The Benefits of High-Fiber Foods for Thyroid Patients

high-fiber foods
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Most of the foods you eat—which include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—are broken down and absorbed by your body, except for dietary fiber, sometimes called “roughage.” Fiber passes through your body—first your stomach, then the small intestine, followed by the colon, and finally, it exits the body— virtually untouched.

When you have a thyroid condition, a high-fiber diet can be of particular benefit to you by helping with weight loss and chronic constipation, among other positive effects.

Learn more about the benefits of fiber and the foods that are rich in fiber that you can add to your overall approach to a healthier life with a thyroid condition. 

Benefits of Fiber

In general, there are many benefits of a diet high in fiber for thyroid patients, and for anyone who wants to improve overall health. Fiber can: 

  • Reduce the risk of stroke and improve your heart health: An important connection has been found between fiber intake and heart attacks. Studies show that patients eating a high-fiber diet decrease their risk of heart attack by up to 40 percent. Your risk may be decreased by 9 percent for each 7 grams per day increase in dietary fiber, according to studies quoted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in their position paper. Since thyroid patients have a higher risk of heart disease, this is an important benefit.
  • Aid in weight loss and management: The more fiber in your daily diet, the lower your risk of obesity. This is likely because fiber makes you feel full, which means you are likely to eat less. Fewer calories each day can eventually lead to weight loss over time. Weight gain, or difficulty losing weight, can be a challenge for people with hypothyroidism, so this is especially relevant for thyroid patient. 
  • Lower cholesterol: The soluble fiber found in certain beans, flaxseed, oat bran, and oats may help lower “bad” cholesterol levels. This can also lead to less heart inflammation and reduced blood pressure levels. Elevated bad cholesterol is sometimes the result of hypothyroidism, so this is an extra benefit of fiber for thyroid patients.
  • Improve digestion: Dietary fiber helps control the digestion of other foods.
  • Reduce hemorrhoids and regulate bowel movements: By eating a high fiber diet, hard stools and constipation—a common complaint in people with hypothyroidism—may be resolved, along with a reduction in your risk and severity of hemorrhoid symptoms.
  • Help control blood sugar levels: People with diabetes on a high-fiber diet have shown that their absorption of sugar is slowed. This helps promote better glucose levels. In­sulin sensitivity may be improved with certain dietary fibers. Eating a high-fiber diet may also decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, a risk that is higher if you are hypothyroid. .
  • Reduce your risk for diverticulitis: Insoluble fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of diverticulitis. However, for those with diverticulosis or irritable bowel disease, some people have worse symptoms with more fiber, while others have fewer symptoms.
  • Relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber has been shown to decrease IBS symptoms in some people, although others have more symptoms when eating more fiber.
  • Reduce colon cancer risk: Some promising studies have shown that a high-fiber diet may decrease risks of colorectal cancer, but this is not found in every study.
  • Increases mineral absorption: Dietary fiber may help your body to absorb certain minerals more effectively, especially calcium.

Soluble- and Insoluble-Fiber Foods

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adult women consume 25 grams of total fiber per day and adult men consume 38 grams, with 10 to 15 grams coming from soluble fiber. As you age, you need less and over age 50, women should consume 21 grams and men should consume 30 grams.  

Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber is fiber that is easily dissolved in water, where it forms a gel-like substance. This type of fiber has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels as well as blood glucose levels.

Soluble fiber is found in:


Apples
Barley
Beans
Carrots
Citrus fruits
Corn
Flour
Hazelnuts
Jicama
Mixed vegetables (frozen)

Oats
Okra, cooked
Onion (white, yellow, red, cooked)
Parsnips
Pears
Prunes
Peas, cooked
Soy flour*
Yams (canned with syrup, drained)

Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber is a fiber that helps speed up elimination from the body. Insoluble fiber can help prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber also helps keep the pH level in your intestinal tract at an optimum level. The foods that are highest in insoluble fiber include the following:

Almonds*
Apple with skin
Baking chocolate
Barley, cooked
Bran cereal
Blueberries
Brazil nuts
Broccoli*
Brussels sprouts*
Bulgur
Cabbage*
Carrots
Cauliflower*
Cereal party mix, homemade
Cherries
Chestnuts
Coconut
Corn nuts
Corn
Cranberries
Elderberries
Figs
Flax seed
Flour, barley, barley bran, barley malt, rye, whole wheat
Gooseberries
Green beans
Guava
Hickory nuts
Hominy
Jicama
Kale*
Kidney beans
Kiwi
Kumquat
Lentils
Macadamia nuts
Mandarin oranges
Mango
Millet*
Mushrooms
Nectarine
Oatmeal
Oyster
Papaya
Pasta, cooked
Peanuts*
Pears
Peas
Pine nuts
Pineapple
Pistachios
Potatoes
Prunes
Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin puree
Quinoa
Raisins
Raspberries
Rhubarb
Rice (brown, cooked)
Rutabaga
Sauerkraut
Sorghum
Spinach
Split peas
Sprouts
Squash
Strawberries
Sunflower seeds
Sweet potato
Tomato paste
Tomatoes
Trail mix
Turnips
Vegetable juice
Walnuts
Wheat bran germ
Whole wheat flour
Wild rice (cooked)
 

 

* Note that these high-fiber foods are also goitrogenic, meaning that they promote thyroid enlargement and can potentially cause or aggravate hypothyroidism. Typically, the risk of goitrogenic foods is in overconsuming them, especially in raw form. Cooking or steaming typically eliminates most goitrogenic properties.

A Word from Verywell 

If you start a high-fiber diet and are taking thyroid hormone replacement medication, make sure that you have your thyroid blood test levels rechecked in six to eight weeks. Fiber can sometimes change the absorption of your medication, so it's important to recheck to see if you need to modify your dosage. 

Sources:

Dahl WJ, Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(11):1861-1870. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.09.003.

Felker P, et. al. Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism." Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):248-58. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv110. PMID: 26946249.

Improving Your Health With Fiber. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/improving-your-health-with-fiber.

Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983?p=1

Wald A. Patient Education: High-fiber diet (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/high-fiber-diet-beyond-the-basics.

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