Nutrition Tips for Thyroid Patients

While specific foods and supplements can't treat or reverse thyroid disease, eating a healthy, thyroid-friendly diet can support your thyroid function, help you maintain or lose weight, and may even help reduce some of your symptoms like fatigue, constipation, and slow metabolism.

More research is needed to better understand the exact impact of food on thyroid health, but there's some scientific evidence for how certain nutrients affect thyroid function.

The following dos and don'ts are a great place to start when you're looking to make some changes. Consider seeking the help of a nutritionist who can help guide you further.

1:26

Watch Now: 7 Thyroid Nutrition Tips

Limit Dietary Stress

Dietary stress in your body is caused by eating foods that create:

  • Inflammation, sensitivity, or allergic response
  • A spike or rapid fluctuations in your blood sugar

Or contain:

  • Toxins or chemicals that can trigger immune responses
  • High amounts of unhealthy fats

You can help eliminate dietary stress by making some strategic changes.

Eliminate Heavily Processed Foods

Processed foods don't have a direct impact on thyroid function, but when they're heavily processed, as in the case of frozen pizza, microwave dinners, and donuts, they aren't healthy for anyone. Some heavily processed foods (such as processed meats) even contain certain ingredients that are considered carcinogenic (cancer-causing).

In addition, foods that are heavily processed often have a lot of empty calories that don't support your body at all. It's best to choose fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and foods that have been minimally processed if you can.

Skip Table Salt

Most Americans consume too much salt. Current USDA guidelines suggest that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Since many packaged foods already contain sodium, adding table salt to foods may put you over the limit.

Add Good Fats

Incorporate good fats like olive oil, avocado, and healthy nuts into your diet. These have anti-inflammatory properties that may help support your immune system. Salmon is also an excellent source of good fat. Choose wild-caught salmon instead of farmed salmon for maximum nutritional value.

Use grass-fed instead of grain-fed organic meats whenever possible. Meat from grass-fed animals is higher in healthier fats and nutrients and lower in fat overall than meat from grain-fed animals.

Limit Sweets

Thyroid disease increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To help reduce this risk and lower dietary stress, cut down or eliminate soft drinks, and other forms of sugar, such as honey and molasses, and cut diet drinks and artificial sweeteners from your diet entirely.

Drink in Moderation

Alcoholic beverages are often heavy on carbohydrates and sugars. There's nothing wrong with an occasional drink for most people, but overuse of alcohol is a stress on your liver and your immune system.

Avoid Eating Too Much in One Sitting

Eating until you're stuffed causes a spike in your blood sugar, typically followed by a dip or crash. This is a dietary stressor that can be avoided by making your meals more balanced and stopping once you feel satisfied.

Mindful eating is a helpful strategy for avoiding overeating. It gives your body time to register that you're full and improves your awareness of those signals. As a bonus, it can also help aid digestion.

Give Your Body a Nightly Food Break

Try to stop eating after 8 p.m. and give your body a 10- to 12-hour break overnight before you eat breakfast. When you sleep, your body starts producing thyroid, adrenal, and growth hormones. It draws the energy for this production from your stored fat, burning it as you sleep.

Studies have suggested that by allowing a break of 10 to 12 hours, you encourage your body to get the message that more food is not coming every several hours, which may help shift you into fat-burning mode overnight.

Eliminate Toxins

Hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides are toxins and they can trigger autoimmune and inflammatory responses. The more you can remove these toxins from your food, the less stress these foods will create in your immune and endocrine systems. Buy organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, wild-caught, and pesticide-free foods whenever possible.

Try a Thyroid-Friendly Diet

Since it produces hormones that affect your entire body, your thyroid is sensitive to what you eat. The more dietary stress you put on yourself, the more likely you are to experience inflammation that can worsen your autoimmune reactions and interfere with your thyroid function. Here are some approaches you can try that are thyroid-friendly and may reduce inflammation.

Elimination Diet

Food intolerances and allergens—dairy, soy, and nuts, for example—can cause inflammation and make it harder for you to lose weight. It might be worth it to try an elimination diet and/or get allergy testing to determine if you have any food sensitivities or allergies.

