What is a goitrogen? How does it affect my thyroid? Literally every cell in your body has receptors for thyroid hormone, so when there is too little or too much, the entire body is affected. Let us show you one way to maintain your thyroid health through good nutrition!
You may not think much about your thyroid gland, at least not unless it starts to function improperly. But your thyroid gland is vital to proper functioning of all body systems. By producing hormones that regulate your metabolic rate, the thyroid gland controls every system in your body.
Thyroid hormone is made of the amino acid tyrosine and iodine. Selenium is needed to convert the inactive form of thyroid hormone to the active form. These three nutrients come from your diet. It’s important to get enough of them from the foods you eat for proper thyroid function.
Goitrogens are substances that interfere with thyroid function. They can suppress the release of thyroid hormones, inhibit the absorption of iodine into the thyroid, or change the way thyroid hormone is made in the body. Surprisingly, some of the healthiest foods contain goitrogens. These include cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, mustard greens, radishes and turnips. Other goitrogenic foods include peaches, pears, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, sweet potato, almonds and soy.
Should you eat foods with goitrogens or not?
Good news! You would need to eat very large amounts of goitrogenic foods each day to suppress thyroid function. Most people don’t eat large enough portions to be concerning. However, moderation is key. When kale became popular as a superfood, some people started eating kale smoothies, kale salads, and kale side dishes every day, believing it was healthy for them but ending up hypothyroid. In this case, more isn’t necessarily better, and can be problematic.
More good news! Preparing goitrogenic foods a certain way can diminish their thyroid-suppressing potential. The process of cooking foods removes goitrogens. Steaming removes two-thirds of goitrogens while leaching out the fewest nutrients. Also, fermenting lessens the goitrogenic effect of foods.
Should you supplement with iodine if you eat goitrogenic foods?
The average person gets plenty of iodine in their diet because iodine is added to table salt. If you use non-iodized salt, such as sea salt, be sure to include foods in your diet that contain iodine. Fish, shrimp, other seafoods and seaweed are rich in iodine. Dairy products also contain iodine. Supplementing with iodine is usually not necessary and should be done under a doctor’s guidance.
Because selenium is also a necessary nutrient for optimal thyroid health, be sure to eat foods rich in selenium, including meats, fish, eggs and Brazil nuts.
The bottom line about goitrogens
- If you eat goitrogenic foods in moderate portions and cook them much of the time, goitrogenic foods should not be problematic.
- Make sure to eat foods rich in iodine and selenium to make sure you’re not deficient in these nutrients. Supplementing with extra iodine is not recommended except under the guidance of your doctor.
- While goitrogens aren’t usually a problem, even for people with thyroid disease, it’s prudent not to overdo raw goitrogen foods.