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Diet for Metabolism & Thyroid Problems

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Many people with thyroid disease struggle with their weight. A small gland located in your neck, the thyroid is responsible for manufacturing thyroid hormone, which plays an important role in regulating your metabolism. A well-balanced diet that focuses on specific nutrients, including iodine, selenium and vitamin B-12, may help improve hormone balance and overall health. But you should consult your doctor before making changes to your diet, especially if you have an underlying thyroid condition.

Start With a Balanced Diet

When it comes to managing thyroid disease, you want to start with a balanced diet to make sure you get all the nutrients you need for good health. A balanced diet includes whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy sources of calcium such as low-fat milk or fortified soy milk, and lean sources of protein such as poultry or tofu. Thyroid disease increases the risk of heart disease, so you also want to make sure you include food sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, walnuts and flaxseed.

Iodine and Thyroid Hormones

Getting an adequate amount of iodine in the diet is essential for thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is a one of the main causes of thyroid disease throughout the world, according to dietitian Cheryl Harris. While iodine deficiency isn't as prevalent in the United States due to the use of iodized salt, iodine intake has decreased, says Harris. Additionally, getting too much iodine in the diet also affects thyroid health. Adults need 150 micrograms of iodine a day. One-quarter teaspoon of iodized salt contains 95 micrograms, while a 6-ounce portion of fish from the ocean contains 650 micrograms. Dairy foods and grains grown in iodine-rich soil are also a source of iodine in the diet.

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Selenium and Thyroid Health

Selenium is a trace mineral that has its highest concentrations in the thyroid gland. It is also an essential component in the regulation and production of thyroid hormone. Supplementation with selenium may offer some relief, improving mood and quality of life, in people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease, according to a 2014 review study published in "European Thyroid Journal." The researchers, however, say more studies need to be conducted before recommendations can be made. Adults need 55 micrograms of selenium a day. With 544 micrograms per 1-ounce serving, Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. Other food sources with selenium include yellowfin tuna, halibut, brown rice, eggs and frozen boiled spinach.

Vitamin B-12 and Thyroid Health

Vitamin B-12 is important for metabolism and production of red blood cells. Thirty percent of those with autoimmune thyroid disease have issues with low levels of vitamin B-12, according to Harris. Adults need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 a day. Good sources include shellfish, meat, milk, fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast. People over age 50 lose their ability to absorb vitamin B-12 from food and may require supplementation.

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