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An image of the Author and Top Nutrition Coaching nutritionist, Nicolette
Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN

Top 10 Diet Tips for Hypothyroidism, According to a Dietitian

Discover which nutrients help support optimal thyroid health and which are best avoided by individuals with an underactive thyroid.
An image of the Author and Top Nutrition Coaching nutritionist, Nicolette
Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN

Top 10 Diet Tips for Hypothyroidism, According to a Dietitian

Discover which nutrients help support optimal thyroid health and which are best avoided by individuals with an underactive thyroid.
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Hypothyroidism is a condition where someone has an underactive thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck. An underactive thyroid gland doesn’t release enough thyroid hormones into your bloodstream. This can slow down your metabolism and result in symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness, dry skin and hair, joint pain, depression, and difficulty tolerating the common cold.  

Although the symptoms of hypothyroidism can significantly impact your quality of life, the good news is that it is a very treatable condition, thanks to synthetic thyroid hormones. However, following the best diet for hypothyroidism for your needs is also essential for taking care of your thyroid.

Optimizing your nutrition to enhance thyroid function can help manage and offset certain symptoms of an underactive thyroid and may even prevent them from worsening. In this article, we’ll delve into various nutritional approaches and strategies to help you follow a thyroid-friendly diet.

Why Should You Follow a Healthy Diet for Hypothyroidism?

The hormones produced by the thyroid gland are critical for numerous bodily processes. Conversely, thyroid problems can affect many parts of the body. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, untreated hypothyroidism may lead to serious conditions, including 

  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Weight gain
  • Infertility
  • Nerve damage
  • High cholesterol and heart disease

While an underactive thyroid gland can affect anyone, middle-aged and older women are most likely to have this condition. Individuals with a family history of thyroid disease and those with certain autoimmune diseases are also at higher risk.  

Although hypothyroidism cannot be prevented, there are ways to treat it and manage the symptoms, especially with early intervention. Although the best way to treat hypothyroidism is with prescription medication for synthetic thyroid hormones, there are also foods that can complement this treatment. 

However, it’s important to consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet or taking any new dietary supplements. This is especially true for individuals with hypothyroidism. For example, a diet containing iodine-rich foods can help support thyroid hormone production, but too much iodine could potentially be harmful.

10 Tips for Choosing the Best Diet for Hypothyroidism

Individuals with hypothyroidism are likely to have good medical outcomes after taking synthetic thyroid hormones. However, there are ways to support this treatment by following a hypothyroid diet. We’ve put together these tips and suggestions to help people with hypothyroidism manage and possibly even alleviate certain symptoms.

1. Talk to Your Doctor and Consider Trying Thyroid Hormone Replacement Medication

Due to the wide range of symptoms associated with the condition, an underactive thyroid can often go undiagnosed. If you are concerned that you might have thyroid disease, set up an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms. 

Your doctor may recommend a thyroid function test (sometimes referred to as a free T4 test) to measure your hormone levels and detect if there’s a problem.

If your doctor diagnoses you with an underactive thyroid, they will likely prescribe a thyroid hormone replacement medication known as levothyroxine.

When combined with the correct dietary approach, this thyroid medication is a great way to treat hypothyroidism and ensure your body has enough thyroid hormone in the bloodstream.

2. Monitor Your Iodine Intake 

Having sufficient iodine in your diet is integral to healthy thyroid function. However, iodine deficiency is rare in developed countries because of the widespread addition of iodine to food and salt.

For most people, a balanced diet ensures that they receive enough iodine to support healthy thyroid function. Well-rounded nutrition means you won’t require any supplemental iodine.

Additionally, increasing your dietary iodine intake won't alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms unless an iodine deficiency is the root cause of your condition, which is highly unlikely. In fact, too much iodine could even worsen the condition or lead to other thyroid problems, such as hyperthyroidism.

3. Consider Iodine Supplements (If You Are Iodine Deficient)

While the likelihood of being iodine deficient is rare in the United States and other developed countries, 30% of the world’s population is vulnerable to this problem. If your doctor has said that your thyroid issues are connected to an iodine deficiency, you’ll likely have a discussion about taking iodine supplements. 

If you need to choose an iodine supplement, be conscious of dosage recommendations, ingredients, and overall quality, and always consult with a healthcare professional, such as your physician or a registered dietitian, before beginning supplementation.

4. Get Enough Selenium in Your Hypothyroidism Diet Plan

Selenium is widely recognized as a mineral that can bolster thyroid hormone production while shielding the thyroid from oxidative stress-related damage. The body does not produce selenium, so it must be obtained from your diet.

Although selenium will not prevent hypothyroidism on its own, getting the recommended amount from your diet may be a helpful preventative measure. Selenium-rich foods include:

  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Legumes
  • Brazil nuts

Selenium supplements can also be helpful in specific instances. However, you should only take them if recommended by a healthcare professional. Too much selenium intake could lead to diarrhea, hair loss, nail loss, skin rashes, nausea, and acute selenium toxicity.

5. Cook Your Cruciferous Vegetables 

In their raw form, cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens, which might impede one’s ability to produce thyroid hormones. 

