It weighs only 25 grams (about the weight of a handful paper clips), and it sits at the base of your neck. You may not think much about your thyroid gland, but that little butterfly-shaped gland is not functioning optimally then nothing works well. January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and in honor of that little butterfly-shaped gland, here are some tips on taking care of mother nature’s circuit breaker.
- Dine on Iodine: Thyroid hormones such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) are named T4 and T3 due to the number of iodine molecules they possess. T4 possesses four iodine molecules, and T3 possesses three. Without iodine, your body simply cannot make these thyroid hormones and issues then follow. Iodine deficiency is common, though we can increase our intake of it by consuming iodine rich foods such as seaweed, fortified dairy products, and seafood.
- Choppin’ Broccoli: The brassica family—kale, broccoli, and cauliflower—are what known as “goitrogens” which means they can suppress the function of the thyroid gland by blocking the uptake of iodine. Cooking them lightly will reduce the negative impact of these powerhouse foods but keep all their vitamin-rich goodness.
- Let’s get nuts: Selenium is required for the thyroid to convert thyroid hormone T4 to T3 as the enzymes required for this conversion are actually dependent on selenium. It is also a potent antioxidant; protecting the gland from oxidative stress. Brazil nuts are one of the highest natural sources of this mineral. Alfalfa, broccoli, butter, eggs, fish, garlic, onion, turnips and seafood are also fantastic sources. Eating one unsalted Brazil nut daily is an easy way to increase your intake and also provides your body with other minerals and healthy fats.
- Up your ANTIOXIDANTS: Antioxidants are well known to help lower the signs of aging but they’re also fantastic for your thyroid, especially if you have an autoimmune thyroid disorder, such as Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease. The thyroid is very susceptible to oxidative stress. Consuming a rainbow of fruit and vegetables daily will ensure you are getting a lot of antioxidants as well as B vitamins which will help to protect your thyroid and ensure proper hormone balance.
- STAY AWAY FROM FAD DIETS: Good advice in general; starving yourself is never a good idea! When you dramatically lower your calorie intake or deprive your body of sustenance for certain periods of time, your body will do everything it can to help you survive. One of the body’s primary survival mechanisms is for the thyroid to release a hormone call reverse T3 which acts to slow your metabolism. If you are starving to death in the middle of the desert, this may come in handy, however, if you are trying to get to a healthy weight and feel healthier, then not so much!
Lastly, the key to thyroid health is to eat plenty of nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy, lean sources of protein—both animal and vegetable sources—drink plenty of water and lower your intake of refined sugars, junk food, sugary drinks and get plenty of rest. A thyroid-healthy diet will enhance all of your health, and what better month to start than right after New Years!