Gluten-Free Diet

Celiac disease is three times more common in people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease than in the general population.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an immune reaction in your digestive system to gluten, a protein in wheat, barley, and rye, leading to damage in your small intestine. Having this disease can cause poor absorption of nutrients that are vital to thyroid health, like iodine and selenium, and lessen your body's ability to absorb your thyroid hormone replacement medication (levothyroxine).

For those with celiac disease, going on a gluten-free diet may help reduce inflammation. If you haven't been diagnosed with celiac disease, but you think you might have it based on your symptoms and/or family history, be sure to get checked out by your healthcare provider.

Low-Glycemic Diet

A low-glycemic diet is low in sugar and simple carbohydrates that are quickly absorbed, such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, potatoes, and corn. The benefit of this diet is that it helps to balance blood sugar spikes, which cause dietary stress. Consistently high blood sugar can be inflammatory as well, so lowering and balancing your blood sugar reduces overall stress on your hormones, including your thyroid hormones.

Autoimmune Protocol Diet

The autoimmune protocol diet focuses on reducing inflammation and healing your immune system. It's appropriate for any type of autoimmune disease and involves eliminating specific foods for six to eight weeks, then reintroducing them slowly.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before you try any of these dietary approaches to make sure there aren't any risks for your particular health situation.

Consider Goitrogenic Foods

1:13

7 Essential Facts About Goitrogens and Diet

According to some research, foods described as goitrogens may have an impact on thyroid function. Some examples of the most goitrogen-rich foods include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, strawberries, peaches, and peanuts.

Though you don't need to avoid these foods entirely, you might consider talking to your doctor about how to determine whether they have an effect on your thyroid hormone levels and symptoms.

how goitrogens disrupt thyroid function
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Get Enough Fiber

Many people with thyroid disease struggle with constipation and extra weight. Fiber is important for digestion, heart health, healthy bowel movements, and enhancing your feeling of fullness.

USDA guidelines recommend that adults consume 22 to 33 grams of fiber per day depending on age and gender. It's best if fiber comes from high-fiber foods like beans, whole grains, and apples with skin.

Keep in mind that if you start eating a high-fiber diet, you should get your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) rechecked in eight to twelve weeks to see if you need a dosage readjustment since fiber can affect the absorption of your thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Drink Enough Water

Staying hydrated helps your metabolism function more efficiently and it can also reduce your appetite, get rid of water retention and bloating, improve your digestion, and combat constipation and fatigue.

Experiment with the type, form, and water temperature that allows you to stay well-hydrated. You may find it easier to drink more water if it's at room temperature instead of chilled, carbonated instead of still, filtered rather than tap, or by adding fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber slice.

Guidelines for water intake range from 2000 milliliters per day (about 8 cups) to 3800 milliliters (about 16 cups) per day based on your weight.

Maintain Sufficient Vitamin and Mineral Levels

Nutritional deficiencies can worsen symptoms of thyroid disease. And though they're not the reason autoimmune thyroid disease comes about, they are common in people with Graves' disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Ensuring you have sufficient levels of certain nutrients is important to your wellness.

Before You Buy Supplements

While it doesn't hurt to increase your intake of foods rich in these nutrients, before you rush out and buy a bunch of supplements, ask your healthcare provider to test you for any deficiencies. If your levels are good, taking supplements can lead to toxicity, which can worsen your thyroid symptoms and cause other health issues.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for your immune system health. It's made in your skin as the result of exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, and it's also found in certain foods. 

Scientific studies have found that vitamin D deficiency may be linked to the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases and is more common in people with these conditions. Research has also shown that vitamin D supplementation may help decrease both thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulin (Tg) antibodies in people with autoimmune thyroid disease.

Vitamin D Benefits
  • Helps your body absorb calcium to keep bones healthy

  • Regulates your immune system

  • May lower blood pressure

  • May reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes

Foods High in Vitamin D
  • Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon

  • Cereal

  • Cheese

  • Egg yolks

  • Fortified orange juice

Current guidelines suggest that adults should get about 15 mcg per day of vitamin D per day. Adults over 70 should get 20 mcg per day. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight .

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is also more common in people with autoimmune thyroid disease, as well as the elderly and people who follow a vegetarian diet.

