by: Dr. Craig A. Maxwell
If you’re living with thyroid disease, your doctor may have given you quite a long list of foods you should avoid. These foods are called goitrogens and have been reported to contribute to the development of an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). Many new patients and even those on a few social networking websites have been questioning eating what have been called “goitrogenic foods”. This prompted me to offer my own take on this common misconception.
In my 30 years of medical practice, I have never had any problems controlling thyroid levels in my patients who eat these foods, including those who have hypothyroidism as well as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have never even suspected that they were interfering with thyroid function.
In my experience, the lab values (TSH, Free T3 and Free T4) used to evaluate thyroid function have remained in the same range whether patients eat them or not.
The Health Benefits of “Goitrogenic Foods”
The long list of foods you are asked to eliminate are much too beneficial to your health to get rid of. Here is a list of supposedly-forbidden foods that do wonders for your health by boosting your immune system, fighting inflammation, and preventing the development of more serious disease.
Strawberries are not only delicious; they’re packed with immune-boosting vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as potassium, folate, and fiber.
Pears are rich in water-soluble fiber, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, E, and copper. Pears are an excellent source of healthy carbs and their high nutrient content has been linked to the prevention of various diseases ranging from osteoporosis to cancer.
These summer fruits are packed with essential nutrients including vitamins A, C, E, and K with seven minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese and phosphorus). Peaches also contain a powerful antioxidant anti-inflammatory called chlorogenic acid, which can help ease thyroid inflammation.
Cabbage contains special chemical compounds called glucosinolates that have been shown to reduce your risk of cancer. Cabbage is also excellent for your digestion due to its high fiber content.
Spinach is a versatile and healthy food filled with the essential nutrients your body needs for optimum health. Spinach is a strong source of vitamin K, which is helpful for those suffering from thyroid disease. Research has suggested that when your thyroid function is slowed, so is your blood’s ability to clot properly. Vitamin K (for the German word, “Koagulation”) assists in this process.
- Bamboo Shoots
Baby bamboo shoots are filled with essential nutrients; mainly protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and minerals that have been shown to prevent the development of cancer.
- Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the strongest sources of anti-inflammatory beta carotene. They are also a rich source of vitamin A, C, manganese, and B6.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet and definitely not one you want to cut from your diet. Not only is it an excellent source of calcium for those who avoid dairy products, it is also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and phytochemicals that have been shown to prevent cancer.
Broccolini contains a chemical compound called glucoraphanin, which has been shown to inhibit the growth of ulcer-causing H. Pylori. Your body also turns this compound into a compound called sulforaphane, which has been shown to prevent a wide variety of cancers. One cup of this vegetable also contains your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.
- Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts (baby cabbage) contain flavonoid antioxidants like isorhamnetin, quercitin, and kaempferol that protect the body against oxidative stress. Brussels sprouts are also a rich source of glucobrassicin, a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Cauliflower is another excellent anti-inflammatory food that’s chock full of the nutrients your body needs to detoxify, heal, and prevent the development of more serious diseases. The sulforaphane and plant sterols such as indole-3-carbinol have been linked to the prevention of prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition and cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
- Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, and Kale
Green, leafy vegetables like collards, mustard greens, and kale have been praised for their natural cholesterol-lowering abilities. These greens are also loaded with blood-clotting vitamin K as well as vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, calcium, fiber, and more.
This combination “radish-turnip” is a powerhouse of nutrition. Its rich vitamin C content helps support a strong immune system. This vegetable is also an excellent source of digestive-improving dietary fiber.
Radishes contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates that prevent your cells from genetic mutation. These compounds have been shown to offer preventative benefits from all different types of cancer. Like most cruciferous vegetables, radishes are also rich in vitamin C.
- Turnips and Rutabagas
Turnips and rutabagas are a rich source of zinc, dietary fiber, and vitamin C to boost both your immune and digestive system.
Horseradish not only adds a nice kick of flavor to your food, it may help you prevent cancer. Horseradish contains more glucosinolates than broccoli, which activate liver enzymes that breaks down carcinogens, rendering them inactive.
Note: Lightly steaming any of the vegetables mentioned above removes their mildly goitrogenic effect.
- Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are good for weight loss because they contain protein and pinoleic acid, which makes you feel fuller faster. Pine nuts also contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
Like red wine and grapes, peanuts are a good source of resveratrol, an antioxidant compound known for its anti-aging benefits. Eating nuts also lowers your risk of weight gain by providing plenty of protein and healthy fat.
This starchy rhizome is rich in essential minerals like calcium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, and potassium. It is also rich in fiber, which helps regulate your digestive system.
