The Healthiest Foods For Your Thyroid, According To Science

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck that controls hormone production, metabolism, and muscle and digestive function. If you don’t take care of it, the thyroid can become diseased. Over 70% of hypothyroidism cases are due to poor diet habits. But if you use the right cooking oils, eat high-selenium nuts, and get creative with vegetables, your thyroid will be safer. Here are the best food for your thyroid, according to research.

Shellfish Is One Of The Best Foods For Thyroid Health

Shellfish, including clams and mussels, is one of the best food groups for thyroid health. In 2002, the British Journal of Cancer suggested that shellfish might protect the thyroid. It provides iodine, which not only fuels the thyroid but also prevents diseases.

Mini scallops are on a tray and displayed for sale.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But shellfish doesn’t just have iodine. In July 2020, researchers from the University of Cambridge confirmed that shellfish contains selenium, zinc, and many other thyroid-helping nutrients. It also has four times more vitamin D and 26 times more vitamin A than salmon. It’s a nutrition powerhouse!

Coconut Oil Is A Thyroid-Safe Cooking Oil

Coconut oil is far better for your thyroid than some other cooking oils. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola of Mercola Health, “Unlike soy oil and other vegetable oils, coconut oil does not interfere with thyroid function.” It might even benefit the thyroid.

Coconut oil is contained in a glass jar with a small wooden spoon.

Doctors Hospital claims that the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil have anti-inflammatory effects. In other words, it heals organs and increases the metabolism, both of which may benefit the thyroid. Although there are few studies on coconut oil and thyroid health, it seems promising.

Coffee Can Lower The Risk Of Thyroid Cancer

If you drink coffee, then you might have a lower risk of thyroid disease. In 2017, researchers examined 41 studies on thyroid cancer. They discovered that drinking coffee lowered the risk of thyroid cancer because it inhibits tumor growth. Caffeinated coffee seemed to have a better effect than decaffeinated.

Three people press their coffee cups together to cheer.
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

However, be careful with coffee if you take thyroid medication. According to the scientific journal Thyroid, drinking coffee within an hour of taking your medication can lower its efficiency. Wait before you drink in the morning.

Kale Can Help, Despite People Saying The Opposite

Some people believe that, because of kale’s high iodine content, it harms the thyroid. Although people with thyroid disorders should limit iodine, they should not avoid it entirely. This nutrient is necessary for healthy hormone production and thyroid function.

A woman rubs kale with olive oil before putting it on a baking pan.
Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Carlos Avila Gonzalez/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

“Cruciferous vegetables [like kale] are part of a healthy and balanced diet, and I encourage patients with thyroid disorders to continue eating them in moderation,” explains Northwestern Medicine Endocrinologist Dr. Ayla Bakar. So don’t fret–enjoy kale as part of a healthy diet.

Brazil Nuts Give You Ten Times The Selenium You Need

Brazil nuts are rich sources of selenium; one ounce gives you 988% of your daily recommended intake. Fortunately, selenium is also essential for your thyroid. It helps the thyroid produce enzymes and protects it against free radicals, according to a 2015 study.

A close-up photo shows Brazil nuts in a pile.
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, scientists reported that selenium converts the thyroid hormone T4 to T3. Low levels of T3 can cause an immune disorder of the thyroid. If you eat a few Brazil nuts occasionally, your thyroid will thank you.

Seaweed Might Help, Depending On Your Diet

Seaweed has a lot of iodine. Depending on the type, it might contain between 11% to 1,989% per gram. People in some countries, like America and Europe, need more iodine in their diets to take care of their thyroid. Both other countries like Japan get too much iodine, which increases the risk of thyroid diseases.

Seaweed salad with salmon roe
Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images
Lisa Wiltse/Corbis via Getty Images

So how much is too much? Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass recommends eating one serving of seaweed per week. That gives you thyroid-healthy iodine without going overboard. Add seaweed to rice, fish, stir fry, sushi, or salads.

Bamboo Shoots Reduce Oxidative Stress In The Thyroid

Bamboo isn’t just for pandas; it can also be cooked into stir fry, soups, noodles, and slaw. Bamboo shoots have many nutrients that heal the body, including the thyroid. It is a natural antiviral, anti-bacterial, and anti-carcinogen.

A bowl of udon noodles includes bamboo shoots.
Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In 2020, a study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology analyzed bamboo’s effect on the thyroid. Bamboo shoots reduce oxidative stress in the thyroid, increasing hormone regulation. If your thyroid becomes swollen, eating bamboo shoots might shrink it. Do not pair bamboo with thyroid-decreasing medications, or else it might be too much.

