Thyroid Thursday Week 2 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 14 2021
Welcome back again to week 2 of the Thyroid Thursdays series! Last week we talked about the PCOS-thyroid connection and 4 plant-powered support strategies for that. You can still catch that replay on my Facebook page videos tab, or my previous post on LPFLblog along with my summary notes.
This week, since it’s also Veganuary, celebrating all things vegan, I want to throw some guidance at you for your plant-powered thyroid, including what could help support – or sink it.
So let’s dive in!
First, I know it gets asked over and over and over again anytime one of us says we’re vegan or vegetarian: how do you get your protein? And while protein is more abundant in plant foods than we’d once been led to believe, it does still matter what kind when it comes to the amino acid breakdown. One of those amino acids is tyrosine. It helps with the formation of thyroid hormones.
Tyrosine is actually quite available in plant foods, especially sesame seeds, soy beans, and nuts at large. Additionally, it will be present in plant proteins that are considered complete – containing all essential amino acids – and dense protein sources. Think hemp hearts, quinoa, peanuts, peas, and legumes.
Next, I touched on iodine briefly in last week’s session. We need iodine to help convert the thyroid hormone T4 to T3. Seafood is generally the top dietary source, but so is seaweed. So if you love sushi – or sushi bowls, like the recipe I posted earlier today and that you can find below – nori chips, miso with wakame or wakame salad, kelp noodles, dulse flakes… these are not just savoury additions but rich in the trace mineral iodine. You can also look to some types of salt for iodine, and generally keeping electrolytes in balance. If your diet is completely salt-free and has been for a while, you may want to look into boosting dietary sources like these, or consider a supplement like kelp liquid or tablets. This would be something to discuss with your primary care practitioner as iodine balance can be delicate.
I also mentioned selenium last week, and there are several plant-based sources there as well, with Brazil nuts ranking highest – just 1 a day giving you your daily needs. Sunflower seeds are another great source. Selenium is another cofactor for thyroid hormones, so it’s important to include these sources in your whole-food plant-powered lifestyle.
Now, while we’re talking about nuts and seeds, a lot of raw nuts and seeds contain something called phytic acid. In a nutshell… phytic acid may bind to and inhibit the absorption of minerals from the food, like iron, calcium, iodine, and selenium – which we need for healthy thyroid hormones. A lot of plant foods – especially nuts, seeds, as well as legumes or beans and peas, grains, and cruciferous veggies – are rich in phytic acid. And they also happen to be our best sources of minerals. But even if your diet contains these foods, there are ways to help reduce the phytic acid effect on mineral absorption.
Soaking and sprouting are among these ways, helping to break down phytic acid’s hold on the minerals. Steaming and fermenting are also helpful – great for the dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies (sauerkraut and kimchi are made from fermented cabbage). Many of these foods appear on “avoid” lists for thyroid, and a lot of it has to do with phytic acid. Preparing them in these ways – soaking, sprouting, steaming, fermenting – can help put them back on the “enjoy” list.
It’s also often been thought that soy products – which can be a staple food for many vegan and vegetarian lifestyles – may contribute to hypothyroidism, so it’s also been at the top of those “avoid” lists. But beyond phytic acid content, there isn’t really the evidence to say that soy is as bad for the thyroid as once thought.
That being said, the type of soy product may still be important for overall endocrine balance, which does include the thyroid, so I do still suggest looking to organic and minimally processed soy foods where possible, and fermented like tempeh and miso are great for better nutrient absorption (and of course reduction of phytic acid). Alternating and rotating with other plant protein sources rather than centering the entire diet around soy products – soy milk in the coffee, tempeh bacon for breakfast, tofu stirfry for lunch, soy yogourt for snack, soy-based “meat” for dinner; basically avoiding having too many soy-heavy foods in one day, like one does with most other foods – is also a good practice to strive for.
So it is possible to support rather than sink our thyroid health with a wider range of plant foods than we may have thought! I’d love to know which of these foods you already enjoy and which you’re going to try to start adding in.
If you missed it last week, I have a free PCOS Breakfast Bundle that also features many of these thyroid-supportive foods as well! Download the free PCOS Breakfast Bundle here
Next week we’ll talk about the adrenal-thyroid connection, because it’s a major one!