5 Nutritional Myths About the Thyroid

thyroid function examination
By: Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD

The thyroid is a gland located in front of your neck that releases hormones that affect just about every part of our body. In fact, the thyroid affects our metabolism by telling our cells how to use calories from food. Our metabolism in turn affects our temperature, our weight and our heartbeat, which is why these are some of the symptoms of an over- or under- active thyroid.

With thyroid diseases on the rise, there are many misconceptions swirling around about what, if any, foods affect the disease. So let’s dig into some of the biggest, most common myths:

1. I should avoid all goitrogenic foods.

In high doses, such as with juicing, raw goitrogenic foods may interfere with thyroid function. Such foods include (but are not limited to): kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens and even strawberries and peaches. The good news is that when cooked, goitrogens are significantly reduced so you can still eat them if grilled, roasted, sautéed or steamed. And eat them you should! They are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that help with the detoxification process within the liver. (Check out this article for more information.)

2. Goitrogens are the only foods I should avoid. 

Goitrogens get a lot of press when it comes to the thyroid, but they are not the only food to be aware of. Soy may also interfere with thyroid health, particularly concentrated forms such as Soy Protein Isolate. This may be found in soy protein powder, nutrition/protein bars, some cereals and high protein vegetarian or vegan foods. However, fermented soy, such as miso, tempeh, soy sauces and fermented tofu, is nutritionally beneficial and may be fine to add in occasionally.

 3. Gluten doesn’t affect thyroid function. 

Studies are finding that people with autoimmune thyroid disease (caused by Hashimoto’s and Graves’) may also be more likely to have either celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Interestingly, gliadin — the gluten protein — looks a lot like the molecular structure of the thyroid. So the immune system attacks gluten just as it does the thyroid. The problem: since thyroid disease has many symptoms, those associated with gluten intolerance or allergy may be masked. If you are concerned, go for gluten-free grains such as: quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, teff, amaranth and sorghum.

4. Salt has nothing to do with my thyroid.

Technically, this is true. It’s what comes with salt that we need to pay attention to. Salt has been fortified with iodine since 1924 in response to widespread iodine deficiency. Recently, use of other non-iodized salts such as Himalayan, sea, flake, celtic and kosher have exploded, reducing the amount of iodine consumed. It is theorized that the increase in thyroid disease may be partly linked to using less iodized salt. Other iodine-containing foods to include in your diet: seaweed, fish and dairy.

5. I can’t lose weight with hypothyroid.

It’s true that an under-active thyroid causes a slowed metabolism. This makes weight loss attempts frustrating and slow. However, you can still lose weight! With patience, commitment and a focus on your nutritional, emotional and physical health, your body will respond. It’s tough to do this alone, so if you’re looking for a help getting your body back – you may want to check out the 60-Day Guided Reboot for Thyroid!

Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and received her bachelors in Exercise Science and masters in Nutrition Communications from Tufts University. Rachel currently resides outside of Boston with her son and husband, and when not working with Rebooters she works as a nutrition consultant as well as sees clients in her private practice.

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