10 Foods that Affect Thyroid Health for Better or Worse

10 Foods that Affect Your Thyroid Health

Why learn about foods for your thyroid health?

Food heals. And when it comes to foods for your thyroid, it’s all the more true.

Foods that affect thyroid health often play a key role in whether your thyroid is functioning properly, so it makes sense to start there when you’re aiming to restore the health of your thyroid.

Food can be your friend or your enemy when you’re dealing with thyroid trouble, depending on which foods you’re focusing on.

Here’s a list of foods that can help or hurt your thyroid:

Foods That Nourish the Thyroid

Coconut oil. For many people, the simple act of eating more coconut oil is enough to raise their body temperature and supply them with natural energy, which indicates the powerful role coconut oil plays in thyroid health. Buy high quality coconut oil online here.


Cod liver oil. The bioavailable vitamin A in cod liver oil is especially supportive of healthy thyroid function, because the thyroid depends on plenty of natural vitamin A.


Butter. With its plentiful supply of vitamin A and iodine, butter remains a thyroid food that nourishes the whole body.


Eggs. Similar to butter, eggs are a rich source of vitamin A and iodine. Plus, they are en excellent source of protein. Getting plenty of natural amino acids through protein is good for your thyroid.


Seafood. The richest source of natural iodine, seafood played an important role in traditional Asian cultures. These people ate soy (highly fermented, of course) on a daily basis, but also ate plenty of iodine-rich seafood to counteract soy’s anti-nutrients. Sea vegetables like kelp and dulce are especially nutritious, and so is genuine fish broth.


Foods That Damage the Thyroid

Wheat and other grains like rye, barley, millet and oats. There has been some evidence of the link between gluten-sensitivity and poor thyroid function. If your thyroid isn’t in great shape, you’ll probably be better off restricting your intake of gluten. Millet contains goitrogens, and should be avoided if you’re concerned about your thyroid.


Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, turnips, brussels sprouts and kale. These veggies are known for their thyroid-suppressing properties because they contain goitrogens. Thorough cooking deactivates these to some extent. You don’t have to eliminate these vegetables from your diet, but it would be wise to reduce your intake if you’re concerned about thyroid health.


The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health FoodSoy in its many forms. Soy is a powerful food. Even a small serving of soy each day is enough to suppress thyroid function. So give your thyroid a break and ditch the soy.


Soy. Yes, I am including this one twice because it’s one of the worst foods for your thyroid. Don’t underestimate how damaging this food is to your metabolism.


Coffee. Caffeine overstimulates the thyroid and interferes with the absorption of nutrients that could benefit thyroid health. It’s best to limit your consumption of caffeine-laden beverages like coffee. ***(UPDATE Dec. 2012: My original ideas about coffee and thyroid may be incorrect. As it turns out, coffee may be beneficial to thyroid health in addition to providing other important benefits. Read my latest post on coffee here.)


Don’t Forget:

Remember that regardless of what you are or aren’t eating, not eating enough is a surefire way to interfere with natural thyroid function.

Dieting and under-eating are top contributors to thyroid imbalances, so make sure you are eating plenty of real food for your activity level and lifestyle.

Want to Learn More?the-nourished-metabolism-SPINE

You can read more about my thoughts on nutrition, stress and metabolism in my eBook The Nourished Metabolism. No gimmicks, just a balanced perspective on how you can improve your metabolic health. Click here to check it out.



10 Foods That Can Affect Your Thyroid Health for Better or Worse


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    • If you want to cut back on grains, I feel it’s best done gradually unless some medical reason warrants eliminating them all at once. Try having a “grain-free” day once a week at first just to get you familiar with how to work alternatives into your diet.

      We use grains a lot less than we used to, but we’re not grain-free. We still enjoy porridge a couple times a week, and have bread now and then. For us it’s been much easier to cut way down on grains rather than try to eliminate them altogether.

