3 Nutrients for Optimal Thyroid Health

thyroid health

Published January 04, 2023

Have you been feeling sluggish, tired, recently gained weight, or having memory problems? Are you just not feeling like yourself? ¹ Learn how to support your thyroid health.

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that surrounds the airway in your neck. The thyroid gland plays many important roles in our body. Our brain talks to our thyroid by using messages called hormones. These hormones send signals through our body and tell our cells what to do. The thyroid gland makes hormones that affect our brain, muscles, heart, digestive system, and even our skin and hair. ¹ The thyroid gland needs specific nutrients from the foods we eat to do its job and make thyroid hormone.

 

Hypothyroidism

When the thyroid gland cannot make enough hormone, a condition called hypothyroidism can occur. About three to seven people out of a hundred in the United States suffer from hypothyroidism. It is important to see a doctor to identify low thyroid levels. A doctor may recommend medication to treat hypothyroidism.

In addition to thyroid medication, eating foods that support the thyroid gland may help the thyroid gland work properly. Protein, minerals, and B vitamins may support the thyroid gland and affect the amount of thyroid hormone made in the body.

 

Protein

Our body makes protein from the foods we eat. As we digest food with protein, like chicken, turkey, tofu, or beans, the protein in these foods breaks down into smaller parts called amino acids. Several hormones, including thyroid hormone, are made in the body from proteins. Thyroid hormone uses a specific amino acid, called tyrosine. ² The foods listed below are high in both tyrosine and protein.

  • fish

  • soybeans and tofu

  • pork

  • sesame and pumpkin seeds

  • cheese

  • eggs

When we eat foods rich in protein, especially tyrosine, our thyroid gland can use these building blocks to make the thyroid hormone that our body needs.

 

Minerals

Our bodies need minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, and potassium for everyday activities and good health. The thyroid gland also needs different minerals to work at its best, like iron³, iodine⁴, selenium⁵, magnesium⁶, and zinc⁷. Food containing many of these minerals include:

 

  • seafood and shellfish

  • tofu

  • beans

  • nuts

  • animal proteins such as chicken, beef, turkey, and pork

  • eggs

  • seaweed

  • whole grains

 

When we eat a variety of whole foods, our bodies can use these nutrients to make thyroid hormone. This can help our thyroid function optimally.

 

Vitamin B3

Vitamin B3, also known as niacin, helps our body make energy from the foods we eat. Our thyroid also uses niacin to make thyroid hormone⁸. Foods high in niacin include the following:

 

  • animal proteins such as chicken, beef, turkey, and pork

  • fish, like salmon, tuna, and anchovies

  • avocados

  • peanuts

  • whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat

  • fortified and enriched foods, like breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta

  • mushrooms

  • starchy vegetables such as green peas and potatoes

Whole foods like these listed supply our bodies with enough vitamin B3 to help our thyroid make thyroid hormone.

 

Our thyroid gland affects our body’s important day-to-day activities. Getting enough protein, minerals, and vitamin B3 can help our body make enough thyroid hormone for optimum health. When our bodies make enough, our thyroid works hard to keep us energized and focused for our busy lives.

 

If you feel like your thyroid isn’t working right or keeping you from enjoying your normal activities, come see our practitioners and schedule an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health or Bastyr University Clinic.

 

Natalie Rosenbalm is a Dietetic Intern at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA who serves as a board member of the Greater Seattle Dietetics Association. She is passionate about whole foods nutrition and loves to share how the right foods can help support optimum health.  When she isn’t chauffeuring her family around or planning epic trips, she is in the garden or walking in her neighborhood.

 

Resources:

  1. Chaker L, Bianco AC, Jonklaas J, Peeters RP. Hypothyroidism. Lancet. 2017;390(10101):1550-1562. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30703-.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 6057, Tyrosine. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Tyrosine. Accessed Oct. 15, 2022.
  3. Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated April 5, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. Iron - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  4. Iodine Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated April 28, 2022. Accessed October 15, 2022. Iodine - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  5. Selenium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated March 26, 2021. Accessed October 15, 2022. Selenium - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  6. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated June 2, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2022. Magnesium - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  7. Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated September 28, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2022. Zinc - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)
  8. Niacin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Updated August 23, 2022. Accessed October 16, 2022. Niacin - Health Professional Fact Sheet (nih.gov)