Avocado Prevents Pesticides From Hitting Your Thyroid

Avocado is another protective fruit for your thyroid. Instead of blocking diseases, it inhibits the effect of chlorpyrifos. Chlorpyrifos is a type of pesticide that can damage the thyroid. According to a 2018 study, avocado can prevent some chlorpyrifos from injuring the thyroid.

A woman holds two halves of an avocado.
Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Avocado contains several antioxidants that protect the thyroid, including vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, and calcium. For those with hyperthyroidism who need to limit their iodine intake, avocado is perfect. It provides thyroid-supporting nutrients without overloading you with iodine.

Chamomile Tea Guards Against Thyroid Disease

In 2015, a small Greek study examined a variety of herbal teas and their effects on the thyroid. Of all the teas, chamomile was the most promising. The researchers wrote, “There was a significant reduction in the odds of malignant, benign and any type of thyroid disease with an increased frequency of chamomile consumption.”

Dried chamomile flowers sit in a strainer above a mug to make tea.

In other words, chamomile lowers a person’s risk of thyroid cancer and other disorders. This is due to the tea’s antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, also known as polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins. It protects the thyroid against disorders and diseases.

Garlic Creates Metabolism-Enhancing Effects

Garlic’s nutrients can protect the thyroid from disease. In 2015, researchers tested garlic on rats with thyroid disorders. They concluded that garlic has “protective effects” for the thyroid and “metabolism-enhancing effect[s].”

Bulbs are hanging off of ropes.
Tim Graham/Getty Images
Tim Graham/Getty Images

The researchers credit garlic’s antioxidants for these effects. Garlic provides many thyroid-helping nutrients, including vitamin C, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients act as guards, protecting the body from diseases, according to The Journal of Nutrition. If you want better thyroid health, chop some fresh garlic and toss it into your cooking.

Strawberries Are Recommended By Researchers

Like other berries, strawberries are a pro-thyroid food. They provide iodine and antioxidants, both of which promote hormone health. In 2013, an Indian study found that most people get thyroid disorders from the lack of iodine in their diets. The researchers recommended eating more strawberries.

A woman eats a strawberry.
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Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

If you are worried about the small amount of glucosinolates in strawberries, don’t be. “The thyroid likes anything that it will help detoxify the body,” explains Dr. Prudence Hall from The Hall Center. Berries are famous for their detoxifying effects, and strawberries are no exception.

Goji Berries Lead To Healthier Hormones

Not many studies have examined goji berries’ relationship to the thyroid. However, we have one promising animal study. In 2020, a study provided goji berry supplements to rabbits. The rabbits had a healthier hormonal and metabolic system, both of which are controlled by the thyroid.

A woman holds up a bag of goji berries in an organic supermarket.
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Goji berries are also well-known for guarding our organs. According to Medical News Today, they provide antioxidants that remove free radicals. People with thyroid disorders tend to have a higher number of free radicals in the body, so eating goji berries might keep you healthy.

Yogurt’s Vitamins Help The Thyroid Function

Like many dairy products, yogurt greatly benefits your thyroid. Yogurt offers 77% of your daily iodine recommendation per serving. In 2012, a study in Nutrition Reviews determined that yogurt’s iodine can aid the thyroid, along with its other nutrients.

A variety of yogurt containers have their lids open.
Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images
Yegor AleyevTASS via Getty Images

One cup of yogurt also provides 30% of your daily calcium needs. According to a 2019 study, calcium plays a major role in thyroid health. People who do not eat enough calcium have a higher risk of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. For the healthiest option, choose a low-fat, unsweetened type like Greek yogurt.

Sweet Potatoes Provide More Than Enough Vitamin A

When they aren’t fried, sweet potatoes make a healthy addition to your diet. One serving of sweet potatoes provides 120% of your daily recommended vitamin A. During a four-month-long study, women who ate sweet potatoes were far likely to develop hypothyroidism, or thyroid underactivity.

Sweet potato fries are lined on a tray.
Louis Hansel/Unsplash
Louis Hansel/Unsplash

Sweet potatoes also provide other nutrients to aid the thyroid, including calcium and zinc. They also supply antioxidants called carotenoids. In 2016, a study determined that antioxidants lower inflammation in the thyroid, promoting healthy hormone and metabolic production. Bake sweet potatoes and enjoy as a side dish.

Apples’ Unique Fiber Flushes Out Mercury

Apples have a unique type of fiber called pectin. This gelatinous-like substance removes toxins from the body, mainly mercury. Mercury contributes to many thyroid disorders, such as thyroiditis and hypothyroidism. According to research in Phytotherapy Research, pectin can excrete mercury by up to 150%.