      • I went grain-free for 6 weeks recently. I did it cold turkey and found it a lot easier then I expected, as long as I kept my fat levels high (lots of coconut oil). I used baking made with almond flour during this time so I wasn’t totally deprived of baked foods. When I returned to grains I’ve stuck to non-cereal gluten-free grains like buckwheat and quinoa. Between those two grains I can still make pancakes, muffins, porridge, etc. and not feel deprived. I make sandwiches for my kids with buckwheat pancakes instead of bread.

        • Hmm, good idea for sandwiches! I haven’t done a lot of experimenting with buckwheat or quinoa yet. I know my Costco sells organic quinoa in bulk so maybe I’ll give it a whirl sometime. I rarely eat wheat myself anymore. Right now I’m on a big potato kick. They’re a great source of natural starch without a lot of antinutrients–no grains, no gluten! But we still eat corn and rice fairly regularly, too. I do try to limit the amount of gluten we eat, but as I said, I don’t try to be perfect and go totally gluten-free.

      • Also, listen to your body! Your exact chemistry is unique, and what works for someone else may not work well for you. I have Hashimoto’s and I reacted terribly to going grain free, despite slowly working it out of my diet.

        I later figured out that it wasn’t the gluten that was giving me problems, it was the HFCS and soy that is in most store-bought breads. I now bake my own bread, and include it a couple nights a week, and I’m doing much better now.

        • Really great point, Fayth. I totally agree. Many times with conventional food, it really is all the processed additives that cause the most problems. Many people notice lots of improvements just by going back to basics and skipping the more modern, processed ingredients.

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I have thought for some time that I had adrenal fatigue and a low functioning thyroid, but most doctors don’t believe in it. I’ve been reading your blog for just a few weeks, but find it invaluable. Thank you again. Definitely eliminating soy!

    • I know, there’s not a lot of medical help out there for people with these issues – or at least not from doctors who don’t want to shove a bunch of prescriptions in your face. Fortunately, though, there is a lot of information out there for people interested in taking charge of their own health. I will definitely be covering the topics of adrenal fatigue and thyroid function on this blog regularly.

  2. For me, more coconut = less cold hands and feet, so I’m a believer. The two things I probably need to add more of are cod liver oil and seafood or sea veggies (we’re in the Midwest, so fresh seafood is not readily found). I’ve been cutting back on grains and avoid soy like the plague. I know what I eat really influences how I feel.

    Thanks for sharing this post.

  3. Thanks for raising the flag about soy. I hadn’t paid too much attention to it, but after reading your posts and doing some extra research, it strikes me as the HFCS-to-be in. It’s in everything, it’s scary. I am particularly shocked by the fact that baby formula is made out of unfermented soy. The main problem is that, the GMO-fed soybean industry is ironically protected by the fact that so many vegetarians base their diet on soy and dismiss the threat, believing that it’s a conspiracy that has been instigated by the Weston Price, i.e evil meat lovers.

    • LOL You know every time I post a meat/egg/dairy-friendly article on Natural News, I get hate mail from people who accuse me of getting paid by the meat/egg/dairy industry to promote their food. Ridiculous. Weston A. Price never endorsed anything close to modern meat productions. And I’m sure he wouldn’t have endorsed modern soy consumption, either (especially for babies!).

      • I have introduced coconut oil into my diet as well as vastly reducing my gluten legumes and eliminating soy.
        I have a teaspoon of coconut oil in my morning coffee it is tasteless so I dont even notice it.
        The fabulous side effect is I have stopped craving potato chips (crisps) and cream cakes.
        My weight is reducing and I am feeling so much better.

  4. Do you think that the thyroid-suppressing properties of cabbage would be negated or reduced if the cabbage was lacto-fermented in making sauerkraut?

    • Most experts agree that fermentation reduces the thyroid damaging effects of cabbage. Some even claim fermented cabbage can nourish the thyroid. Also, fermented foods are eaten in smaller amounts so even if there were anti-nutrients involved it would be on a much smaller scale.

