According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and up to 60 percent of those with the condition are unaware that they’re suffering from it. Thyroid problems can cause a number of different issue that can significantly affect the quality of your life, such as extreme fatigue, digestive disorders, anxiety or depression, brain fog and weight gain or loss.
Your thyroid secretes important hormones that are responsible for controlling major bodily functions, including how your food is digested, and how you use energy. When it slows down, everything else does too – not only will you feel extremely tired, but it’s nearly impossible to lose weight, yet very easy to pack on the pounds.
While you can’t control a genetic tendency to have a sluggish thyroid, you can control what you feed it, and research has shown that certain foods have proven potential to get your metabolism what it should be and improve thyroid health.
1. Brazil Nuts
Research has linked low selenium intake with thyroid disease, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Study author Margaret Rayman, professor of nutritional medicine at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK, noted that selenium is well-known to protect the thyroid. “The importance is that we have shown that low selenium is associated with an increased risk of thyroid disease.”
If your selenium level is low, that means your thyroid will have to work harder than it should to produce its hormones, and your body will also have a more difficult job changing those hormones into a form that your cells can use.
As Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, all you need is just a few each day to ensure you have an adequate level of the nutrient which is associated with a reduced risk of hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis. June one Brazil nut contains 80 micrograms of selenium, and most experts recommend a daily dose of 200 micrograms, though it’s best to check with your healthcare provider to determine the optimal amount.
Other good sources include yellow-finned tuna, halibut, sardines, eggs and grass-fed beef.
2. Sea Vegetables
Your thyroid runs on iodine, like a car runs on gasoline. If you don’t get enough, and many are deficient in this nutrient, the production of thyroid hormones will be inhibited. While you could get meet your body’s daily iodine needs by consuming a ton of iodized salt, there are other, better sources.
Sea vegetables, which are plentiful in the ocean and readily available in massive amounts, are considered a superfood and have been a staple in Asian diets since ancient times. It’s one of the healthiest foods that can be consumed – packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Seaweed, including those commonly eaten types like arame, kelp, nori and wakame accumulate iodine in up to 30,000 times more concentrated forms than sea water – it’s considered the richest source of naturally occurring iodine there is. Just one gram is all you need to meet the recommended requirements. Snacking on nori dusted with a sprinkling of sea salt, or adding wakame to a miso soup are great ways to get your iodine.
Another bonus: consuming sea vegetables may help you lose weight as scientists at Newcastle University discovered a compound known as alginate in seaweed is most effective at preventing the absorption of fat in the gut. In fact, the research discovered that it may reduce the rate of fat absorption by 75 percent due to its inhibitory effect on a digestive enzyme known as lipase. That even surpasses the ability of most anti-obesity treatments available on store shelves.
3. Wild-caught Salmon
Fatty fish, including wild-caught salmon, sardines and trout, is packed with important omega-3 fatty acids that offer significant anti-inflammatory properties. As the majority of cases of underactive thyroid are the result of inflammation to the thyroid gland, eating foods rich in omega-3s can help cut inflammation and improve thyroid health. Your waistline will benefit too, as a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry has suggested, as those fatty acids may also trigger thyroid cells in the liver to burn more fat. Just be sure to choose wild-caught salmon, as farmed is not only less nutritious, it comes with numerous potential risks to your health.
4. Get Your Vitamin D
Many people are deficient in vitamin D, which offers important immune boosting and anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the thyroid from damage. Studies have shown that people diagnosed with hypothyroidism also typically suffer from a deficiency in this important vitamin. While it isn’t required for thyroid hormone production, it’s believed to modulate the function of thyroid function through other pathways.
To ensure your body gets enough vitamin D, not only should you spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun each day, but you may want to consume more vitamin D fortified foods like yogurt. Yogurt offers double the benefits, as it’s packed with probiotics that may help balance the good bacteria in the gut that is off when the thyroid isn’t working properly.
Beans are a versatile, inexpensive and highly nutritious food that can help keep your energy levels up, battling the fatiguing effects of hypothyroidism. As they’re also rich in fiber, that can help with another frustrating side effect of the condition: constipation. Beans are not only loaded with vitamins and minerals, protein antioxidants and complex carbs, some types, like lima beans are known to specifically support thyroid function.
Many beans, including lima beans, black beans, navy beans and pinto beans, are also rich in iodine, another important nutrient for thyroid health as mentioned previously.
Chlorophyll is a green pigment that’s instrumental in photosynthesis – and, studies suggest it’s also essential for promoting our overall health. It can boost energy levels as well as eradicate heavy metals that can inhibit the functioning of your thyroid.
Foods high in chlorophyll include grasses like wheatgrass – the greener the better, as that bright hue indicates their rich chlorophyll content. Wheatgrass is popular in juice form – drink a shot every morning for a great start to a more energetic day.
7. Spice Up Your Meals
Using lots of herbs and spices is great way to boost your metabolism as well as to support thyroid health. They offer a wide variety of health benefits, and some are particularly outstanding at warming the body up and increasing metabolism, such as chili peppers, garlic, black pepper, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Add cilantro as often as you can too, as it’s known to help rid the body of metals, especially mercury which is a known toxin for the thyroid gland.
8. Organic, Free-range Chicken
Tyrosine is an amino acid that serves as the building block for thyroid hormone and dopamine which are both essential for managing weight. A tyrosine deficiency can also lead to an underactive thyroid. While it can be found in foods like leafy greens and dairy, getting your tyrosine from free-range, organic chicken is a great option. It not only contains 132% of the recommended daily amount of tyrosine in just three ounces, but it’s also rich in B12. A B12 deficiency is also common among those that exhibit sluggish thyroid symptoms.
Choosing free-range organic chicken raised without antibiotics is your best choice, as it’s better nutritionally than standard chicken. You’ll also be able to avoid potentially unhealthy chemicals that often come with chickens that have been given antibiotics.
9. Extra Virgin, Organic Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is renowned for its wealth of benefits, including the ability to improve thyroid health. This healthy oil is a saturated fat primarily made up of medium-chain fatty acids, also known as medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, which are well-known for boosting the metabolism and promoting weight loss. As people with low thyroid function have difficulty losing weight, it makes coconut oil especially helpful. These MCTs also support thyroid function, hormonal health, liver health and brain function.
There are many ways to add coconut oil to your diet if you haven’t used it before – you can add a couple of teaspoons to your morning coffee, or use it as a replacement in cooking and baking for other oils.
10. Whole Eggs
Eggs got a bad rap for a while, causing many people to avoid the yolk and consume only the whites, making egg white omelets a very popular dish. But while egg whites are fat free, high in protein and lower in calories, yolks offer important benefits too. They contain healthy fats that help fuel energy and keep digestion running smoothly, as well as cholesterol which is the building block of hormones. Research has found that consuming as many as two whole eggs a day had no negative effects of cholesterol, and might even improve it. They also contain choline, vitamin D and B vitamins – all important for thyroid health.
11. Citrus Fruits
Heavy metals, particularly mercury, can wreak havoc on the thyroid, causing thyroid hormone production to grind to a halt, but food rich in pectin, like citrus can help naturally detox the body of heavy metals. Pectin is a gelatin-like fiber that sticks to toxic compounds in the blood and then flushes them out of the body through urine.
The fruits that contain the highest amount of pectin are citrus fruits like lemons, oranges and grapefruits, according to a study published in the Journal of Food Science. Other research, conducted by the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Sebastopol, California found that citrus pectin increased mercury excretion in urine by 150 percent. And, pectin can limit the amount of fat your cells absorb, helping you to win that ongoing weight battle.
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