Eat this, not that, for a sluggish thyroid

Eat this, not that, for a sluggish thyroid

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is when your thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones to efficiently perform its functions of controlling growth, cell repair and metabolism.

A lack of these hormones, produced by a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck, can lead to a myriad of symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, unexplained weight gain, cold sensitivity, mood changes, constipation, dry skin, low moods, sleep disturbance, breathlessness, brain fog and menstrual changes. 

It can also disrupt bodily functions such as heart rate, body temperature and metabolism.

According to the Endocrine Society of Australia, around 60,000 new cases of thyroid disease are diagnosed each year in Australia, with hypothyroidism the most common thyroid disorder, affecting around 1 in 33 Australians.

Women are ten times more likely than men to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and hypothyroidism is most prevalent in older women. Symptoms usually progress gradually, and while some people experience extreme symptoms, others don’t experience many at all.

There’s no clear cure for hypothyroidism but treatment usually involves synthetic hormones. However, many of the symptoms of the condition could be managed by diet.

A nutritious diet is important for everyone, but if you’re one of the estimated 1 million Australians the Australian Thyroid Foundation says may be living with an undiagnosed thyroid condition, or you’re on synthetic hormones and still experiencing symptoms, a healthy diet can help.

What should I eat for a healthy thyroid?

While everyone’s individual case is different, broadly speaking, a diet full of nutrient-rich whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and fish will benefit most people with hypothyroidism.


For Entrée, rustle yourself up a bowl full of thyroid health with a blueberry, pumpkin and Brazil nut salad for antioxidants, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and selenium, all required for healthy thyroid function.

For your Main, a serving of Tyrosine, the building block of thyroid hormones, found in meats, dairy and legumes.

Grab a side of healthy fats like olive, avocado or coconut oil, avocados or unsweetened coconut to assist a sluggish thyroid with the job of metabolising nutrients. Spice it up with some chilli for an extra metabolism boost!

For dessert, we recommend a serving of full fat yoghurt, naturally full of immunity-boosting and anti-inflammatory vitamin D to protect the thyroid from damage, and rich in probiotics for gut health.

Thirsty? Choose water, sugarless tea or coffee, sparkling water and other sugar-free options.


An apple a day keeps the toxins away! Found in the flesh and peel of fruit, pectin sticks to toxins that interfere with thyroid function and expel them from your body, making apples a super food for thyroid health. Berries, peaches, apricots, cherries and citrus fruits are also all good sources of pectin.


Tiny but necessary amounts of the mineral selenium help thyroid hormones function. Snack on selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, eggs, legumes or sunflower seeds. Just one Brazil nut a day will give you enough selenium.


Hypothyroidism puts you at an increased risk of depleting zinc, a mineral critical to both the formation and metabolism of thyroid hormones and aiding immunity and antioxidant functions. Oysters are one of the best dietary sources zinc. Other shellfish, red meat, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs and whole grains can also naturally boost your zinc levels.


The most common cause of hypothyroidism in Australia is Hashimoto’s disease, though a deficiency of Iodine – essential to making thyroid hormones – is a common cause globally. In Australia, commercial breads have been iodised, so deficiency is usually not a problem. Too much iodine can cause an overstimulated thyroid, so consult your healthcare professional before adding extra iodine to your diet. Seaweed is one of the best natural sources of iodine available.


Some foods compound hypothyroidism and its symptoms and should be avoided or limited by anyone with hypothyroidism, or anyone who wants to maintain a healthy functioning thyroid.

Highly-processed foods

Highly-processed foods contain little nutritional value and are often full of excess sugar and sodium, which multiplies the risks of high blood pressure, amongst other issues.


High sugar content foods are full of empty calories with no nutrients, can trigger inflammation, create an imbalance with your gut health and can cause extra weight gain, especially with an already sluggish thyroid.


Studies suggest the overconsumption of gluten can trigger inflammation in some people with hypothyroidism. To see if this is you, go for gluten-free grains like brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa, and brown pasta. But beware of gluten-free options that might be high in sugar instead.


There’s still open debate on this one, but some studies suggest that soy-rich foods may impede thyroid hormone function in women, especially vegan women with low iodine. Other research suggests that soy may interfere with absorption of thyroid medication.

Goitrogenic foods

Avoid large intakes of raw vegetables from the cabbage family, including bok choy and Brussels Sprouts, which can cause swollen thyroid glands. However, unless you’re eating a bucket of raw kale every day, you’re probably okay to not be too concerned with this one.

Fatty and Fried Foods

These foods should always be limited, especially if you’re on a thyroid hormone replacement. They can disrupt the absorption and therefore effectiveness of your medicine and impede the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones.


Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the thyroid gland. It depletes the body of nutrients like selenium and zinc, which are vital for the production of thyroid hormones. It can also reduce the effectiveness of hypothyroidism medications. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should avoid or limit alcohol consumption.


If you’re experiencing the symptoms of an underactive thyroid, addressing imbalances of certain nutrients with supplements can assist, alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Checking your levels of selenium, zinc, vitamins A, B12, C, D, magnesium and calcium with a reputable integrative doctor can ensure you have the right balance of nutrients for healthy thyroid function.

National Custom Compounding regularly makes up orders of Natural Thyroid Extract for people with thyroid disorders around the country.

Everyone with hypothyroidism has different health and dietary needs, so make sure any specific issues are addressed with your health care provider, including if you are already taking replacement hormones, so they can prescribe the right supplements tailored to your specific needs.

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