Due to its important role in red blood cell formation and nerve function, a deficiency in vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, loss of energy, and shortness of breath from anemia (low red blood cell count), as well as numbness and tingling from impaired neurologic function. Current guidelines suggest that those over the age of 14 consume 2.4 mcg per day of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12's Benefits
  • Helps your body make DNA

  • Keeps red blood cells healthy

  • Prevents anemia

Foods High in B12
  • Meat

  • Chicken

  • Fish

  • Dairy products

  • Eggs

Selenium

Selenium is essential for thyroid health, especially since the thyroid contains the most amount of selenium in the body. Low levels of selenium are linked with an increased risk of hypothyroidism, goiter, and both Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease.

Selenium deficiency is fairly uncommon in the United States, but if you have a low selenium level, which is more likely if you have digestive or absorption issues, you may benefit from supplements. Too much selenium can be toxic over time, however. Experts recommend that adults consume 55 mcg per day and no more than 400 mcg per day of selenium from all sources, including food, vitamins, and supplements, in order to avoid toxicity.

Selenium Benefits
  • Essential for thyroid hormone production

  • Helps prevent cell damage

  • Boosts your immune system

  • May lower your risk of heart disease

  • May reduce your risk of cancer

Foods High in Selenium
  • Brazil nuts

  • Seafood like shrimp, tuna, halibut, and oysters

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Chicken

  • Eggs

  • Meats like ground beef, beef steak, and ham

Ferritin/Iron

Ferritin is a protein that stores your body's iron and releases it when you need it. If your ferritin level is low, your iron levels also decrease, which can result in fatigue and possibly anemia.

Iron deficiency may also contribute to developing hypothyroidism . Because many of the symptoms of iron deficiency are similar to those of hypothyroidism or occur at the same time, you may not even realize you have a problem. If you're taking Synthroid (levothyroxine) and still not feeling well, ask your healthcare provider to test your iron level.

Current guidelines suggest that adults consume between 8 mg (men) and 18 mg (women under the age of 51) of iron per day. Older women need less iron and women who are pregnant or lactating need more.

Iron's Benefits
  • Critical for making hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body

  • Necessary for making myoglobin, which transports oxygen to the muscles

  • Essential to the production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)

Foods High in Iron
  • Red meat

  • Organ meat like liver and giblets

  • Fortified cereals

  • Poultry

  • Seafood like oysters, salmon, and tuna

  • Dried beans

  • Dried fruit

  • Whole grains

Zinc

Zinc is one of the minerals that's required for the production and processing of thyroid hormone, and it also serves a number of roles in the body. Low levels of zinc can be a trigger of hypothyroidism, and deficiencies are uncommon in the United States. Because your body has no way of storing zinc, it's important to consume it on a daily basis. Current guidelines suggest that adults consume 8mg (women) to 11mg (men) per day.

Zinc's Benefits
  • Aids in thyroid hormone metabolism

  • Boosts your immune system and helps fight off colds and infections

  • Supports wound healing

  • May decrease your risk of age-related diseases like macular degeneration

Foods High in Zinc
  • Seafood like oysters, crab, and lobster

  • Red meat

  • Poultry

  • Whole grains

  • Beans and nuts

  • Dairy products

  • Fortified cereals

Understand Proper Iodine Intake

Iodine is crucial for the production of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). An iodine deficiency can impair your thyroid function because then your body doesn't have enough raw materials to produce the necessary thyroid hormone. This is uncommon in the United States due to the use of iodized salt.

Too much iodine can also be problematic, contributing to goiter—thyroid enlargement—and potentially causing autoimmune thyroid disease to flare up and worsen.

When Americans have low levels of iodine, they are typically due to an iron deficiency, following a restricted diet, or taking certain medications.

If your healthcare provider tests you and finds that you have an iodine deficiency, you'll likely take iodine supplements temporarily to get your levels back up. However, keep in mind that simply taking iodine supplements because you have thyroid disease is not recommended since it can make your condition worse, so don't do it without your practitioner's direction.

Watch for Absorption Issues

You shouldn't drink coffee, including decaffeinated coffee, until at least an hour after you've taken your thyroid hormone replacement medication. This is because coffee can affect the absorption of your medication and make it less effective.