  5. I’m pretty sure I have a thyroid problem though I eat a lot of the good foods and the only “bad” one I’ve been consuming this past year (but off of it now) is coffee. I drank a LOT of coffee though (two babies) so I think that made my problems a lot worse. Whether it’s Adrenal Fatigue of Hypothyroidism or both, I don’t know, but I have been taking supplements and they seem to be helping take the edge off my fatigue. Especially the saltwater mixed with vitamin C in the morning. Strangely enough taking magnesium in the evening seems to have the opposite effect then it should, it actually gives me energy then I can’t sleep at night. :(

    Another goitrogenic food is raw strawberries. Something to watch out for this berry season. :) -Simone

    • Yes, I’ve read that adrenal health and thyroid health are closely linked. I think it was Julia Ross who said to address the adrenals first because the thyroid needs healthy adrenals to function properly.

      I did not know about raw strawberries. Interesting.

      • I had no idea about strawberries. You can’t really eat them cooked. They would just be mush. Would that be okay if they were cooked. You know how butter is good for you. Well is that only if there is no additives in the butter. Because Western Star for eg.g has soy and many other additives for flavour etc. Now I have read more about soy I won’t be eating that butter unless it is true butter with no artificial products. I have half a thyroid and my TSH blood test says it is 5.16 so I am hoping that is not to bad.

  6. I would like to see the studies that show that coconut oil is good for the thyroid. I have tried to find them, but no luck. When I tried I only found a few ambiguous studies suggesting that coconut oil is in fact bad for thyroid function.

    Recommending that anyone take cod liver oil (except for those with proven vitamin A deficiency) is extremely irresponsible, because most Westerners already get enough of it and unlike with most vitamins, even amounts slightly above the RDA can be harmful.

    • Yes, if you have low thyroid function I recommend staying away from soy as much as you can. I don’t recommend getting neurotic about it, of course. If you can avoid most processed foods then you’ll be avoiding most hidden sources of soy. Otherwise steer clear of soy milk, tofu burgers and the like.

      Unfortunately doctors are taught very little about nutrition and how foods affect our health, unless they go out of their way to learn it.

    • For thyroid health (and health in general), I would say the opposite is true. Low sodium levels can contribute to adrenal stress, which would suppress thyroid health. Low cholesterol is unnecessary, as cholesterol is a building block for hormones that promote thyroid health.

  7. Its theses hybrid foods that i now understand we should all avoid, anything that we eat that god has not provided for us we have problems, ive long ditched wheat, brown and white rice has cyanide, it just goes on i substitue my rice for wild / black rice, flour kinds  ancient kind like kemut, amaranth, teff and keenwah, it seems to be working,  

  8. This article on what to eat,and what not to eat while having a throid condition is
    extremely informative.Very useful tips and information.

  9. What about if you have an over-active (hyper) thyroid? My mum and I both have hyperthyroidism, so does my uncle. We have been informed we probably have something called Graves disease, as there are a few of us in the family with a hyper thyroid. Should we be following the same advise regarding food – or doing the complete opposite? Should we be eating more soy etc?
    At the moment, my mum and I are medication free – it took 2 years to stabilise my mums thyroid (her count was in the 60’s), and over 3 to stabilise mine (which was off our hospitals chart – they stop counting at 100). But we have been told we will most likely relapse at some point, because of the probability of Graves. If this happens and it can’t be re-stabilised, the thyroid could be removed or radiated, which would result in a lifetime of meds. If we could try and avoid this through simple changes in diet, that would be fantastic.
    We don’t eat much soy, but we do eat a lot of wheat.

  10. You might want to point out the difference between being hypO and hypER thyroid. “Foods that nourish the thyroid” sounds benign but if someone who’s hypER took your advice to consume lots of coconut oil they might end up with heart palpitations (I certainly would) and seafood, especially shellfish, is very dangerous for anyone who’s hypER due to the high iodine content (not to mention mercury which is bad for everyone). As a person with Grave’s disease it drives me crazy that all thyroid problems are assumed to be due to hypothyroidism–it’s just not true and I feel it’s very important that people giving advice be very clear that there’s a difference and what is beneficial for one person might land another in the hospital with thyroid storm.

  11. I just found this article, but it is great! I was just able to go down (again!) on my Armour Thyroid dosage. I have been eating pretty much everything on your “good” list! Coconut oil, cod liver oil, raw butter from my cow, eggs from my backyard, and seafood when the budget allows. Now to reduce my grain consumption… Thanks for the great info!

