While there is not a vegetarian diet specifically created for combating hypothyroidism, certain dietary guidelines can prove helpful: Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and stay away from refined sugars. Increase your consumption of whole grains, beans, legumes and proteins. Snack on raw seeds, apricots, prunes and dates. Cook foods in olive or coconut oil. Eat several small, well-balanced meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar consistent and help with energy. A diet rich in fiber is generally advised, but for people with hypothyroidism, too much fiber can have an adverse affect on thyroid medication. Because iodine is directly related to thyroid function, be sure your diet is rich in sources of iodine, such as sea salt and foods made with seaweed. While iodine supplements are available, you should be able to get enough iodine from natural sources. It is rare for people in developed countries to have an iodine deficiency, and too much iodine can be bad for your health.
Soy or No Soy?
There is constant debate about whether or not soy products should be consumed by those with hypothyroidism. The main concern is whether or not the isoflavones (phytoestrogens) in soy have an adverse affect on the thyroid. According to Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D., an endocrinologist at Mayoclinic.com, there is no evidence that shows this correlation. Soy can, however, negatively affect the body's ability to absorb synthetic thyroid medications. Take your medication when you wake up, on an empty stomach, and wait 3 or 4 hours before consuming soy products. The same advice holds true for calcium supplements, iron and antacids that contain magnesium or aluminum.
Another debate revolves around whether it's safe for people with underactive thyroid to eat cruciferous vegetables. This carries important implications for vegetarians, especially. Cruciferous vegetables include brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower. These vegetables contain goitrogens (goiter producers) that may interfere with thyroid hormone regulation. Goitrogens are also found in corn, lima beans, peanuts, sweet potatoes and turnips. According to Andew Weil, M.D., noted health expert, because goitrogens are inactivated by light steaming or cooking, you can continue to take advantage of the valuable antioxidant and cancer-protective effects of these foods.
Exercise has been shown to help with metabolism and issues of weight gain and lethargy often spurred on by an underactive thyroid. Never start a new diet or exercise program or take a dietary supplement without first consulting your physician.