damaging the thyroid. No matter how healthy a food claims to be, read the label and check the ingredients. You may be surprised at what you discover.
5. Frequent Smoothies
Quick and easy and smooth and creamy, and every health fanatic is drinking smoothies. Many of those blended drinks contain frozen fruit and fresh or frozen greens, plus some type of milky substance like almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk or rice milk. This can be a triple whammy for the thyroid! Think twice if your smoothie is made up of raw greens like kale or raw green powders that contain the goitrogenic vegetables I mentioned earlier.
Additionally, if that smoothie contains coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or almond milk, they may also have carrageenan listed as an ingredient. Carrageenan has been linked with cancer, inflammation and digestive distress. Many thyroid conditions, especially autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Graves’, can stem from poor gut health and digestive problems.
Lastly, humans are not designed to drink carbohydrates and proteins. Our food needs to be partially broken down by the process of chewing and by the chemical action of mixing with salivary enzymes. If we don’t mix our food with saliva to start the process of digestion, it can contribute to a whole host of tummy troubles.
That doesn’t mean you have to avoid smoothies altogether, or always forgo the raw veggie platter at the party. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat a low-fat or vegan inspired meal, it just means that if your thyroid is not functioning well, it’s time to make some shifts within the “healthy” diet you are already eating.
With knowledge comes power! It’s possible to continue eating healthfully and really, truly feel healthy and vibrant at the same time.
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Thyroid ResistanceBy Lita Lee, Ph.D.