Thyroid Disorders and Goitrogenic Foods - Part 2
Thyroid disorders and goitrogenic foods - Part 2
What are goitrogenic foods?
The goitrogenic plants have molecules (goitrins, thiocyanates, and flavonoids) that even at low concentrationsmight inhibit iodine absorption and interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland by preventing the synthesis of the hormones of the thyroid that can result in the enlargement of the thyroid gland or goiter. (1, 2, 3, 4)
What are goitrogens?
Goitrogens are compounds or molecules found in certain plants (also in certain chemicals and medications) that might interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland even when are consumed in small amounts.
Below you can find listed the foods that contain the most goitrogens:
Cassava or yucca, sweet potatoes, soybeans and all soy products including tofu, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, soy lecithin, etc., peanuts, pine nuts, millet, lima beans, bamboo shoots, strawberries, peaches, pears, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, broccolini, bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, spinach, collard greens, Chinese cabbage, rapini, rutabagas, turnips, watercress, wasabi, radishes, horseradish, rapeseed, canola, choy sum, turnips, kohlrabi, millet, almonds, apricots, cherries, plums, raspberries, etc.(5)
The plants above are called goitrogenic plants because of their high goitrogen content. And if you have thyroid problems you are probably thinking …
The cruciferous family of vegetables
As you could see above, the goitrogenic foods comprise the family of vegetables known as cruciferous or the SUPER-VEGGIES, and this family of plants is the one that contains the highest amount of goitrogens on them. The cruciferous family of vegetables includes broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, spinach, bok choy, brussels sprouts, canola, kale, horseradish, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, wasabi, collard greens, etc. (6, 7)
Should I strictly avoid the goitrogenic foods in my diet in order to prevent or treat thyroid issues?
And a short answer is no. However, you must be informed that excessive intake of these goitrogenic foods may contribute or even worsen thyroid conditions.
Who are the most susceptible individuals who need to restrict the goitrogenic foods in their diet?
1- If you are iodine deficient, you are more likely to react to these goitrogenic foods.
2- Or if you are already experiencing thyroid problems, especially hypothyroidism, these foods may further aggravate this condition.
3- Or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, try to limit your intake of these foods in your diet to prevent unwanted surprises in your thyroid.
If you find yourself with one of the conditions above, try to restrict the consumption of the goitrogenic vegetables in the raw form, as green juices or cooked. And the recommendation is to limit the goitrogenic plants between 3-5 servings per week. (8, 9, 10)
Important to keep in mind:
. By cooking the goitrogenic veggies until fully cooked, reduces their goitrogens by approximately two-thirds.
. By boiling for 30 minutes the goitrogenic foods in soups or broths, destroys up to 90 percent of their goitrogens.
. By steaming goitrogenic foods significantly reduces their goitrogens compounds.
How do we minimize the effects of goitrogenic foods in our diet?
At this point, we must redouble our attention to the need of a diet rich in fiber. Also, we need to be attentive that by processing (cooking, boiling or steaming) and, by limiting to 3-5 servings of the goitrogenic foods per week as it is suggested here we lose lots of the nutrients and fibers in our diet. Fortunately, the markets have a wide variety of vegetables that do not have goitrogen on them, and we must concentrate our diet on these veggies that can be eaten as we wish (cooked, raw, juiced, etc.). (11, 12)
So, if you need to restrict the goitrogenic vegetables in your diet due to a thyroid problem, do the following:
- Focus your diet on a wide variety of vegetables that do not have goitrogens. In this way, you can limit the amount of goitrogenic vegetables that you consume without compromising the amount of fiber in your diet.
- When you eat goitrogenic vegetables in your diet, always prefer them cooked, steamed or, sautéed, instead of having them raw or as green juices. As we saw above, these procedures help to breakdown the enzyme myrosinase, reducing the amount of goitrogens in these veggies.
What do we lose when we cook our vegetables?
Without any question, the cruciferous family of veggies and most of the goitrogenic foods are incredibly healthy foods and contain phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fibers. Also, these veggies are recommended worldwide as green juices, or a natural way to detoxify because most of these vegetables are linked to the prevention and treatment of chronic health problems and all types of cancer risks. (13)
I'm not discussing this ...
What I am considering in this article is that these plants, while very nutritious, have goitrogens on them, which prevent the transport and assimilation of iodine, and consequently, the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. Plus, that the excess of these foods in our diet can cause us harm, especially in the health of people with pre-existing or who have the predisposition to thyroid problems.
As a result, the need to cook, boil or steam these foods is a way to reduce the effects of the goitrogens on our health, and of course that we lose lots of their nutrients when we process our vegetables.
Keep in mind that vitamins, minerals, fatty acids in general, are sensitive to high temperatures, and by cooking our veggies we lose around 50 percent of its vitamin C content. Also, around 20 percent of thiamine (a B-Complex vitamin), and about 40 percent of its folate content (another molecule of B vitamin).
With that in mind, it is possible to see the importance of a nutrient-dense type of diet. as the Paleo diet because we can get so many different nutrients through a variety of nutrient-dense foods we daily eat. And it compensates for the vitamins and minerals we lose when we cook our goitrogenic veggies.
In reality, the scientific research shows that micronutrient deficiencies are a major risk factor for chronic illness and death worldwide. So, we must be careful and follow a diet rich in nutrients, as the absence of micronutrients in our foods increases the risk of deficiencies of minerals, vitamins, etc.
How to optimize our Iodine intake through our diet?
Always remember that both extremities, deficiencies and excesses of nutrients, are the root cause of many modern health conditions. And too little or too much iodine can be harmful to our health.
Below you can find some nutrient-dense and iodine-rich foods that you can include daily in your plate:
Seaweed such as kombu kelp, wakame, nori, wild seafood in general, wild fish as sardines, salmon, Atlantic cod, free-range eggs, dairy from pasture-raised animals, whole and unpasteurized milk, yellow and creole cheeses, whole yogurt, kefir, etc. As well as baked potatoes, turkey breast, bananas, etc.
So, the idea is to guarantee the best quality possible in our products, in order to have as many nutrients as possible available in our meals.
A comment: Are you noticing why iodine deficiency is so widespread worldwide? The iodine-rich foods listed above are barely included in our daily diets unless you are following a nutrient-dense type of diet.
Diversify as much as you can your diet to get all the nutrients your body needs
Without any question, it is crucial to focus our efforts on a nutrient-dense type of diet. A diet diversified in macronutrients a rich in many nutrients our body needs to be fully functioning.
By diversifying our macronutrients and emphasizing in their quality, our body receives different vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, enzymes, amino acids, etc., in different amounts, all key nutrients to support good health and well-being. (16)
As we all are different, with different nutritional needs, and interacting in different ways with our food, the general idea is to follow a diversified, nutrient-dense type of diet that attend our individual needs and helps us achieve our own personal goals.
As a symphonic orchestra, our body needs to be tuned in a very particular frequency, receiving a variety of information (macros and micronutrients) through our food in order to be in harmony.
In fact, our food can be used in our favor or against us, as it can be our best medicine or the worst poison. And as we could see, even plants considered extremely healthy can alter the functioning of the thyroid gland, if consumed in excess.
Food is the information that can change the functioning of our metabolism in unimaginable ways, and depending on what our forks have on it, can generate health or motivate disease states.
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