The diet can have a significant impact on the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Some foods may improve symptoms, while others may make them worse or interfere with medication.

The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. Having hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, means that this gland produces less of its hormones than the body needs.

This can slow down the person’s metabolism and cause weight gain and fatigue, among other symptoms.

Below, we explore how the diet affects hypothyroidism symptoms and which foods to eat and avoid. We then offer a 1-week meal plan for omnivores.

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Hypothyroidism involves the body not having enough of the thyroid’s hormones. Treatment usually involves taking a synthetic version, in the form of a daily tablet.

Changing the diet cannot cure hypothyroidism, but the diet plays three main roles in managing the condition:

  1. Foods that contain certain nutrients, such as iodine, selenium, and zinc, can help maintain healthy thyroid function.
  2. Some foods may negatively impact thyroid function and worsen symptoms of hypothyroidism.
  3. Some foods and supplements can interfere with how well the body absorbs thyroid replacement medicine, so limiting these foods can also help.

Hypothyroidism can lead to weight gain because it can slow down the metabolism. Having a healthy diet and staying active can help a person manage their weight and increase their energy levels.

Below, learn about specific nutrients that are key for people with hypothyroidism and which foods contain them.

The body requires iodine to produce thyroid hormones, but the body cannot make it, so a person needs to get iodine from their diet.

An iodine deficiency can also cause an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a goiter.

Foods rich in iodine include:

  • cheese
  • milk
  • iodized table salt
  • saltwater fish
  • seaweed
  • whole eggs

Iodine deficiency is relatively uncommon in the United States due to the wide use of iodized table salt, but it is prevalent in other areas.

It is crucial to avoid consuming too much iodine, which can actually worsen hypothyroidism, as well as hyperthyroidism.

Anyone with a thyroid condition should not supplement their diet with iodine unless a doctor recommends it.

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Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

Selenium is a micronutrient that plays a role in the production of thyroid hormones and has antioxidant activity. Thyroid tissue naturally contains it.

A 2017 review found that maintaining selenium levels in the body helps people avoid thyroid disease and promotes overall health.

Foods rich in selenium include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • tuna
  • shrimp
  • beef
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • ham
  • eggs
  • oatmeal
  • whole wheat bread

Zinc is another nutrient that may have beneficial effects on a person’s thyroid hormones.

One small-scale study showed that zinc supplementation, alone or in combination with selenium supplementation, improved thyroid function in women with hypothyroidism.

Foods rich in zinc include:

  • oysters
  • beef
  • crab
  • fortified cereals
  • pork
  • chicken
  • legumes
  • pumpkin seeds
  • yogurt

Some foods contain nutrients that can interfere with thyroid health. While these are not off-limits, a person may find that their symptoms improve if they limit their consumption of the following:

Foods containing goitrogens

Goitrogens are compounds that may affect thyroid function if a person consumes very large amounts.

However, in regular amounts, goitrogen-containing vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy are beneficial for overall health and do not interfere with thyroid function.

Plus, goitrogenic compounds are mostly deactivated when the foods are cooked.

Foods that contain goitrogens are typically green cruciferous vegetables, including:

  • collards
  • brussels sprouts
  • Russian kale
  • broccoli
  • broccoli rabe
  • cauliflower
  • cabbage

Soy

Researchers have found that soy may interfere with how the body produces thyroid hormones.

In one published case study, a 72-year-old female developed severe hypothyroidism after regularly consuming a soy-heavy health drink for 6 months. The person’s condition improved after they stopped drinking the beverage and started taking thyroid hormone replacement medication.

However, identifying the effects of soy on thyroid function requires more research.

Foods that contain soy include:

Gluten

People with Hashimoto’s disease — a cause of hypothyroidism — are more likely to have celiac disease than the general population. This is because Hashimoto’s and celiac are both types of autoimmune disorder, and a person with one of these disorders is more likely to develop another.

Moreover, research also suggests that removing gluten from the diet improves thyroid function in people with Hashimoto’s who do not have celiac disease.

This disease causes chronic inflammation and damage to the small intestine due to the ingestion of gluten, a protein in wheat and other grains, including barley, oats, and rye.

Treating celiac disease involves switching to a gluten-free diet. People with autoimmune-related hypothyroidism might try going gluten-free to see whether their symptoms improve.

Processed foods

Reducing the intake of highly processed foods and added sugars may help improve symptoms, manage weight, and boost overall well-being.

Examples of processed foods include:

  • fast food
  • hot dogs
  • donuts
  • cakes
  • cookies

It is important to take thyroid medication on an empty stomach so that the body can absorb it fully. Take it at least 30–60 minutes before breakfast or at least 3–4 hours after dinner.

People should not take this medication within 4 hours of consuming foods that contain iron or calcium.

Also, the following medications and supplements may interfere with the body’s absorption of thyroid medication:

  • antacids or acid reducers
  • milk and calcium supplements
  • iron supplements
  • high-fiber foods, such as bran flakes, fiber bars, and fiber drinks
  • foods high in iodine
  • soy-based foods

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Salad with grilled shrimp may be part of a diet for hypothyroidism.

In general, the best diet for a person with hypothyroidism contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, filling proteins, healthy fats and a moderate amount of healthful carbohydrates.

However, it is important for each person to experiment and develop a diet that helps them feel their best.

Below, find a sample 1-week meal plan for an omnivorous person with hypothyroidism:

Monday

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salmon
  • Lunch: A salad with grilled shrimp
  • Dinner: A beef stir-fry with vegetables and brown rice

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: A fruit salad with yogurt and sliced almonds
  • Lunch: A grilled chicken salad topped with pumpkin seeds
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted vegetables

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: An omelet with mushrooms and zucchini
  • Lunch: Bean soup with a whole wheat or gluten-free roll.
  • Dinner: Beef fajitas with corn tortillas, peppers, and onions

Thursday

  • Breakfast: A protein smoothie with berries and nut butter
  • Lunch: A cauliflower rice bowl with ground turkey, black beans, salsa, guacamole, cheese, and veggies
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken with quinoa and broccoli

Friday

  • Breakfast: Poached or boiled eggs with avocados and berries
  • Lunch: Tuna salad lettuce cups with whole wheat or gluten-free crackers
  • Dinner: A grilled steak with baked sweet potato and a side salad

Saturday

  • Breakfast: Coconut yogurt with berries and almond butter
  • Lunch: A turkey burger on a green salad with sweet potato fries
  • Dinner: Pan-fried crab cakes with brown rice and vegetables

Sunday

  • Breakfast: A frittata with vegetables
  • Lunch: A chicken salad sandwich on a whole wheat or gluten-free bun
  • Dinner: Grilled shrimp skewers with bell peppers and pineapple

People with hypothyroidism may find that they gain weight more easily than people without the condition. This is because hypothyroidism can reduce metabolism.

Having a healthful diet rich in fruits, vegetables, filling proteins, and healthy fats can help manage weight and boost well-being. These foods are also rich in nutrients and may help people feel fuller for longer.

In addition, regular moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise and strength training can help boost metabolism and promote weight loss. Staying active can also improve levels of energy and the quality of sleep.

In addition, a person may notice a little weight loss — typically under 10% — when they take medication to treat hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism refers to a gland in the neck called the thyroid being unable to meet the body’s needs for certain hormones.

Untreated, it can reduce metabolism and cause fatigue, among other symptoms. Treatment usually involves taking a synthetic version of thyroid hormones.

Some foods and nutrients can help or hinder the thyroid’s function. Overall, it is important to aim for a healthful diet that supports the absorption of thyroid medication and helps with maintaining a healthy weight.