    • Don’t worry, I don’t believe in rigidly restricting foods. I think the best approach is to make small adjustments and see how your body responds. No need to cut out food groups altogether!

      (You might want to read the post I link to in the coffee section–coffee definitely has its benefits!)

  12. I just found your blog and love it! Thank you for all of the great tips. I just found out I have hypo this past year, while trying to get pregnant. It seems the two don’t mix. I have corrected it using a prescription, but am not totally on board with being dependent on it for the rest of my life. After reading through the food lists, it makes sense to me as to why my thyroid wasn’t an obstacle for getting pregnant the first time. I was eating much better, consistently, and most of the foods on the list. Since then, I’ve changed my eating mostly due to stress and budget. We can’t afford seafood every week like we used to eat. Any word on spinach? Did I miss that? I eat that probably 5 times a week. Thank again! This could be one of my favorite blogs. I especially appreciate the down to earth tone. :)

    • Adrenal Gland and Thyroid issues are all tied together. Please check out Dr. Patrick Flynn of The Wellness Way, Green Bay, WI. He has Website, FaceBook page and several You-tube videos explaining issues.

      I have become a patient of his and feel better through his testing and supplement program.

    • I think spinach is probably fine if it is cooked well. Raw green veggies contain cellulose which can irritate the digestion system, and often goitrogenic (thyroid-suppressive) properties as well. I always recommend cooking veggies well.

  13. Fantastic article. So helpful I posted it on my Facebook page for Hypothyroid Mom. I had a reader ask if there is any difference in the foods recommended for hypothyroidism vs hyperthyroidism. That was a great question and I thought to ask you if in your research for this post if you came across different food recommendations for them. Thanks.

    • I’ve read some interesting information about how hyperthyroid symptoms are connected to thyroid imbalance and high stress hormones. If this is the case, then eating pro-thyroid foods might actually promote thyroid healing even in hyperthyroidism. I always recommend listening to your body and gauging its response to any food so you can decide if it’s beneficial or not, though.

    • In a way, yes. The foods in the “better” category, for instance, have other health benefits besides just supporting thyroid health. Eating well will nourish your body on many levels, thyroid included.

  14. […] Nourished Metabolism is a great book- here is a great link from The Nourished Life and the Author- 10 Foods that affect thyroid health for better for worse- http://www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2010/01/10-foods-that-affect-thyroid-health-for […]

  15. I was feeling great on my thyroid meds for hashimoto’s. 88mcg. Then I started eating a lot of soy because I’d read somewhere that it was good for me. Oh boy. Worst thing EVER for my thyroid. I was tired all the time and the meds were just not working anymore. I didn’t know why so I started cutting things out of my diet. When I stopped eating and drinking SOY, bingo, meds started working again. hypo thyroid=NO SOY. I don’t near the stuff now.

  16. This post was very informative–thank you! I also bought your book a while back and its definitely helped me to make a few necessary changes to my diet for optimal metabolic function. I’m still very much healing but your book and website have been great resources along the way :)

  17. I’ve just stumbled on this site and am very interested. My (hypo)thyroid has been under control for awhile – been on Synthroid for years. But recently have been having problems with wheat and eliminated it (have been off dairy for more than a year). Once I eliminated wheat, I gained weight and am struggling to lose it. I do eat soy but have found a local maker that makes non-gmo soy. I’m wondering if this is better or if you still think that soy, even non-gmo, is bad?

    • Hi just curious Jill during the time you have been on dairy. Have you suffered from HAYFEVER, SNEEZING, CONGESTED, craving for sugar, if craving for sugar, you would also be craving for bread or toast. Just curious what sort of problems were you having when eating wheat products?? My daughter is 14 she gets these little red pimples on her arms like a rash. We were told it was to much gluten. My daughter has also having issues with weight though going through puberty. I am trying to get her to cut back on sugar, bread, dairy. Though it concerns me if she stops drinking milk where else will she get the same amount of calcium from.

  18. Soy is in everything…I have gone out of my way to buy items that do not contain soy because not only is it bad for the thyroid it has chemicals in it that mimick estrogen.