However, cooked cruciferous veggies offer many nutrients and potential health benefits and won’t worsen thyroid functionality if eaten in moderate amounts. In particular, broccoli and kale don’t hold many goitrogens, and cooking them reduces goitrogenic activity. 

6. Consider a Gluten-Free Diet

Gluten-free diets are growing in popularity for people with gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. Some people live with both celiac disease and hypothyroidism.

According to clinical trial-based research, there’s reason to believe that a gluten-free diet may benefit individuals suffering from an autoimmune thyroid condition. You may also find that a gluten-free diet improves your energy levels and supports weight loss, though it is not a substitute for thyroid hormone replacement medication.

More specifically, some research suggests that eliminating gluten from one’s diet could be effective for those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that can lead to hypothyroidism. However, far more research is needed to definitively support going gluten-free for hypothyroidism. 

7. Prioritize Food Containing Zinc

Individuals with hypothyroidism may benefit from a zinc-rich diet. Some research suggests that combining selenium and zinc supplementation may improve thyroid function in women suffering from hypothyroidism.

Zinc is present in many foods, so it shouldn’t be too hard to ensure you receive enough in your diet. Getting the recommended amount of zinc won’t be harmful, even if its dietary implications for hypothyroidism are not yet fully understood.

Examples of zinc-rich foods include:

  • Beef
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Fortified cereals
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Legumes

8. Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

Reducing the added sugars and ultra-processed foods in your diet could help your thyroid-related symptoms while supporting a healthy weight and enhancing overall wellness. Ideally, try to replace them with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods whenever possible. 

Examples of ultra-processed, sugary foods and beverages include: 

  • Donuts
  • Cakes
  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Hot dogs
  • Fast food

9. Avoid These Foods, Medications, and Supplements When Taking Thyroid Medication

When you begin taking levothyroxine for an underactive thyroid, your doctor is likely to advise you about certain foods and supplements to avoid, as they may interfere with the effectiveness of synthetic thyroid hormone. These include: 

  • Calcium supplements
  • Iron supplements
  • Acid reducers or antacids
  • Fiber bars, fiber drinks, bran flakes, and other foods high in fiber
  • High-iodine foods
  • Soy-based foods

10. Ensure You Get Enough Vitamin D

There is some research linking a deficiency in vitamin D to autoimmune diseases and hypothyroidism. Some studies indicate that individuals with thyroid conditions may benefit from vitamin D supplements. 

Regardless of the specific link between vitamin D and hypothyroidism, it is widely accepted that vitamin D is essential for strong bones and healthy growth. Vitamin D can be obtained through healthy exposure to sunlight and is contained in certain foods, though some people are deficient in vitamin D without realizing it. 

How Top Nutrition Coaching Can Help 

Getting a diagnosis of hypothyroidism can be very stressful. If you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and that support is available. While the most important aspect of your treatment is taking prescription medication for your underactive thyroid, your diet also plays an important role in managing symptoms and helping you feel your best. 

You may have noticed that there is a lot of conflicting information online about the best diet for hypothyroidism. Furthermore, you’ll only be able to find general guidance that isn’t tailored to your specific medical history and health objectives. 

How can you decide what’s valid and accurate? How can you be sure that a specific diet will work for your symptoms? Or perhaps you want to take preventative measures as you age and aren’t sure where to start.

The dedicated team of nutrition experts at Top Nutrition Coaching can guide to find the best diet for hypothyroidism for you. Every nutritionist in our network is a highly qualified registered dietitian with years of experience. Many of our dietitians have a significant amount of experience working with individuals with thyroid problems.

How to Get Started

Getting started with Top Nutrition Coaching and successfully managing your hypothyroidism is as straightforward as taking our quiz and waiting to be matched with the most suitable dietitian for your needs. They’ll work with you to develop a personalized nutrition plan based on your health, lifestyle, and dietary preferences and will help you learn about how to use nutrition as a tool to fuel and strengthen your body.  

You don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to receive top-tier nutritional counseling and support that will enhance your quality of life and help you make beneficial food choices that give your body exactly what it needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many misconceptions about an underactive thyroid. Here are our answers to some of the questions we’re frequently asked about hypothyroidism:

What’s the best hypothyroidism diet?

There is no single best hypothyroid diet, as every individual has unique needs. However, these foods are generally considered healthy choices in a diet for hypothyroidism: legumes, nuts, olive oil, lean meats, fresh fruits, and other whole foods. Moderate amounts of complex carbs, eggs, and dairy products can also be included. 

What foods worsen your hypothyroidism?

Those with hypothyroidism should avoid raw cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, turnips, and Brussels sprouts because they may prevent your thyroid from using iodine. 

Should I take an iodine supplement for hypothyroidism?

Unless you have been diagnosed with an iodine deficiency (which is very rare in the United States), you should not take an iodine supplement. Although iodine supports healthy thyroid function, most people in the developed world get enough from their diet. Too much iodine can actually cause further thyroid issues.

Are bananas good for my thyroid?

All fruits—bananas included—are suitable for your thyroid if you eat them in moderation.

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An image of the Author and Top Nutrition Coaching nutritionist, Nicolette
Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
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