Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body does not make enough thyroid hormones.
Thyroid hormones help control adolescent growth , brain development, and various metabolic processes. As a result, people with hypothyroidism can experience bloating, hair loss, weight gain, depression, among many other symptoms.
Food alone will not cure hypothyroidism. Despite this, the right combination of nutrients and medications can help restore thyroid function and minimize its symptoms.
This article describes what a hypothyroid diet should look like, including which foods to eat and which to avoid to achieve a healthy weight.
What is hypothyroidism?
Having hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, means that your thyroid gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone to keep your body functioning normally.
The causes of hypothyroidism are various, although most of the time it occurs from an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid gland.
This disease is known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and it is the main cause of primary hypothyroidism. Other reasons for primary hypothyroidism are iodine deficiency, thyroid surgeries, genetic disorders, and the intake of certain medications.
Other times, the thyroid gland does not receive the signal that tells it how much hormone to produce and this is when secondary hypothyroidism appears. This signal is known as TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and its synthesis can be affected by damage to a small gland in the brain, called the pituitary gland.
How does hypothyroidism affect the body?
The thyroid gland governs how quickly the body burns calories. It works at various levels within the body, regulating the hormones that drive a healthy metabolism.
Since the main purpose of thyroid hormone is to regulate metabolism, it is understandable that people with this condition have symptoms associated with a slow metabolism.
Having a slow metabolism carries several health risks. It can leave you tired, increase your blood cholesterol levels, and make weight loss difficult.
Therefore it is difficult for people with hypothyroidism to keep their weight stable. This is when diet and physical activity play an important role in helping to control the condition.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Fatigue, weakness
- Swollen face
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry Skin
- Reduced heart rate
- Poor memory and concentration
- Swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints
- Reduced hearing
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Good foods for people with hypothyroidism
There are many good food options for people with hypothyroidism. In particular, emphasis should be placed on foods that contain essential mineral nutrients to maintain optimal thyroid health.
Examples of important foods to control hypothyroidism are:
1. Foods rich in iodine
Iodine is an essential mineral that is needed to make thyroid hormones. Therefore, people with iodine deficiency could be at risk for hypothyroidism.
Iodine deficiency is very common, affecting almost a third of the world’s population. If you have an iodine deficiency, consider adding iodized table salt to your meals or eating more iodine-rich foods like seaweed, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
2. Foods rich in zinc
Zinc helps “activate” thyroid hormones so that the body can use them.
Studies also show that zinc can help the body regulate TSH, the hormone that tells the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones (19 Trusted Source).
Zinc deficiencies are rare in developed countries, as zinc is abundant in the food supply.
However, if you have hypothyroidism, you should try to eat more zinc-rich foods such as oysters and other shellfish, beef, and chicken.
3. Foods rich in selenium
Like zinc, selenium helps the body “activate” thyroid hormones.
This essential mineral also has antioxidant benefits, which means that it can protect the thyroid gland from damage from molecules called free radicals.
Adding selenium-rich foods to your diet is a great way to increase your selenium levels. This includes cashew nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs, and legumes.
4. Foods rich in vitamin D
The vitamin D is a metabolite compound thyroid hormones. The first source of vitamin D is the one that the body produces through the sun’s rays. However, some foods like blue sea fish, mushrooms, and egg yolks are also high in this nutrient.
What foods to avoid?
Fortunately, you don’t need to avoid many foods if you have hypothyroidism.
However, foods that contain goitrogens, goitrogens, and flavonoids should be consumed in moderation and ideally cooked. Examples of these foods are: soy, tofu, kale, cabbage.
You should also avoid eating ultra-processed foods, as they are generally high in calories and low in nutrients. This can be a problem if you have hypothyroidism, as you can easily gain weight.
One particular food to avoid is millet. Some studies have found that pearl millet could interfere with thyroid function, even when there is no lack of iodine in the diet. (2)
Foods to avoid with hypothyroidism:
- Highly processed foods: sausages, cakes, cookies, etc.
- All types of millet
- Supplements without medical recommendation: Adequate intake of selenium and iodine is essential for thyroid health, but consuming too much of any of them can cause harm.
Foods to eat in moderation:
- soy-based foods: tofu, tempeh, edamame beans, soy milk, etc.
- cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage, etc.
- certain fruits: peaches, pears, and strawberries
- drinks: coffee, green tea and alcohol: these drinks can irritate the thyroid gland
Diet for hypothyroidism – Sample menu for weight loss
People with hypothyroidism should follow a diet based on vegetables, fruits, and lean meats. To lose weight they must be low in calories and nutritionally complete.
Examples of ideal diets are the Mediterranean diet and the Nordic diet . In particular, these diets are recommended by professional nutritionists, they are easy to follow, and they are the best to adhere to in the long term.
Here is an example of a 1500 Kcal hypothyroidism diet menu for weight loss:
|Monday||Banana yogurt with oatmeal||Legume salad with turkey||Meat moussaka with vegetables|
|Tuesday||Scrambled eggs with gluten-free toast||vegetarian wraps||Tomato and tuna omelette|
|Wednesday||Greek yogurt with blueberries||Avocado, Tomato, Chicken and Flax Seed Salad||Salmon with roasted potatoes|
|Thursday||Unsweetened yogurt with citrus fruits and whole grains||Greek quinoa salad||Lentil stew|
|Friday||Oatmeal pancake with skim cheese||Buckwheat with green vegetables and fish||Wholemeal vegetable tart|
|Saturday||Porridge with||Mediterranean salad||Tuna steak with sautéed asparagus and bell peppers|
|Sunday||Scrambled Eggs with Parmesan||Original Caesar Salad||Baked chicken with vegetables|
The recommended snacks between meals are:
- 1 handful of nuts
- 1 serving of fruit
- Baby carrots
- 2 ounces dark chocolate
Tips for maintaining a healthy weight
People with hypothyroidism tend to gain weight faster than those without it.
Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy weight for people with hypothyroidism.
- Rest well. Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleeping less than this is linked to fat gain, especially around the abdomen area.
Eat more protein. High-protein diets are associated with less hunger pangs. Including foods rich in protein in all your meals could help you lose weight.
Try a low carb diet. The diets low carb are very effective in maintaining a healthy weight; and in their moderate forms they are considered safe, even for people with hypothyroidism. However, avoid trying the ketogenic diet , as eating too few carbohydrates can lower your thyroid hormone levels.
- Measure your dishes and avoid eating with electronic devices. People who do not measure their portions and eat distractedly tend to eat more than their body needs. If you have hypothyroidism, avoid this.
- Avoid alcohol. Keeping your alcohol intake between one and three a week is important to avoid a toxic effect on your body. Not only does alcohol create a negative effect on the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormones, but it also affects their production.
Hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid condition. It is generally caused by an autoimmune response known as Hashimoto’s disease.
Hypothyroidism can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and bloating, among many others.
While it is easy to gain weight when you have hypothyroidism, fortunately there are many strategies that can help you maintain a healthy weight.
A thyroid-friendly diet means encouraging the consumption of whole foods, lean protein, and the right nutrients like zinc and iodine.
Supplementing your diet with a good rest and taking prescribed medications will be enough to reduce your symptoms and improve your thyroid function.