  19. I need more evidence that all soy is bad. I drink shaklee shakes and they are soy. I have called product support and they sent me info about how some soy is damaging but there is a lot of misleading info out there. I need more proof!

  20. I also read an interview by Edward Bauman is has done a story on being the METABOLIC DETECTIVE AND IT INVOLVES MARY J SHOMON – IS YOUR THYROID MAKING YOU FAT. Reading Edward Baumans story was a real eyeopener. I am keen to keep reading and hearing about other peoples issues with Thyroid because I believe we will all learn how to improve from discussing what helps and what doesn’t.

  21. Would anyone know please what to substitute LECITHIN with because this health food shop I go to sells it by the gallon full. LECITHIN is a soy food. I put it on my cereal with sunflower seeds, pepitas,
    flaxseeds, I then had a folate tablet and Red Krill oil. Then two Vitamin D tablets because I have low level of (D) is 59. I had a great sleep last night then not long after my cereal and tablets I started feeling extremely tired. Would any of those things affect my Thyroid. IF I already have a high TSH 5.14 and T4 is 12.1 ???

  22. Love quinoa, and know that it’s one of the healthiest foods out there for most people. As a vegetarian with hypothyroidism, and as one who isn’t fond of eggs, I’d love to be able to continue to include quinoa in my diet on a frequent basis since acceptable vegetarian protein sources appear to be quite limited due to goitrogenic effects of so many typical vegetarian protein sources. Unfortunately, I’ve read that quinoa is also a goitrogen. : O What to do??? Any ideas?

  23. I eat everything on the top list, except I use kelp for iodine vs. seafood, as I don’t like seafood.

    On the do not eat list, the only one I regularly partake in is the veggies — I have been eating a lot of cabbage lately (the past 2 weeks). (not a lot — but I eat sauerkraut for the probiotic benefits of healing a leaky gut, maybe 2 Tablespoons per day 5x per week)and the other veggies on the list I eat a few times a month maybe.

    And my diet has had no effect whatsoever on my thyroid. None.

    I am still hypo and needing medication. I am a bit wary of these types of articles that give people false hope. :( Every person’s body is different.

    • You’re totally right, Rebecca–everyone’s body is different and there’s no “perfect” way for everyone to eat. These are just some general guidelines, but I always heartily recommend everyone pay attention to how their body responds and do what works for them.

  24. it all depends on whether your thyroid is overactive or underactive. Cruciferous food works well for hyperthyroidism. Most of the foods suggested by you are for normal persons or whose thyroids are underactive.

  25. The major thing this list left out is unfiltered, fluoridated water that calcifies the thyroid and pineal gland. Fluoride is a by product of commercial fertilizer and not good for the body. In many other countries a medicine they use for hypo (slow) thyroid is fluoride. Make sure to use fluoride free toothpaste too!

  26. Just a wee note-the science behind not eating cruciferous vegetables is not proven-it was thought it might inhibit thyroid function, but later research has prove them beneficial

  27. I had my thyroid removed completely. So should I be worried about soy? I drink it some times and I don’t see a problem. I don’t drink whole or any kind of milk cause I’m lactose and tolerant.

    • I would still have some concerns about soy because it can be difficult to digest, and still has estrogenic properties that may lead to hormonal imbalances. It’s something I would use in moderation. Coconut milk may be a better choice as a dairy alternative.

  28. Hi,
    I’ve had thyroid cancer 3 years ago and don’t have a thyroid anymore. What are your thoughts /suggestions for me?

    • The foods I talk about in this post can affect many systems in the body that influence hormonal health (such as estrogen levels, or how thyroid hormone is used in the body). The “rules” don’t have to be followed religiously (I promote a balanced approach!), but the list of foods might give you something to consider about how those foods might be affecting your body.

  29. I just read that taking L-Carnitine or Alpha Lipoic Acid does interfer with the T4-T3 conversion in hypothyroidism. Does anyone else have any information about this?

  30. Consult your doctor, people. Mine told me to stay away from dairy (hyper). Don’t rely on internet sources as they can be quite inaccurate.

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