Foods to Enjoy or Avoid with Hypothyroidism

  • By Dr. Anand Thakkar
  • 16 Mar, 2016
For years, you followed fad diets and deprived yourself of your favorite foods to lose weight. You also spent hours at the gym, trying out the latest fitness classes. But despite your best efforts, those extra pounds stayed.

When your doctor diagnosed you with hypothyroidism, you felt relief. Finally you knew the reason you couldn’t lose weight by eating right and working out.

Unfortunately, the pounds didn't melt away after your diagnosis either. That's because your thyroid isn't making enough hormones to regulate your metabolism. Without those hormones, your body can't burn fat cells like it normally would with a healthy lifestyle.

If you want to improve your health and lose weight in spite of hypothyroidism, you need to diet smarter. Instead of following a fad diet, use the information below to pick foods suited for you.

What Not to Eat

You want to avoid foods that hinder your thyroid health from improving, especially if your doctor puts you on a thyroid hormone supplement. Give your thyroid a fighting chance by avoiding these foods.

Broccoli and Cabbage

Feel free to stop putting these cruciferous vegetables in your cart at the grocery store. Although they have tons of nutritional value, they also block your absorption of iodine. If you love these veggies, it's okay to eat them fully cooked and in small portions.


This protein source has phytoestrogen, a naturally occurring plant-derived hormone. Phytoestrogens block your body from using thyroid hormones, so you should stay away from tofu, edamame, soy milk, and other soy foods.


An underactive thyroid sometimes leads to other health issues. One you might be at risk for is high blood pressure. You don't improve your chances for healthy blood pressure by salting everything you eat.

Limit your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day or less. To accomplish this, stay away from high sodium foods, such as:

Canned vegetables
Processed pork (bacon, ham, sausage, etc.)
Pre-made pasta sauce or salsa
Packaged entrees or food mixes
Frozen foods (burritos, pizza, hash browns, etc.)

This protein found in grains hasn't had much good press lately, and anyone taking thyroid hormone supplements should stay away from it, too. It might stop your body from absorbing the extra hormones.

Fried Foods

Guess what else blocks your body's absorption of thyroid hormone replacement meds? Grease and fat. You shouldn't eliminate fat altogether, but stay away from deep-fried anything. After all, the French fry diet won't enhance anyone's weight loss.


This dietary restriction aims to help you maintain your current weight. A poorly functioning thyroid won't burn the excess calories in pastries and candy easily. If you eat them too much, you'll put on even more unwanted pounds. Make sugar a true treat instead of a daily indulgence.

What to Eat

Diet plans designed for people with hypothyroidism aren't only about what you can't eat. Increase your intake of the following delicious foods to support your thyroid health.


Technically, iodine is a nutrient, not a food, but you need to eat plenty if you have thyroid problems. Your body uses iodine to make metabolic thyroid hormones.

Most table salt has iodine, but remember, you need to limit sodium intake too. Add iodine to your diet with these foods instead:


Nuts make the perfect snack for anyone with hypothyroidism. Choose nuts rich in selenium, a nutrient your thyroid loves to stockpile. You'll find plenty of selenium in just a few Brazil nuts, but you can also get it from a handful of fancy mixed nuts.

Are there any nuts you should avoid? Peanuts and pine nuts might reduce overall thyroid function, so don't make them a diet staple. Also, remember to stick to a handful—nuts have lots of fat, too!


When you eat beans instead of fatty meats, you feed your body's need for protein without consuming too many calories. Beans also help with low energy or constipation, two common side effects of hypothyroidism. White beans, lima beans, and chickpeas are great choices.

If you're on thyroid medications, check with your doctor before upping your bean intake. Too much fiber might interfere with how your body absorbs the supplemental thyroid hormones.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

If you want to feel full without eating too many calories, shop in the fresh produce section. Fill your cart with these antioxidant-rich foods, which may reduce symptoms of hypothyroidism:

Bell peppers

This sweet treat aids in thyroid function indirectly because its probiotics improve your gut health. If your stomach doesn't have the right combination of bacteria, your thyroid suffers. Get your daily dose of probiotics with low-sugar Greek yogurt. Sprinkle in a few berries, and you've made a delicious, thyroid-friendly breakfast.


One last tip for successful dieting with hypothyroidism: Don't think of these dietary recommendations as a list of restrictions. Think of them as a plan for achieving the weight loss you've wanted for years. Coordinate your healthy eating efforts with your doctor or a medical weight loss specialist to set yourself up for success.
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