Special Dietary Recommendations for people with Hypothyroidism

Michael Rosenberg
Michael Rosenberg

Specializes in translating complex information into readable, engaging content. Michael@top10us.com

What is hypothyroidism? 

Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is a condition in which the thyroid is unable to produce enough hormones for the body to work at a good speed and with adequate energy. 

The thyroid gland is present at the base of your front neck and has a butterfly shape. The pituitary gland sends a signal in the form of thyroid-stimulating hormone TSH to the thyroid gland to initiate the production of the hormone which is then released to the bloodstream.

Primary hypothyroidism  

Sometimes thyroid doesn’t secrete hormones despite having sufficient TSH, this condition is known as primary hypothyroidism and is a more common type. The main reason for primary hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disease, it occurs when the immune system confuses healthy body cell and invades it which in turn affects the thyroid glands. Some other causes of primary hypothyroidism are certain medications, family history of the disease, iodine deficiency, radiation therapy, and surgery for thyroid removal. 

Secondary hypothyroidism 

If the pituitary gland is not working properly, it cannot send enough TSH to produce thyroid hormones, in this case, the thyroid would not be able to produce enough hormones due to lack of instructions, this condition is called secondary hypothyroidism. 

Why thyroid hormones are important?

Thyroid hormones are the control center for metabolism, growth, and cell repair. If their production is inadequate then their deficiency would lead to weight gain, fatigue, cold sensation, hair loss, dry skin and hair, and low heart rate along with slow reflexes. 

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism

1-2% of people become the victim of hypothyroidism worldwide with ten times more women patients than men.  If you feel any symptoms, then go to the doctor to determine whether are you suffering from hypothyroidism or not. Your doctor will do your medical evaluation by physical examination and by blood tests like TSH tests. If you are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, then you should start your medication and proper diet on an urgent basis because it can get serious if prolonged. A combination of the right medication with an appropriate diet would reverse the effects of hypothyroidism. 

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Effect of hypothyroidism on metabolism

The thyroid hormones control the rate of metabolism, if it runs fast, then more calories will be burnt by the body at rest. People with hypothyroidism are likely to produce less hormone which will slow down the speed of metabolism and very few calories will be burnt. 

Slow metabolism means a heap of diseases such as tiredness, obesity, and high blood cholesterol level. Weight maintenance is quite helpful in hypothyroidism, if you feel difficulty maintaining or shred weight then moderate or high-intensity cardio is a good solution. Cardio includes exercises like hiking, fast walking, running, and rowing. If you do high intensity aerobic workout, then it may help you to speed up the metabolism by uplifting the thyroid hormone level. Additionally, people with hypothyroidism should increase the intake of protein, because a protein-rich diet increases the rate of metabolism. 

Important nutrients

Some nutrients can help you maintain your thyroid health or can boost the rate of metabolism. 

  1. Iodine

People with iodine deficiency are at risk of hypothyroidism because iodine is an essential element to produce thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is one of the biggest reasons for underactive thyroids, almost one-third of the world’s population is facing iron deficiency but people who are using iodized salts and iodine-rich seafood are less likely to suffer from it. 

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency, then include iodized table salts in your food and start eating iodine-rich foods like fish, eggs, seaweeds, and dairy to minimize the chances of hypothyroidism. It is not recommended to take iodine supplements because you can get enough iodine from your diet and its excessive amount can damage the thyroid gland. 

  1. Selenium

Selenium activates the thyroid hormones for the use of the body, it also has antioxidants so it can protect the thyroid gland from damage that may be caused by free radicles. So, it is beneficial to add selenium-rich foods to your diet to uplift the selenium levels. Its sources are eggs, Brazil nuts, tuna, legumes, and sardines. However, you should avoid taking selenium supplements without a doctor’s recommendation because supplements have large doses of selenium which could be toxic. 

  1. Zinc

Zinc along with selenium activates the thyroid hormones to make them available to the body. IT also plays a part to regulate TSH which instructs the thyroid glands to secrete thyroid hormones. 

Zinc is abundant in food, so people in rich countries are less likely to have a zinc deficiency. It is good for people with hypothyroidism to add zinc-rich foods to their diet, its major sources are chicken, oysters, beef, and shellfish. 

Harmful nutrients

Adding good nutrients to your diet won’t help you unless you avoid harmful nutrients for hypothyroidism. 


Goitrogens are compounds that can interfere with the normal working of thyroid glands. Many foods that you eat in your regular meals are rich in goitrogens. 

  • Nuts and seeds like peanuts, millet, etc.
  • Soy foods like tofu, edamame, etc.
  • Fruits and starchy plants like strawberries, sweet potatoes, peaches, etc.
  • Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, cabbage, etc.

People with hypothyroidism should avoid goitrogens, especially those who have iron deficiency too because goitrogens interfere when you have a condition due to iron deficiency except millet that is likely to interfere with thyroid function with no iron deficiency.  

Unluckily, you would not be able to avoid all those foods but if you eat them in a moderate amount and cooked ideally then it may also help. You should avoid highly processed foods because they have a large number of calories that could cause weight gain. 

The foods that you should avoid completely are millet, cakes, cookies, hot dogs, inadequate amounts of selenium and iodine. But you can have some foods in moderation like tofu, peaches, strawberries, spinach, cabbage, soy milk, pears, coffee, alcohol, kale, and green tea. Sacrificing these foods won’t hurt you much as you still have a long list of good foods for hypothyroidism such as eggs, all meats, almost all fruits, all dairy products, and gluten-free grains. 

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Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism and Thyroid Tests


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