Why You Should Eat Goitrogenic Foods

Goitrogenic Foods - Holisticole

Goitrogens are compounds that can cause an enlargement of the thyroid gland, called a “goiter”. Many drugs have a goitrogenic effect in the body, such as lithium and phenylbutazone. Goitrogenic drugs are notorious for interfering with iodine metabolism (the thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones). When there is an insufficient amount of iodine to make these hormones, our pituitary gland in the brain will signal the thyroid to grow in order to make more thyroid hormone, and this results in a goiter!

That was in relation to drugs. Foods on the other hand are not “goitrogenic”. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, cabbage and cauliflower are often deemed as goitrogenic foods and many people are told not to eat them because of this, however this is an incorrect term as these do not interfere with the thyroid function of a healthy individual, even when consumed daily & in their raw form!

Avoiding these foods as a form of prevention for thyroid deficiency is not the right choice to make, nutritionally speaking!

What causes a problem for certain individual, is not linked to the food itself, as foods are all digested differently by everyone. We all have a highly individualized digestive tract and our own unique sensitivities, there is not one “right” way of eating for everyone.

If you have an under active thyroid you may be sensitive to the goitrogenic compound in foods, but you should not avoid these nutrient dense foods all together. An iodine deficiency in the thyroid is caused by the lack of iodine-containing foods, not because of “goitrogenic” food consumption. It is recommended that you lightly steam the following foods before consumption to eliminate goitrogenic compounds all together if you do have a hypothyroidism, however lightly steaming does not mean avoiding!:

  • Bok choy

  • Broccoli

  • Broccolini

  • Brussels Sprouts

  • Cabbage

  • Canola (avoid)

  • Cauliflower

  • Chinese cabbage

  • Collard greens

  • Horseradish

  • Kale

  • Kohlrabi

  • Mustard Greens

  • Radishes

  • Rapini

  • Rutabagas

  • Soy (avoid)

  • Turnips

  • Edamame

  • Tofu (avoid)

If you didn't already think that list was long enough, the following  foods can also have a mild amounts of so-called “goitrogens”:

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Pears

  • Spinach

  • Pine nuts

  • Peanuts

  • Strawberries

  • Flax

  • Peaches

  • Millet

Avoiding all these "goitrogenic" foods would be absolutely absurd! This list is longer than most would think, it goes beyond avoiding spinach, kale and broccoli! 

When it comes to thyroid health

Other nutrients like tyrosine and selenium play an important role in thyroid health. Selenium is a trace mineral required for certain actions in the thyroid gland, with an insignificant amount of selenium in the diet this deficiency can play a role in thyroid problems. Our soil in Ontario is deficient in Selenium and this does play a huge part in thyroid health. Foods that are rich in selenium, that you should include daily for preventative purposes are:

  • Organic Grass Fed Beef

  • Mung Beans

  • Pinto Beans

  • Shiitake Mushrooms

  • Sesame Seeds

  • Spinach

  • Sunflower Seeds

  • Brazil Nuts

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Raw Cacao

  • Chia Seeds

  • Crimini Mushrooms

  • Organic Chicken

  • Flax Seeds


What's the real deal here

This all may be conflicting information, since many people have been told by practitioners that there is such a thing as goitrogenic foods and that they should be avoided. Those with hypothyroidism are likely told to avoid all these foods listed, which can be a big mistake since these foods contain way too many beneficial nutrients for to be eliminated from the diet.

Cruciferous vegetables have powerful protective advances against many cancers like breast, prostate, colon, bladder and lung. If you have a healthy thyroid you do not need to avoid these foods as prevention, if you do have hypothyroidism, still consume these foods because you will still benefit them, instead you should lightly steam them in order to eliminate the goitrogenic compounds.

In order to support a healthy thyroid consume a diet with a variety of selenium containing foods and also include seaweeds like kelp which are a natural source of iodine! Plus be sure to read my new post on Thyroid Health


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