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Which foods can be especially beneficial for the thyroid gland? Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have certain vitamin, mineral, fatty acid and amino acid deficiencies, so it makes sense that a diet with adequate micronutrients, lipids and proteins would be helpful, as would a diet low in refined carbohydrates[1].

Micronutrients for thyroid health

Fresh, unprocessed foods help thyroid health
Fresh, unprocessed foods help thyroid health

Micronutrients beneficial to thyroid function include most vitamins[2] and minerals, but most especially vitamins A, C, D and E, iodine, manganese, selenium and zinc. Good sources of the following nutrients include:

  • Vitamin A include: fatty foods (red meat, fish, dairy, egg yolks, nuts, avocados, etc), bananas, and orange, yellow, green and red vegetables
  • Vitamin B[3] include: meats, eggs, grains, fortified cereals and some fruits and leafy vegetables
  • Vitamin C include: citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, peppers and herbs
  • Vitamin D include: dairy products, fatty foods (meat, eggs, nuts, dairy); sunshine also helps
  • Vitamin E include: wheatgerm, green leafy vegetables, oily foods (especially avocados and oils)
  • Iodine (I) include: seaweed, shellfish, some ice creams, iodised salt, dairy, eggs, strawberries and some vegetables (depending on the soil they were grown in)
  • Manganese (Mn) include: green leafy vegetables, garlic, spices, herbs, nuts, cocoa, tahini and sunflower seeds
  • Selenium (Se) include: garlic, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, brazil nuts, asparagus, whole grains (assuming the soil where the grass is has enough selenium)
  • Zinc (Zn) include: meat (especially grass fed beef, lamb and crab), brown rice, peas and whole grains

Macronutrients

Lipids and proteins are essential for the structure of the thyroid gland. With regards to thyroid hormones, the most important amino acid is tyrosine, because thyroid hormones are synthesised from tyrosine (and iodine).

Oily fish supply essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (ie, those that cannot be made by the body but that must be supplied in the diet), but a mix of most meats will supply the right macronutrients.

Vegetarians and vegans can eat a mix of nuts, dairy, eggs, tofu and more, depending on their preferences. Soy is often touted as a vegetarian protein source, but is implicated with poor thyroid health.

Summary

Nutrients for thyroid health do not occur in isolation; that is, each one is needed to make others work, so meals that contain meat, fish (or vegetarian alternatives), nuts, eggs, dairy and a range of vegetables (some raw)and that are low/absent in refined carbohydrates (including sugars) will cover most eventualities.

Foot notes

[1] This is because such a diet requires many nutrients to mitigate the negative effects it can have

[2] There are no evidence-based studies that suggest vitamin K plays a role in regulating thyroid function

[3] The B vitamins are best taken together, not in isolation, so they are grouped here

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Nutrients good for thyroid health
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