Pick the right foods for thyroid health
The thyroid provides a convenient organ to blame for all our misfortunes. Weight gain? Sluggish? Can’t get out of bed in the morning? “Your thyroid is slow,” many practitioners will respond.
Very often, we drain our thyroid with a modern lifestyle and modern diet. Take a look at some of the many thyroid-abusing factors we face each day:
- Emotional stress
- Consumption of soy
- Refined carbs
- Too much estrogen (my book explains all about this)
- Chemicals in body care products
- Too little sleep
- Extreme diets, such as very low carb diets and vegan diets
- Vegetable oils (canola oil, corn oil, safflower oil, etc. as well as grapeseed oil)
To support the thyroid function in order to boost metabolism, we have to eliminate these thyroid-abusers and fuel up with the right building blocks. Here are 5 top foods for thyroid health:
1. Liver for thyroid health
In my book, properly sourced liver provides the most significant thyroid-boosting properties in a whole food source due to one vital nutrient: vitamin A. As a matter of fact, liver offers the highest concentration of vitamin A in nature.
Vitamin A plays a key role in nursing a sluggish thyroid back into health. In one study, groups of obese and non-obese women supplemented with 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day. After four months, both groups showed and increase of circulating thyroid hormone and a decrease in TSH, indicating improved thyroid function (1). 25,000 IU sounds like a lot of vitamin A per day, but in early traditional cultures across the globe, people consumed upward of 50,000 per day (read more)!
Most importantly, the vitamin A from liver (and all other animal sources) is the bio-available form vitamin A, which means the body can utilize it. The vitamin A from plant sources such as beta-carotene, in contrast, must first be converted to retinoid form to be useful in the body (read more). The extremely poor conversion rate of carotene-to-retinoid is made insignificant if we have a slow thyroid, so it is imperative to get true vitamin A from animal sources.
I do not recommend long-term vitamin A supplementation, since synthetic vitamin A carries a higher risk of toxicity since it is not well-utilized by the body. Opt to get true vitamin A from foods (here is a list of more true vitamin A foods).
One important caveat: make sure you source liver from small, organic/biodynamic farms – good choices are pastured beef liver and pastured chicken liver. The liver filters toxins, but it doesn’t store toxins. However, the livers of conventionally-raised feedlot animals will contain toxins because they are overburdened.
The Weston Price Foundation recommends 2 to 3 3oz. servings of liver per week. If you don’t like the taste of sauteéd liver or pate, try my DIY Liver Pills or take 2-6 of these desiccated liver capsules each day.
2. Coconut oil for thyroid health
Coconut oil is about 2/3 medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), fatty acids that are directly absorbed into the bloodstream in the small intestine and used for energy. These MCTs have been shown to increase increase energy expenditure, which is another term for boosting metabolism (2, 3, 4).
Since increased thyroid function is essentially synonymous with increase metabolism, we can draw the conclusion that coconut oil is profoundly healing for the thyroid.
For a bit of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of coconut oil for thyroid, farmers in the 1940’s tried to fatten their animals with coconut oil only to find that it made the animals lean and energetic! Later, it was discovered that corn and soy feed accomplished the goal. It had an antithyroid effect on the animals, allowing the pigs to fatten quickly while eating less. Conclusion: if you want stable weight and a happy thyroid, ditch the soy and favor the coconut!
3. Eggs for thyroid health
Eggs live up to their title of The Perfect Food, especially when it comes to balancing hormones through diet. They provide a concentrated source of thyroid-supporting building blocks like protein, cholesterol, B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals.
Contrary to the belief of mainstream (or, as I say, mislead) nutrition, the yolks – not whites – are the most nutritious part of the egg. Take a look at the nutrition highlights of eggs:
- Iodine – everyone knows that the thyroid gland requires iodine to create thyroid hormones. But did you know that eating 2-3 eggs per day can fulfill 20-30% of your daily iodine requirement?
- Selenium – both the egg yolk and the white provides an excellent source of selenium. This mineral supports the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 into the useable form of T3.
- Fat-soluble vitamins – the egg yolk contains all of the fat-soluble vitamins in the egg. These vitamins A, D, E, and K all support thyroid.
- B Vitamins – B vitamins support blood sugar balance and energy levels. Egg yolks are particularly high in choline, which supports the detox pathways and hormone balance.
- Cholesterol – although demonized by scientists with poor research habits, the beneficial qualities of dietary cholesterol is slowly garnering attention. Dietary cholesterol from pasture-raised egg yolks only does a body good. Dietary cholesterol supports the synthesis of balanced sex hormones, therefore aiding thyroid. I’ve already extensively discussed and de-mythed cholesterol here.
4. Unrefined Salt for thyroid health
It seems to good to be true… salt makes food delicious AND it is good for us? Indeed! An important distinction, however, is the difference between unrefined salt such as himalayan salt and processed, bleached table salt.
These are just a few of the ways unrefined salt boosts thyroid:
- It reduces circulating cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones are anti-thyroid so reducing them supports thyroid expression.
- It supports overall adrenal function. We can’t fix thyroid without helping our adrenal glands… adrenals and thyroid are joined at the hip.
- It supports the synthesis of proper stomach acid so we can digest our food
- It provides a unique profile of trace minerals
- Read more in my post, 12 Reasons Why Salt is Good for You
Salt your food freely and to taste (if you have kidney disease or hypertension, it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner before increasing salt intake.). Again, favor unrefined options like real salt.
5. Cod Liver Oil for thyroid health
Cod liver oil, a historically sacred food, offers the unique balance of vitamin A and vitamin D, both in highly bio-available forms. Everyone from babies to pregnant mothers to the elderly can benefit by taking a top quality cod liver product daily. Those with compromised thyroids benefit from the hormone-balancing fat-soluble vitamins.
As a bonus, this super-supplement has been heralded for curing acne and preventing the common cold. I can personally attest to the latter: ever since I started taking a daily dose, my immune system is supercharged! I rarely get colds anymore, and if I do, they last for just a day or two.
Fermented cod liver oil is the most pristine and effective form of cod liver oil, and it can be purchased here. I suggest the Cinnamon Tingle flavor (trust me, it is the most palatable). Although fermented cod liver is the top choice, the cod liver oil capsules may be acceptable.
The Thyroid Sessions to improve thyroid health naturally
Are you trying to address hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s disease naturally? I’m right there with you – I’m working to fit together the pieces of my health issues, and one of those pieces is hypothyroidism. One of the most helpful resources for me has been The Thyroid Sessions, which is a digital program with interviews and documents from the leading experts in natural thyroid health. It answers questions like:
- What thyroid supplements are helpful, and which are harmful?
- What’s the deal with iodine supplementation?
- How can I maximize my thyroid function for fertility?
- How do I deal with autoimmune thyroid disease?
- What is the best diet for thyroid health?
And so, so much more. I highly recommend checking out The Thyroid Sessions program here to learn more.
Do you use any of these foods for thyroid health?