If you have Hashimoto’s, the foods you eat can have a major impact on how well your thyroid functions, either by impacting your thyroid hormones themselves, or your immune system.
Because remember, Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition, meaning your immune system is overstressed and attacking your thyroid. By supporting your immune system, you can stop its attack on your thyroid and reverse your condition.
And by eating foods packed with the nutrients your thyroid needs to function optimally, your thyroid will be able to produce enough of its hormones, they’ll be able to convert into their active state, and they’ll be able to reach and enter your cells. This will ensure your body gets the fuel it needs to overcome brain fog, fatigue, sluggish metabolism, and the myriad of other symptoms of a thyroid operating at a subpar performance.
Eat the following foods, which contain some of the most important nutrients for thyroid and immune health, to help tame your Hashimoto’s.
1. Seaweed and Sea Vegetables
Iodine, found in seaweed and sea vegetables, is one of the two primary building blocks of thyroid hormone. As I explain in my book, The Thyroid Connection, if you don’t have enough iodine, your thyroid simply can’t produce its hormones. In fact, this is why we eat iodized salt because public health officials realized how crucial this nutrient is for thyroid health.
In addition, our modern environment is filled with halides (bromine, chlorine, and fluorine), which are iodine look-alikes. These chemicals can be found in our water, food, and household products and look similar enough to iodine that your thyroid can absorb them in place of iodine, effectively displacing iodine and reducing its ability to produce thyroid hormone.
Along with minimizing your exposure to these chemicals, eating a diet rich in iodine will go a long way toward improving your thyroid health. Seaweed is one of the best sources of dietary iodine, and there are tons of creative (and delicious) ways to add it to your diet. Grab-and-go roasted seaweed snacks from Thrive Market are a popular and easy choice. And there are tons of options for cooking with seaweed, such as this recipe for Seaweed Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp. Be sure to get your copy of The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook for even more easy-to-make recipes with iodine-rich seaweed, including Cucumber-Seaweed Salad and Wild-Caught Shrimp Sushi Rolls!
While you should aim to get plenty of iodine from your diet, I also recommend taking a high-quality multivitamin that includes 150-300 mcg of iodine to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs for optimal thyroid performance.
2. Beef, Chicken, and Other Animal Protein
Animal proteins are “complete” proteins, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids, which your body cannot produce on its own. These amino acids play a huge role in your immune system, in addition to helping rebuild every single structure in your body. Animal protein also contains several important nutrients for thyroid function, including selenium, zinc, iron, and tyrosine. I’ll explain the importance of each of these nutrients, which are abundant in beef, chicken, and other animal proteins.
The enzyme your thyroid uses to convert T4 (the storage form of thyroid hormone) into T3 (the active form) so that it can power your metabolic function. Selenium also acts to neutralize hydrogen peroxide, a detrimental, oxidizing byproduct of iodine conversion in your thyroid that leads to an autoimmune response. In fact, studies have shown that Hashimoto’s patients with low selenium levels who increased their daily intake to just 200 mcg were able to reduce their thyroid antibodies by nearly 64%!1
Zinc is another vital nutrient for thyroid health that assists in the conversion of T4 to T3. Zinc is also necessary to trigger your hypothalamus’ thyroid hormone receptors. Your hypothalamus requires zinc to accurately gauge thyroid hormone levels to increase production when levels are low. For these reasons, zinc deficiency is linked with decreased thyroid production and hypothyroidism.
Iron & Tyrosine
When you eat iodine you’re actually eating it in the form of iodide, and your body converts it into iodine using an enzyme that depends on iron. Iodine then combines with tyrosine to form actual thyroid hormones. Your thyroid also needs iron, along with selenium and zinc, to convert T4 to T3.
You can quickly begin to see the common denominator in all these nutrients! Without them, your thyroid simply cannot produce its hormones, and the storage form of your hormones are unable to reach their active state.2
I recommend eating only organic, grass-fed meats. However, 100% certified organic meat can be hard to find. That’s why I rely on ButcherBox to deliver 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, free-range chicken, crate-free raised pork, and wild-caught seafood directly to my door.
3. Leafy Greens
Your thyroid and your entire immune system are dependent on a host of B vitamins to operate efficiently. Leafy greens such as kale, arugula, bok choy, spinach, and watercress are an excellent source of the B vitamins needed to support your immune system.
The following B vitamins are found in leafy greens:
- B1 (Thiamine) Thiamine helps your body generate new cells and lower stress by protecting your immune system.
- B2 (Riboflavin) Riboflavin works as an antioxidant to fight free radicals, which are damaging to your entire body, including your thyroid.3
- B3 (Niacin) Niacin is an anti-inflammatory nutrient.
- B9 (Folate) Folate, also called folic acid in its synthetic form, has many key health benefits. It plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, and it encourages cell and tissue growth throughout your body, including your thyroid. It is also a key component of methylation and extra important for anyone with MTHFR mutations.
