Foods to Avoid if You Are Hypothyroid
Dr. Ben Kim, an Ontario Chiropractor has a wonderful, instructive newsletter. http://www.healthiertalk.com/users/bkim
There are certain foods that may impact thyroid function. I encourage you to explore some of these findings even if they go against your present judgment. What you find may be a little surprising, or a bit counter-intuitive. I am in no way suggesting that anyone stops eating any of these foods altogether, or adopts a rigid system of eating. I am suggesting choice and moderation.
In the next sections, I will be putting forth concepts that may be beneficial to the hypothyroid. However, I do not want anyone to misconstrue information for advice. I believe that eating and food choices are personal matters and can vary from person to person.
The first set of foods to avoid includes over-processed and refined foods. This refers to white breads, white flour, and basic junk foods. These don’t offer much nutritional value and can contribute to problems with insulin resistance and hormonal difficulties. They are also calorie-rich and not generally helpful in decreasing weight. We will get into greater detail with these items in the next section when we talk about low-carb vs. low-fat diets. Thyroid concerns and Type 2 Diabetes often exist simultaneously.
People with hypothyroidism are often told to avoid goitrogenic foods. Goitrogenic refers to the fact that these foods can increase your likelihood of developing a goiter by decreasing thyroid hormone production. Remember, a goiter is a lump in your neck, caused by an inflammation of the thyroid. It’s not pretty.
The funny thing about these foods is that the majority of them are very healthy, in general. The incidence of their consumption causing a goiter is gone if you cook or steam them.
The following foods are considered goitrogenic: cabbage, broccoli, turnips, rutabaga, mustard greens, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, peaches, pears, strawberries, and radishes cauliflower, millet, and African cassava.
These foods should not be eaten in large quantities and generally not raw especially if you are on thyroid replacement hormones and still have a thyroid because they can negatively interact with your medication, nullifying its effects. Cooking seems to break down the enzymes enough to make the anti-thyroid effect a non-factor. Other foods on this list are potatoes and corn. These starchy vegetables may also have a goitrogenic effect, although we, in the Western world, are less likely to consume either of these raw anyway. Therefore, they may not be of much importance for us.
I’ve read some research that cautions the hypothyroid against drinking water with fluoride in it. Though distilled water is used by many, my research has made me aware that distilled water is “empty water” and with continued use may leach minerals from your system. I have, however, found no studies on the matter and want to caution people against reducing their intake of water. Most of us don’t drink enough as it is and I’d hate to give anyone an excuse not to drink their water, especially if edema (swelling) is one of their symptoms of hypothyroidism. (Believe it or not increasing your water intake reduces swelling. It flushes out the edema in your system.)
The final food product that has been deemed questionable for the hypothyroid is soy. Yes, soy! I know that may be shocking because soy is hailed as a hormonal savior these days. However, that may not be true for the thyroid.
Some experts contend that as little as 30 mg of soy isoflavones will cause trouble by competing with hormones for the same receptor sites on cells. Because of that, they can cause endocrine disruptions. The endocrine system may mistake the isoflavones for a hormone and not send out signals that the hormone needs to be produced, which could be problematic if you already have lower than normal levels of thyroid hormone production.
Soy isoflavones can also wreak havoc on the thyroid by causing anti-thyroid antibodies to be produced. This would create a situation in which the thyroid would attack itself just as in autoimmune thyroiditis. Over time, this could cause hypothyroidism to occur or worsen, if it already exists. Dr. Ben Kim, whose articles I trust, feels that soy is best when it is fermented. He believes miso to be effective.
Dr. David Zava, Ph.D. is a biochemist who has found another potential problem with soy. It seems that there is a certain anti-nutrient contained in unprocessed or ‘raw’ soybeans that acts a goitrogen. This anti-nutrient contains a chemical which interacts with iodine. Remember that iodine is needed to make thyroid hormone (in conjunction with the amino acid tyrosine, of course). It prevents the body from absorbing iodine and can lead to problems with low thyroid hormone production.
However, the jury is still out on soy. Many experts still say the benefits outweigh the risks. Some even say that there are no risks. Soy can be a part of a healthy diet, but in moderation. Many nutritionists do recommend no more than two servings a day because it is considered a ‘dairy’ replacement.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the foods you should watch out for, we can move along. I hope that I haven’t scared anyone off of raw vegetables or soy products. I don’t really feel too terribly if you are going to limit or avoid refined and over-processed carbohydrates and sugars altogether.
Any of the foods in this section needn’t be eliminated from your diet completely. You can enjoy them in moderation and as part of a well-balanced diet. In the next section, we will discuss more about what constitutes a well-balanced, healthy hypothyroid diet. We will leap into the low-carb vs. low-fat debate. In the section after that, we will look at some popular diet plans and see if they are good for your thyroid or not.
Foods made with fermented soy are thought to be healthier than those made with unfermented soy. Examples of foods made with fermented soy are miso, tempeh, and naturally brewed soy sauce.Tofu and soy milk are examples of foods made with unfermented soy, although sometimes, tofu, once it’s made, is fermented to produce fermented tofu dishes in East Asian cooking – mostly Chinese.
Dr. Kim – a health practitioner I Trust, http://drbenkim.com/ in an interview with Josh, says:Josh: Is soy as good for you as many in the health food movement would have us believe?
Dr. Kim: To me, soy is just another food. I think that you can eat soy and be healthy, but you don’t need to eat it to be healthy.
Josh: In health food stores you see "soy" everything -- soy milk, soy dairy, etc. Many people, especially vegans, consume soy as if it were oxygen. They think they're doing their body good but perhaps they're not?
Dr. Kim: Right, I think the most important point here is that it’s best to eat a variety of foods. Anytime you eat too much of one specific food, especially if that food is rich in protein, you may increase your risk of eventually becoming intolerant to that food. I’ve seen this happen to people with soy milk, tahini, almonds, and a number of other protein-dense foods.
Lots of processed foods made with soy – like meat-substitutes – they’re made with soy protein isolate, which is a highly processed food that can’t be as good for us as soybeans that are minimally or naturally processed.
Fermentation is a “natural” type of processing that doesn’t have the potential to hurt the nutrient value of soybeans the way that high temperature processing techniques do.
I think I know what you’re getting at with this question. Some people become vegan and turn to soy cheese, soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy nuggets, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy everything to feel like they aren’t depriving themselves of foods that they enjoyed in the past. The vast majority of these highly processed foods are made with soy protein isolate and preservatives, and in my opinion, they’re no better than French fries, donuts, and regular fast food fare.