If you absolutely must have both your thyroid medication and coffee at the same time, talk to your healthcare provider about the liquid capsule form of levothyroxine called Tirosint, which research shows is not affected by caffeine. You may also consider taking your thyroid medication at bedtime instead of in the morning, but discuss this with your practitioner first.

It's also important to wait at least four hours after taking your thyroid medication before taking calcium or iron supplements, or taking certain other medications like antacids, as these also may decrease the absorption of your medication and make it less effective.

Be sure to keep your healthcare provider up to speed by communicating any changes in the supplements or medications that you're taking, both over-the-counter and prescription, to avoid absorption issues.

Consider Probiotics

Probiotics are foods and supplements rich in a good kind of live bacteria that help you maintain a balance of your intestinal bacteria. The right probiotics can help enhance your immune system, improve digestion, combat diarrhea and constipation, and fight infections.

A Word From Verywell

It's always wise to practice moderation when it comes to your diet. While there are some foods, drinks, and supplements you definitely need to avoid taking with your thyroid medication, there's usually no reason that you need to completely eliminate any particular foods. Remember to discuss any major dietary changes with your healthcare provider first and to let them know if you're concerned about any nutritional deficiencies.

Thyroid Disease Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman
18 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Turesky RJ. Mechanistic Evidence for Red Meat and Processed Meat Intake and Cancer Risk: A Follow-up on the International Agency for Research on Cancer Evaluation of 2015. Chimia (Aarau). 2018;72(10):718-724. doi:10.2533/chimia.2018.718

  2. Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010;9:10. Published 2010 Mar 10. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-10

  3. Anton SD, Moehl K, Donahoo WT, et al. Flipping the metabolic switch: Understanding and applying the health benefits of fasting. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2018;26(2):254–268. doi:10.1002/oby.22065

  4. Campbell AW. Autoimmunity and the gut. Autoimmune Dis. 2014;2014:152428. doi:10.1155/2014/152428

  5. Azizi F, Mehran L, Hosseinpanah F, Delshad H, Amouzegar A. Primordial and Primary Preventions of Thyroid Disease. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2017;15(4):e57871. Published 2017 Oct 7. doi:10.5812/ijem.57871

  6. Abbott RD, Sadowski A, Alt AG. Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet as Part of a Multi-disciplinary, Supported Lifestyle Intervention for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Cureus. 2019;11(4):e4556. Published 2019 Apr 27. doi:10.7759/cureus.4556

  7. Bajaj JK, Salwan P, Salwan S. Various Possible Toxicants Involved in Thyroid Dysfunction: A Review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2016;10(1):FE01–FE3. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2016/15195.7092

  8. Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations. US Department of Agriculture.

  9. Simsek Y, Cakir I, Yetmis M, Dizdar OS, Baspinar O, Gokay F. Effects of Vitamin D treatment on thyroid autoimmunity. J Res Med Sci 2016;21:85 doi:10.4103/1735-1995.192501

  10. Vitamin D. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  11. Vitamin B12. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  12. Selenium. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  13. Soliman AT, De Sanctis V, Yassin M, Wagdy M, Soliman N. Chronic anemia and thyroid function. Acta Biomed. 2017;88(1):119–127. Published 2017 Apr 28. doi:10.23750/abm.v88i1.6048

  14. Iron. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  15. Zinc. Fact Sheet for Professionals. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.

  16. Leung AM, Braverman LE, Pearce EN. History of U.S. iodine fortification and supplementation [published correction appears in Nutrients. 2017 Sep 05;9(9):]. Nutrients. 2012;4(11):1740–1746. Published 2012 Nov 13. doi:10.3390/nu4111740

  17. Zimmermann MB, Boelaert K. Iodine deficiency and thyroid disorders. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015;3(4):286-95. doi:10.1016/S2213-8587(14)70225-6

  18. Cappelli C, Pirola I, Gandossi E, Formenti A, Castellano M. Oral liquid levothyroxine treatment at breakfast: a mistake?. Eur J Endocrinol. 2014;170(1):95-9. doi:10.1530/EJE-13-0693

Additional Reading