conscious eating

Thyroid-Friendly Eating
How to Treat Hypothyroidism With Food
by Veronica Hinke

minadezhda by Getty Images/CanvaPro
minadezhda by Getty Images/CanvaPro

Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid gland in the neck plays a critical role in overall health, as it produces a series of hormones that regulate metabolism, brain development, bone maintenance, and heart, muscle and digestive functions. Thyroid health can be achieved by eating clean, unprocessed foods and maintaining appropriate levels of iodine.

According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly five in 100 Americans suffer from hypothyroidism, which occurs when the body does not produce adequate amounts of thyroid hormones. Common symptoms like weight gain, fatigue, inability to tolerate cold temperatures and hair loss should not be ignored. Diagnosis is aided by a blood test that measures levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones. While most cases of an underactive thyroid are mild or cause few obvious symptoms, the disease can become severe if it is left untreated.

“Only 10 percent of the population is aware of their thyroid problem and trying to manage it. Thyroid disease is a big thing. If people don’t know if they have it, they should be screened for it. If they have it, they should have hope,” says Alan Christianson, a naturopathic endocrinologist and author of The Thyroid Reset Diet: Reverse Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's Symptoms With a Proven Iodine-Balancing Plan.

“For women, an especially critical time to check thyroid health is during perimenopause years, when thyroid function can often waver, becoming underactive. Even if lab tests are normal, it is important to speak with a physician that understands the symptoms of hypothyroidism,” says Anna Cabeca, an obstetrician-gynecologist and women’s health expert in Brunswick, Georgia. “Most people can improve or reverse it radically. Diet is very powerful. Start with your shopping list and at the top write: Food is medicine.”

Offering hope, Michigan-based obstetrician-gynecologist Tabatha Barber says, “It’s often about doing less, not more, to help improve thyroid function. Don’t be afraid that this is something you have to live with forever.” As a teenager, Barber was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland and often causes hypothyroidism. She has learned how to modify her diet for relief.

Skip the Gluten
CE Thyroid Friendly Eating - Minadezhda/ Canva ProMinadezhda/ Canva Pro“Gluten is the main trigger that really seems to irritate the immune system,” says Barber. “A lot of people don’t realize that gluten is in some sauces, salad dressings, seasonings, medication fillers and more. It can be enough to keep the inflammation associated with hypothyroidism going.”

Balance Iodine
“Iodine is the Goldilocks mineral,” says Christianson. “It’s important to not consume too much or too little. Those with thyroid disease usually get too much. When they do, it inflames and slows the thyroid.” In such cases, he recommends eating a wide range of unprocessed food and avoiding ingredients with the highest iodine content, such as fish and other seafood, iodized salt, seaweeds, grains and most dairy.

Monitor Ingredients
Barber prioritizes the elimination of artificial ingredients and additives, saying, “It’s about really getting back to basics, eating unprocessed meats, vegetables and some fruits.” She recommends consuming foods rich in zinc and selenium, such as shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts and diary, as they send signals to the thyroid to produce the right hormone levels.

Cabeca shaves selenium-rich Brazil nuts on soups or salads. “Keep them as a staple in the kitchen,” she advises, adding that balance is important when selecting zinc- and selenium-rich foods because some of them, like dairy, may also contain high levels of iodine.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Cabeca finds clever ways to sneak anti-inflammatory ingredients into her recipes. For her kafta kabobs, for example, she combines ground meat with finely chopped parsley, garlic, tomatoes or dried shiso leaves and tops them with cashew butter or tahini sauce. Similarly, she uses plenty of parsley in her tabouleh—a traditional Middle Eastern salad—and replaces the customary bulgur wheat with chopped Brussels sprouts or cauliflower.

According to Northwestern Medicine, cauliflower can be part of a healthy thyroid diet, along with other cruciferous vegetables. “These are foods that I grew up on,” Cabeca says, noting that parsley is a natural diuretic that is also good for the thyroid.

Veronica Hinke is a food historian and author of The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining and Style; Titanic: The Official Cookbook and Harry Potter: Afternoon Tea Magic. Learn more at

Roasted Beet and Pistachio Salad
CE Recipe Roasted Beet and Pistachio Salad Dr Alan Christianson 202401 wDr Alan ChristiansonYield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 8 medium or 4 large beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced ⅓ cup unsalted pistachios
  • 2 cups baby leaf spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Misting oil

Preheat the oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, toss the beets with the garlic and a mist of oil. Pour into a baking dish and lightly cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes or until the beets are tender. Let sit for 15 minutes until cool.

In a salad bowl, combine the beets with the pistachios, spinach leaves, vinegar and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD, from The Hormone Healing Cookbook.


CE Recipe kiwi chia puddingSweet marshmallow/Shutterstock.comKiwi Chia Pudding
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup unsweetened flax milk
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup kiwi, peeled and diced (about 3 fruits)
  • 2 Tbsp pistachios, chopped

Add the ingredients, except pistachios, to a blender and blend for one to two minutes until smooth. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Dr. Alan Christianson, NMD, from The Hormone Healing Cookbook.

Salmon and Roasted Veggie Salad
CE Recipe Salmon AdobeStock 330509142AdobeStock 330509142Yield: 2 servings

  • 1 carrot, peeled, sliced and quartered
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ cup broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 oz wild-caught salmon fillet
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the carrot, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms to the baking sheet. Drizzle with coconut oil and season with garlic powder, parsley and salt to taste. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and add the salmon to the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return to the oven and continue to bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard into a small bowl. Whisk ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the salad by dividing the spinach between bowls and topping with vegetable mix and salmon. Top with the pumpkin seeds and dressing.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Tabatha Barber. Photo by Morgan Chorak.


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