Many leafy greens are cruciferous vegetables, rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants that offer tremendous support to the immune system, as outlined above. They do however fall under the category of “goitrogens.” Goitrogens are substances found in certain foods that suppress thyroid hormone production by inhibiting iodine absorption.
While some people advocate eliminating goitrogens (kale, arugula, collard greens, cabbage, and more) entirely if you have a thyroid problem, I have found that their health benefits far outweigh the minimal drawback. I do recommend mitigating any concern you have by cooking them, which lessens their goitrogenic properties. The good news is that human trials have found that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables has little to no effect on the thyroid unless a person is deficient in iodine. So just stock up on those sea vegetables, and you should be fine!
Wondering how to get more greens into your diet? You can find tons of mouth-watering recipes that feature leafy greens on my blog that are FREE for you to enjoy, including Skillet Squash and Greens, Winter Kale and Meatball Soup, and Green Apple and Cabbage Slaw!
The Omega-3s found in salmon have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and fight systemic inflammation in the body that leads to diseases such as Hashimoto’s. They also help your thyroid hormones enter your cells so that they can do their job. Studies link Omega 3 intake with decreased disease symptoms and flare-ups, as well as reduced dependence on anti-inflammatory medications.4 Salmon is also high in B vitamins which, as outlined above, support the immune system in many ways.
While the type of fish is essential for optimal nutrition, where it comes from is just as important. I often get asked which is better: Wild-caught fish or farm-raised? I always recommend wild-caught fish because they are less likely to be exposed to harmful chemicals. Plus, they have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and other critical nutrients.5
You can explore new ways of cooking Omega-3-rich fatty fish with thyroid-friendly recipes on my blog, such as Fish “Taco” Bowl with Mango Avocado Salsa or Maple Dijon Salmon! I also recommend supplementing with Omega 3 fish oil to ensure you’re intaking adequate amounts.
Avocados are extremely popular right now, and you can find them in everything from chocolate cakes to smoothies! They are technically a fruit, however, they are unique because they contain 15 grams of healthy fats and 20 different vitamins and minerals (including B vitamins, iron, zinc, vitamin K, and folate) that suppress inflammation and support your immune system.
Nutritionally, I consider avocados a healthy fat since they are 77% fat and are primarily made up of monounsaturated oleic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory kind. Avocados have also been shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. Another study showed that eating avocados with vegetables dramatically increased antioxidant absorption.6
6. Bone Broth
The health benefits of bone broth are immense! Bone broth is made from cooking animal bones along with the connective tissues, and it is an amazing source of collagen, which is broken down into gelatin during cooking. The collagen in bone broth helps repair a leaky gut, which is an underlying cause of Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions. Collagen also supports strong, healthy hair to help combat hair loss associated with thyroid dysfunction. Furthermore, the amino acids glycine and arginine found in bone broth assist in reducing systemic inflammation, a leading cause of autoimmunity and chronic illness.
7. Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, and Other Orange Fruits & Vegetables
Bright orange fruits and veggies are rich in vitamin A, which is needed for healthy immune function and to bring your active thyroid hormone into your cells. Orange fruits and vegetables also contain vitamin C, which stimulates the activity of white blood cells – a key component of your immune system.7
Carrots and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, which stimulates T-cells and other types of antibodies in the immune system to protect against infection. Carrots also contain a number of antiseptic and antibacterial abilities that boost the immune system. Sweet potatoes also have immune-boosting vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, and phosphorus.
Armed with nothing more than a shopping cart and a new grocery list, you can begin to take back your health simply by changing your diet. The food you eat can be your medicine, nourishing your body, and fueling your immune system. By eating foods that contain nutrients vital for optimal thyroid function, you have the power to reverse your condition and watch your Hashimoto’s symptoms diminish and even disappear!
You don’t have to give up delicious meals either! Just visit my blog to find delicious, nutrient-dense recipes packed with essential nutrients for thyroid health that are approved for autoimmune, paleo, and ketogenic protocols.
- Selenium Supplementation in Patients with Autoimmune Thyroiditis Decreases Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies Concentrations. Roland Gartner, Barbara H Gasnier, Johannes W Dietrich, Bjarne Krebs, Matthias W A Angstwurm. JCEM. 2002.
- How to Boost Your Immune System. Harvard Health Publishing. 2021.
- The Benefits of Vitamin B Complex, Plus Top Food Sources. Nicole McDermott. Daily Burn. 2017.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease. Artemis P Simopoulos. NCBI. 2002.
- 11 Impressive Health Benefits of Salmon. Franziska Spritzler. Healthline. 2016.
- 12 Proven Health Benefits of Avocado. Kris Gunnars. Healthline. 2018.
- Carrots: Nutrition Facts & Benefits. Meenakshi Nagdeve. Organic Facts. 2020.