Apples are stored in baskets and plastic bags.
Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On top of that, apples provide antioxidants that lower inflammation. Integrative health MD Andrew Cunningham says that apples contain “polyphenols to reduce inflammation and micronutrients for a healthy immune system.” An apple a day might keep your thyroid disease-free.

Pears Are A Tasty Alternative To Apples

Pears are also a fantastic fruit for thyroid health. Like apples, pears contain pectin that removes harmful mercury from the body. But they are also a sufficient source of iodine; a lack of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, the most common thyroid disease worldwide.

A whole and half pear sit on a brown cloth.
Dose Juice/Unsplash
Dose Juice/Unsplash

In February 2021, research in Frontiers in Plant Science examined pears’ iodine content. A single pear provides 2/3 of your daily iodine needs, and researchers believe that this fruit can prevent hypothyroidism. If you’re not an apple fan, eat a pear a day instead.

Soy Will Not Harm Your Thyroid

According to Harvard Health Publishing, 1950s animal studies have said that soy harms the thyroid. But recent research says the opposite, especially when it comes to humans. In 2018, a review of studies in Frontiers of Endocrinology found that soy does not hurt the thyroid. Because of its isoflavones, it might even help.

A diagram shows follicle cells int he thyroid.
BSIP/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

That said, people who rely on a soy-based diet tend to have a higher risk of thyroid diseases. In 2006, research in Thyroid found that people on soy-based diets tend to get less iodine, putting them at risk of hypothyroidism. Make sure your diet is balanced.

Chicken Satisfies Your Body’s Need For Zinc

Chicken is a lean, healthy meat, and it also benefits your thyroid. Eating a three-ounce serving of chicken provides you with plenty of zinc. According to research in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, zinc positively impacts thyroid hormone levels.

A man with tattooed hands cuts up buttermilk fried chicken.
Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Deb Lindsey For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Along with hormone production, the thyroid also controls metabolism. A healthy dose of protein aids your metabolic health. In 2015, scientists found that protein increases calcium absorption, which boosts the thyroid and your metabolism. Eat lean, non-fried chicken for these benefits.

Cauliflower Is Not As Bad As Some People Say

In terms of thyroid health, cauliflower has a negative reputation. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it contains glucosinolates, which interfere with hormone production in large amounts. But eating a normal amount of cauliflower will not do that, says Mira Ilic, a registered dietician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Cooked and charred cauliflower is on a white plate with a fork.
Dilyara Garifullina/Unsplash
Dilyara Garifullina/Unsplash

“Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and kale are important for a healthy diet and a healthy thyroid,” she told The Active Times. Cauliflower provides a high amount of thyroid-boosting antioxidants, mainly vitamin C. If you eat a normal amount of cauliflower for a healthy diet, you will have no thyroid risk.

Olive Oil Should Appear Regularly In Your Diet

Olive oil is fantastically healthy thanks to its polyphenols, a type of antioxidant. In February 2021, a study in Nutrients noted that olive oil “could stimulate thyroid function.” Several studies have linked olive oil to healthier, more consistent thyroid function.

A chef pours olive oil into a pot full of vegetables.
David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

Other studies have focused on the Mediterranean diet, which relies on olive oil. In 2020, researchers concluded that this diet lowers your risk of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common form of hypothyroidism. If you want to avoid autoimmune thyroid disorders, add more olive oil to your cooking.

Eggs Can Help In Moderation

Eggs contain many of the nutrients that your thyroid needs, including iodine and selenium. In animal studies, eggs have shown promise as a thyroid-enhancer. According to one Japanese study, hyperthyroid rats benefitted from iodine-enriched eggs.

A sunny-side-up egg is on top of toast and peanut butter.
Charisse Kenion/Unsplash
Charisse Kenion/Unsplash

If you need to watch your iodine levels, you can still eat eggs in moderation. Research in Food and Chemical Toxicology determined that people can eat one egg with no adverse side effects. If you have a healthy thyroid, keep eating eggs; it will improve your hormone and metabolic health.

Blueberries Clean The Thyroid With Antioxidants

Blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants out of almost any berry. These antioxidants can benefit your entire body, including the thyroid. In 2008, researchers discovered that people with thyroid disorders have a higher amount of free radicals. Blueberries’ antioxidants can get rid of these free radicals.

Overripe blueberries are scattered on a baking pan.
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Brianna Soukup/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Another study in The Journal of Nutrition examined obese participants with thyroid disorders. After eating blueberries every day, the participants had a better metabolism. This might mean that their thyroid became healthier, which could also help them lose weight.

Salmon Offers Thyroid-Stimulating Hormones

Like other types of fish, salmon does wonders for your thyroid. In the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology, a study stated that salmon has a “thyroid-stimulating hormone.” In other words, it helps the thyroid produce and regulate hormones.

