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
- Fluoride intake from tap water
- 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.
A pure, cold-pressed cod liver oil can also provides a source of vitamin A with the nutrients (fat and vitamin D) required for optimal absorption. I recommend this one.
2. Coconut oil
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!
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 .
4. Unrefined Salt
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 adequate stomach acid so we can digest our food and fuel our thyroid
- 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.
Ghee, an ancient medicinal food in Ayurvedic tradition, offers a key source of thyroid nutrients including:
- Vitamin A – as discussed above, research shows this nutrient supports healthy levels of thyroid hormones.
- Cholesterol – another building block for healthy hormone levels.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – you know that omega-3s support health, but do you know why? Omega-3s moderate inflammation in the body, in particular allowing the body to anti-inflame. Inflammation can create a deficiency in thyroid function. Learn 3 things everyone should know about omega-3s here.
I recommend grassfed ghee, and you can get a free jar from Thrive Market here.
Use ghee as your primary cooking fat, as it is ideal for sautéing. You can also melt it and use it in recipes calling for oil.
For more information on this superfood, check out my post 10 Benefits of Ghee.
Do you use any of these foods for thyroid health?