Millet is a gluten free grain that is rich in nervous-system-regulating magnesium. It also contains niacin, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol naturally while preventing the development of type II diabetes.
Why You Should Avoid Soy Products
Soy is the only goitrogenic food I advise all my patients completely avoid. This is because 80% of the soy in the United States is genetically modified, meaning it contains gut-destroying pesticides you need to avoid.
Risk Factors for Thyroid Disease
- Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition whereby the body cannot digest the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. It causes chronic gastrointestinal discomfort, brain fog, muscle aches, learning difficulties, and chronic rash. Celiac disease has also been shown to increase the risk of developing papillary thyroid cancer. Oftentimes, celiac disease can trigger thyroid disease due to the immune system attacking the thyroid.
- Radiation Exposure
Chronic radiation exposure can lead to thyroid disease. This exposure can occur in the military or place of employment.
- Lithium Treatment
According to studies, almost half of the patients treated with lithium for bipolar disorder have developed critical hypothyroidism.
People with parents and siblings with thyroid disease are often more predisposed to the condition.
- Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome often have thyroid irregularities. The diseases have many similar symptoms and often make accurate diagnosis difficult. Also, in both CFS and fibromyalgia, the adrenal glands are often exhausted. This can cause a chronic hormonal imbalance that may lead to thyroid disease. It’s kind of like a vicious cycle or a domino effect. The symptoms tell both doctor and patient that something is going wrong in the body but the cause can be difficult to pin down.
- Endocrine Disorders
Adrenal diseases such as adrenal fatigue, Addison’s disease, and Cushing’s syndrome can also increase the risk of thyroid disorder.
- Type I Diabetes
Type I autoimmune diabetes can also lead to the development of thyroid disease. Virtually any disorder of the immune, endocrine or metabolic system can lead to thyroid imbalance.
Diagnosing Thyroid Disease
Diagnosing thyroid disease can be misleading as many physicians only order a thyroid stimulating test (TSH) to screen for hypothyroidism. This test will often miss hypothyroidism, as it does not directly measure the output of free T3 and free T4 from your thyroid gland.
In order to receive a complete and accurate thyroid function diagnosis, I recommend the Complete Thyroid Panel + Thyroid Antibodies from Direct Labs. This panel of tests will not only tell you whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, but Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well. Just take the test order slip to any LabCorp location to get your blood drawn and LabCorp will send it away for you. You’ll get your results in as little as 5 business days!
Treating Thyroid Disease Naturally
I recommend all patients with hypothyroidism take a good kelp iodine supplement, which is provided by my Diamond Nutritional’s Thyroid Support Formula!
- Diamond Nutritional’s Thyroid Support Formula
My Diamond Nutritional’s Thyroid Support Formula nourishes your thyroid gland and helps it function at its best. If my patients require thyroid medication for hypothyroidism, I recommend only natural thyroid replacement such as Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid, Erfa or compounded thyroid.
Synthroid (levothyroxine) contains only part of what your body needs: T4. The natural products contain both T4 and T3. Your thyroid gland makes both, and it is important to have them both in balance, which these natural products are able to provide.
The ingredients in our support formula include:
- Iodine – Iodine is essential to the proper function of the thyroid gland.
- L-Tyrosine USP – Provides hormonal support, increases mood, and improves concentration.
- Ashwagandha Leaf – Decreases inflammation, boosts immune system health, and supports thyroid function.
- Bladderwrack Leaf – Stimulates under-active thyroid glands.
I have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and im trying to find a diet that will control it and also control my high blood pressure and bordeline diabetes ( which just came along with the hyperthyroidism) what diet do you suggest because although i lost weight since my throids gave been acting up i gained a whole lot of weight, Can u tell me whats good and not good to eat being diagnosed with this,
Thank you for contacting me. Please feel free to call my office at 513-741-4404 to schedule a telemedicine consultation or
office consultation to address these very important issues.
I look forward to hearing from you and addressing your healthcare needs.
Great article. It’s refreshing to see someone know that these foods don’t have to be taken out of the diet. My question is, what is your assessment on wheat based foods? That’s another thing I read about…stay away from wheat/gluten. Can uncontrolled allergies cause hypothyroidism? Is there a safe, (no hexane in the extraction) thyroid supplement that does not contain kelp?
Thank you for the kind words. Glad to be of help!
Hello Dr. Maxwell,
I noticed that you mentioned sweet potatoes are one of the goiterogens and its ok to steam though my question here is would it be ok to bake them? Thank you for your time.
Yes, I consider baked sweet potatoes a super food!