By Ms. Edwina Raj, Head – Clinical Nutrition Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located on the front of our neck below the adam’s apple. This gland produces hormones that help in regulating our metabolism, growth, and developmental activities. When there is an imbalance in the thyroid hormones, it leads to several problems, such as altered metabolism, susceptible to weight gain, bone & hair loss, greater risk of developing heart disease, hormonal imbalance, celiac disease, and diabetes. This is usually referred to as hypothyroidism, where our thyroid is not producing enough hormones, leading to rapid weight gain.
Hypothyroidism can affect any age group, which includes infants and children. If you have an underactive thyroid, then you may feel the following symptoms –
- Puffy face and dry skin
- Increased cholesterol levels,
- Stiffness or pain in joints
- Depression or impaired memory
While patients suffering from hypothyroidism often find it difficult to lose weight, with the right diet changes but this is not a final verdict on your weight and health rather you can still work on your diet and lifestyle to shed those extra inches.
Focus on mindful eating by controlling your portion size and balancing the key nutrients through different range of food groups with an effort to include nutrients necessary for your thyroid health through natural sources which are safe in your daily diet such as foods containing iodine, selenium, zinc, calcium, and protein.
Here are five foods that can benefit you from these key nutrients essential for your thyroid function:
Seeds and Nuts
Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium and zinc that help in better functioning of the thyroid. Additionally, chia and pumpkin seeds are rich sources of zinc and make a great snacking option. Binge eating which is common among such patients can be controlled through oilseeds and nuts which is also a viable option and helps in your weight loss.
Beans and Legumes
These rich sources of protein can improve your metabolism, provide a sense of satiety (feeling of fullness) and prevent you from gaining weight.
Thyroid patients looking to lose weight can consume egg yolks and the whites as it will enrich their bodies with zinc, selenium, and protein, which are essential for weight loss and benefits with stronger bone.
Consuming vegetables such as tomatoes and bell peppers can support thyroid patients in weight loss as they are rich in vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
Water and non-caffeinated beverages
Increasing your water intake can help you with bloating, eliminates toxins from the body, keep your hormones in check and boost your weight loss process.
A caution note:
The road to recovery from hypothyroidism is normal. As long as a patient follows the medication regime, there should not be any complications. However, leaving it untreated can drastically affect your body, such as elevated cholesterol levels, subsequent heart disease, infertility, and osteoporosis. Several studies have also proved how thyroid can lead to the onset of other autoimmune diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and anaemia. Therefore, early diagnosis and proper management of the condition can help you avoid further complications.
Additionally, it is advisable that along with a healthy diet, patients undertake physical activities like yoga that stimulate and support their endocrine system and boost the supply of oxygen in their body, which will help their thyroid tremendously. Lastly, avoiding alcoholism and smoking can help patients improve their thyroid performance.
All the foods mentioned above need to be reviewed by your clinical dietitian and endocrinologist before going overboard.
It is advisable to make a note on foods that interfere in the absorption of your thyroid medication and hence to be avoided immediately in the morning and spaced later during the day such as coffee, soya, papaya, grapefruit, and supplements that contains fiber and calcium too. Read the food labels of packed foods and include iodized salt, sprouted millets, and avoid using non-iodized pink salt to maintain your thyroid health. Nutritional supplements that contain chromium picolinate used for weight loss impairs absorption of thyroid medicine. Limit foods which are high in goitrogens (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, pearl millet, cassava, peanut oil, etc.) but not recommended to avoid completely as they have other antioxidant or cancer fighting properties and source of essential nutrients.