Goitrogens – Thyroid Blockers or Harmless?

Goitrogens

Hormone health is all the rage these days. It’s almost become trendy in some ways! You may have heard about eating to balance your hunger hormones, reproductive hormones, and blood sugar hormones. But what about your thyroid hormones?

You might not think much about how food relates to your thyroid unless, of course, you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder - then you tend to really become aware of your lifestyle choices and personal environment.

The thyroid is responsible for producing the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which play a big role in regulating your metabolism. Remember, metabolism is basically how every single cell in your body operates. Iodine is essential for the production of these hormones.

When these hormones are out of balance, hyperthyroidism (too much hormone) or hypothyroidism (not enough hormone) can occur.

Hypothyroidism is a common diagnosis and classic symptoms include:

  • lack of energy

  • weight gain or weight loss resistance

  • excessively dry skin

  • an inability to regulate body temperature

Naturally-occurring compounds called “goitrogens” can disrupt normal thyroid function and hormone balance by blocking how the thyroid absorbs and uses iodine. When an iodine deficiency occurs in the thyroid, it results in an enlarged thyroid gland (aka goiter).

Some foods contain goitrogens and can interfere with the production and balance of thyroid hormones.

Foods that contain goitrogens include:

  • Cassava (also known as manioc or yuca)

  • Lima beans

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, and turnips

  • Soybeans and soy products

You may be wondering whether vegetables are bad for you after reading that list? The short answer is: No, absolutely not!

Vegetables offer a lot of health benefits in the form of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that you don’t want to miss out on! 

There’s no real need to avoid these goitrogen-containing foods unless you’ve been diagnosed with an underactive thyroid and/or iodine deficiency and prefer to be cautious.

But even then, goitrogens are usually only a problem if eaten in excess – and you’d have to eat A LOT of those foods to take in enough goitrogens to affect your thyroid function and create a goiter.

Goitrogens are also inactivated by heat, so simply cooking the above foods makes them pretty harmless to your thyroid.

Cooking cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, is particularly beneficial for most people’s digestion as well. It helps reduce the amount of bloating and gas you may experience when you eat these foods.

Tips to maintain good thyroid health

  • Include good sources of iodine in your diet, such as naturally-mineralized Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt, fish, and seaweed.

  • Switch up the foods you eat; eating a varied diet guarantees you won’t take in too many goitrogens. Plus, eating a variety of foods ensures you get a variety of nutrients!

  • Cook your sweet potatoes and cruciferous vegetables to reduce their goitrogen content.

If you’re concerned about the health of your thyroid or are currently managing an over- or underactive thyroid, be sure to ask your doctor to regularly test your thyroid levels and consider speaking with a qualified nutrition professional regarding your diet.

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