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Daily habits for a healthy thyroid

You may remember what I’ve written so far about how nutrient deficiencies and stress affect thyroid health. So what’s the solution? What do we put on our plates? Which foods will be especially nutritious for the thyroid? Let’s take a look at them in more detail.

Here you’ll learn about a few habits, foods and minerals to pay close attention to daily to keep your thyroid thriving (and your whole body too, actually).
I am not mentioning animal foods here (even though they do contain these minerals as well) because I personally choose not to put them on my plate. But when I talk about nutrition, I prefer to concentrate solely on facts, not my personal choices.

Oh, and another thing 🙂 .

The actual amount of nutrients in our food depends greatly on the soil in which it grew. Remember that! One soil will be much richer in nutrients than another, depending on the area. That’s why we can’t be sure exactly how much magnesium almonds contain, for example. We can only rely on medical data and research. For the purpose of this post, we don’t need exact numbers, just like most of us don’t need to know how many calories are in every single meal we consume.

Let’s get into it!

Add fermented veggies to meals

Pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, miso – what do they all have in common? They contain probiotics – or in other words, live bacteria. Probiotic bacteria promote healthy digestion and help the gut absorb nutrients from food. [1][2]

Another reason why fermented veggies are so beneficial is their acidity and ability to naturally boost gastric acid production. (Alternatively, if you can’t stand the taste of fermented foods, try drinking lemon water before meals.)

It all starts in the stomach, where gastric acid is secreted – we need it for the food digestion to be effective. And we need plenty of it. But why do we need to worry about this if the stomach just produces gastric acid, you might ask? Some things cause low stomach acid and it’s a common issue. Those are stress (yes, stress again…), medication for acid reflux, zinc and vitamin B deficiencies.

Gastric acid is essential for proper absorption of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, and selenium. Most of these nutrients’ deficiencies cause thyroid problems. To put it shortly, gastric acid is vital for keeping the thyroid happy. And probiotic foods can help immensely.[3][4]

Probiotic supplements are a helpful alternative for supporting gut flora, but they won’t boost the production of stomach acid.

Iodine – very important, still forgotten

Thyroid hormones actually have iodine inside their chemical molecules. Without iodine, the body can’t make T3 and T4.

Iodine is found only in trace amounts in many food products. Seaweed – such as nori, wakame, kelp and kombu are a very rich source of this mineral. Apart from that, 1/2 teaspoon of iodised salt provides 100% of the recommended daily intake. But remember that sea salt or pink Himalayan salt don’t have iodine added to them.

Keep in mind that most of the iodine is lost during cooking!

Disclaimer: It’s best to eat these foods in moderation (especially if you haven’t had your iodine levels checked) because too much iodine can also cause (even serious) thyroid problems. Don’t just assume you have an iodine deficiency if you have a thyroid disorder, because the cause of the problem might be something else. [5][6]

Load up on legumes

Beans, lentils, chickpeas – they’re a nutrient powerhouse and a primary source of protein on a plant-based diet.

Like I mentioned here, to get all the health benefits it’s best to soak them before cooking (of course you can get canned legumes and then you can skip the soaking).

What do they contain that’s so important for the thyroid? Magnesium and plenty of B vitamins as well as zinc, iron (more on those two over here). Low magnesium, for instance, is associated with hypothyroidism.

Now, what will boost the absorption of these nutrients?

  • Having enough stomach acid
  • Soaking the legumes
  • Adding fermented veggies to them

What should we avoid when eating legumes? Phytates and coffee.

Phytates will inhibit iron absorption – a blood-building mineral found in grains and legumes.

Seeds & nuts into every meal

Adding these to whatever’s on your plate is such an easy way to get more nutrients in. Soups, stews, salads, desserts, oatmeal – you name it. Every meal goes well with a little crunch.

Nuts and seeds also help control blood sugar level. That’s because their fibre slows down sugar absorption. If we maintain a steady level of glucose in our blood, hunger dips are much less frequent and we feel satisfied for longer.

Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are full of zinc, magnesium and selenium, all vital for a healthy thyroid.

A tablespoon or two of crushed/ground flax seeds. That’s enough to boost your omega 3s intake. These essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, they support the immune system and promote hormonal balance.

Also, you may have heard – eat 1 brazil nut a day to get enough selenium (why am I mentioning selenium?)

But whether one nut will cover your daily needs for this mineral depends on where the nuts were grown. You may need one brazil nut, you may need five.

Anyway, brazil nuts are a mighty source of selenium – let’s leave it at that.

Make friends with supplements (sometimes)

There are days or even weeks when life gets too overwhelming and we don’t seem to find the time to eat well, especially during travelling. That’s when supplements come in to help. They definitely shouldn’t be a substitute for a wholesome diet, just an enhancement. Depending on where in the world you live, the soil’s quality can vary. If it’s depleted in minerals, the food that grows in it will also be less nutritious. [8][9] Apart from the well-known vitamin D and B12 (if you don’t eat animal products), what should we consider supplementing?

Magnesium

Today’s busy lifestyle, often involving plenty of coffee and stress, leaves us deficient in this mineral. Pay attention to the type of chemical compound you’re buying – the cheapest ones often don’t absorb well. Opt for magnesium in the form of:

  • magnesium citrate
  • magnesium glycinate
  • magnesium lactate

Zinc

This one isn’t talked about as often as the rest. It’s easy to become zinc-deficient as many foods interfere with its absorption. Yet it’s so essential that we have enough of it as it’s needed to produce stomach acid and thyroid hormones. Look for zinc supplements in the form of zinc picolinate.

B vitamins

These are essential for metabolic processes happening all the time in our cells. Vitamin B deficiencies can cause serotonin and dopamine imbalance. As we know, all hormones affect one another. Supplementing helps to regulate hormonal balance. And with that comes a healthy thyroid.

When I was younger, I used to think that being healthy was all about nutrition. What I’ve come to realise in recent years is a very simple but important truth: wellbeing depends on many different factors. Yes, diet is a big part of it, but also mental health, stress management, the environment in which we live and the people we surround ourselves with.

Getting to know the basics of nutrition is just a step (but an essential step) on the way to a healthier life. And I will continue to explore and share these further steps with you.

Lots of love,

Zuza x

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