Healthier Diet, Healthier Thyroid?

Haddock with tomato and pineapple relish
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Folks with a dieter’s mentality often joke that something must be wrong with their thyroid—as it's often easier to blame an expanding waistline on that misunderstood organ rather than our love of ice cream and/or potato chips.

While it is true that our thyroids are vital organs, it might not be for the reasons we think. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the thyroid is a “vitally important hormonal gland,” which plays a fundamental role in the human body’s metabolism, growth, and maturation.

For example, the thyroid will release more hormones into your bloodstream when necessary (say, for example, during pregnancy or on another occasion when our bodies require more energy).

In case you’re wondering exactly where your thyroid is located, it’s a butterfly-shaped organ that’s found just below the Adam’s apple. And no, you should not be able to feel a normal (i.e. healthy) thyroid if you touch your neck with your fingers.

Still, as the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists confirms, should one’s thyroid become over- or under-active, too many hormones can be released into the bloodstream, which can result in weight loss or other symptoms such as increased appetite, less tolerance to heat, or even more frequent bowel movements. Other symptoms can include being overly tired, a lower heart rate, memory loss, and even weight gain (yes, really).

Lucky for us, there are simple dietary changes we can make in order to encourage a healthier (and better functioning) thyroid.

 Some of the nutritious foods that offer support to our thyroids include salmon, shrimp, and haddock. These can be complemented by vegetables found in the sea (like kelp, kombu, and wakame).

The key, of course, is to add these thyroid friendly foods into our diets on a regular basis. 

Baked Haddock with Spicy Tomato-Pineapple Relish
(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 4 six-ounce haddock fillets
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup crushed pineapple canned in 100% juice, well-drained
  • 1 plum tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chili paste, such as sriracha (or more to taste)

Preparation:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat the foil with oil spray.
  • Place the haddock fillets on the prepared baking sheet and season them with the salt.
  • In a small bowl, combine the pineapple, tomato and chili paste.
  • Divide the topping evenly among the haddock fillets.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the haddock flakes easily with a fork. ​

Sources of vitamin E may also offer benefits to thyroid health. You can create your own trail mix by combining a few tablespoons of almonds, peanuts, or sunflower seeds with a handful of fortified whole grain cereal and using it as an afternoon snack. Along with the benefits for your thyroid, you’ll also be giving yourself a snack with protein and fiber that can deliver satisfaction, satiety, and added energy to your day.

When away from the table, work to avoid chronic stress, which can reveal itself through low levels of energy, high levels of irritability, a decreased sex drive, and unusual food cravings. Meditation is something we can all incorporate into our lives for virtually no cost (other than a little spare time). The benefits are many, and the reduction in stress can benefit not just your thyroid gland, but your entire body (not to mention your psyche, your relationships, and yes, even your weight).

 

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks. Joy’s latest book is From Junk Food to Joy Food.

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