Thyroid Patients: The Benefits of High-Fiber Foods

high-fiber foods
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For thyroid patients, a high-fiber diet can be of particular benefit in two key ways: fiber can aid in weight loss for thyroid patients, and can help with chronic constipation, a common thyroid-related complaint. It's helpful to understand the role fiber, the different types of fiber, and the foods that are rich in fiber, so you can make sure you are eating a healthy, high-fiber diet.

Overview

Fiber (sometimes spelled fibre) is also commonly known as “roughage.” Dietary fiber describes plant-based foods that are not digested or absorbed.

Most of the foods you eat–which include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins–are broken down and absorbed by your body–except for fiber. The stomach is unable to digest fiber. Fiber passes through the body–first the stomach, then the small intestine, followed by the colon, and finally, it exits the body– virtually untouched. While passing through the digestive system, fiber is thought to help eliminate toxins, and in the bloodstream, fiber can help keep arteries clearer of plaque buildup. 

Benefits 

In general, there are also many benefits of a diet high in fiber. Fiber can: 

  • Reduce your risk for diverticulitis. Insoluble fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of diverticulitis by up to 40%.
  • Reduce the risk of stroke. For every 7 grams more fiber consumed daily, the stroke risk decreases by 7 percent.
  • Aid in weight loss and management. Scientific studies consistently show that 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.
  • Improve your heart health. An important connection has been found between fiber intake and heart attacks. New studies show that patients eating a high-fiber diet decrease their risk of heart attack by up to 40 percent.
  • 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.
  • Improve digestion. Some dietary fibers may help control digestion. This will aid your intestines in protecting your body from germs.
  • Reduce hemorrhoids. By eating a high fiber diet, constipation problems may be solved, 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. Eating a high-fiber diet may also decrease your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Increase mineral absorption. Dietary fiber may help your body to absorb certain minerals more effectively, especially calcium.
  • Increase insulin sensitivity. In­sulin sensitivity may be improved with certain dietary fibers.
  • Relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Fiber has been shown to decrease IBS symptoms in some people
  • Reduce risks of gallstones/kidney stones.Fiber helps regulate your blood sugar, which may help alleviate kidney stones or gallbladder issues.
  • Regulate bowel movements. Fiber can help soften the stool. It also increases the weight and size of the stool. This can help relieve constipation
  • Prevent colon cancer. Some promising studies have shown that a high-fiber diet may decrease risks of colorectal cancer.

    The recommendation is that you consume at least 25 mg of fiber or more each day, primarily from fruits and vegetables.

    Types of Fiber

    Soluble Fiber

    There are two kinds of fiber – soluble and insoluble.

    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
    • Flour, corn
    • 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 at an optimum level, which then lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer. 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, whole wheat, 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 Caution for Thyroid Patients

    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. 

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