Salmon is on wafers shaped as hearts.
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Salmon also provides several thyroid-supporting nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and selenium. If you want these benefits, eat the fish instead of supplements. A 2011 British study concluded that people who eat salmon twice a week get more selenium than those who take fish oil capsules.

Broccoli Boosts Thyroid Production

Broccoli is another vegetable maligned for its low levels of glucosinolates, which might interfere with hormone production. But research has discovered the opposite. According to a 2018 study in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, broccoli’s antioxidants can cleanse the thyroid.

A worker wearing gloves portions broccoli into plastic containers.
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In animal studies, broccoli has balanced hormone productions of the thyroid. It has a substantial amount of iodine and zinc, both of which promote healthy thyroid production. As long as you don’t overindulge in broccoli, it will support your thyroid.

Tomatoes Offer Disease-Fighting Nutrients

Tomatoes are another fruit that naturally contains iodine. Although people with hyperthyroidism might need to limit tomatoes, other people likely need them. In 2013, the scientific journal Frontiers in Plant Science determined that tomatoes can prevent thyroid disorders due to their iodine content.

Circular tubs of tomatoes are lined on a table.
Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images
Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

Tomatoes are also high in antioxidants. Two of them, called lectins and lycopenes, have disease-fighting effects, according to dietitian and nutritionist Ariana Cucuzza. Whether you eat tomato sauce or cherry tomatoes in a salad, they will supply antioxidants to support your thyroid health.

Macadamia Nuts Boost Your Metabolism

Macadamia nuts have one of the highest sources of selenium out of all other nuts. This is important because the thyroid thrives off of healthy selenium levels. According to the International Journal of Endocrinology, proper selenium levels can prevent many thyroid diseases.

A person holds a few cracked macadamia nuts.
Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In 2016, researchers found that macadamia nuts supply monounsaturated fatty acids, which combat metabolic syndrome. A growing body of evidence suggests that thyroid disorders and metabolic syndrome are related, according to BMC: Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology. Eat more macadamia nuts to get your daily dose of selenium and improve your metabolism.

Black Pepper Improves The Thyroid And Weight Loss

Black pepper isn’t just a table spice; it also supplies many health benefits. In 2003, researchers discovered that pepper regulates thyroid hormones. Its antioxidants help the thyroid manage hormones, according to that animal study in Hormone and Metabolic Research.

A black pepper shaker is tipped over.

Black pepper is also an appetite suppressant that does not alter hormones, according to Food & Function. According to epidemiologist Cari Kitahara, there is a link between obesity and thyroid disorders. Although black pepper is not a weight-loss miracle, it can help your appetite while also aiding your thyroid.

Hazelnuts Protect The Body

Hazelnuts are incredibly healthy, largely for their variety of vitamins, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants. In 2016, scientists analyzed 48 studies on hazelnuts. They concluded that hazelnuts can combat a wide variety of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and of course, thyroid disorders.

Containers hold hazelnut chocolate butter.
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Part of that stems from hazelnuts’ high selenium content. Another reason is its antioxidants, including vitamin E, which have a protective effect. In 2013, research in Endocrine reported that vitamin E alleviates hypothyroidism, a thyroid disease. Enjoy hazelnuts raw, ground, or roasted in a variety of dishes.

Milk Supports More Than Just Your Bones

Milk has a few vitamins that directly benefit thyroid function, including calcium and vitamin D. In 2018, a study in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism gave thyroid patients vitamin D supplements. Patients with hypothyroidism had better hormone levels, and patients with autoimmune thyroiditis had more antibodies to combat it.

A woman works on a laptop with a glass of milk next to her.
LinkedIn Sales Solutions/Unsplash
LinkedIn Sales Solutions/Unsplash

Milk also supplies calcium, which might prevent thyroid disorders. Calcium helps the pituitary gland, which in turn helps the thyroid to release hormones. Drinking milk, either low-fat or whole, can improve your metabolism and hormone regulation.

Dark Chocolate Regulates Metabolism And Hormones

Although research on chocolate and the thyroid is limited, some studies suggest that chocolate benefits hormones and metabolism. In 2009, German and Swiss scientists discovered that dark chocolate regulates metabolism and manages stress hormones.

Dark chocolate shavings lie in a pile.
Rita Patrese/Unsplash
Rita Patrese/Unsplash

These benefits stem from dark chocolate’s base, cocoa. Cocoa provides zinc, calcium, and selenium, all of which support the thyroid and immune system. If you eat chocolate with a high cocoa content–at least 70%–you might receive benefits for your thyroid. You can also mix raw cocoa powder into smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt.