Is there anything more frustrating than feeling you’re doing “everything right” and still getting no results?
If you’ve tried dieting, exercising, giving up carbs, some form of fasting and even saran-wrapping your stomach to no avail, you probably a) feel extremely frustrated and b) very tired - literally and figuratively.
You may even have done a little research and started wondering if your thyroid behind your weight gain.
I feel you! We feel you; it’s a collective struggle. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from some form of thyroid disorder, and they probably don't even know it.
The good news is that there are relatively simple steps you can take to regain your health and keep thyroid weight gain under control.
The first step is learning a bit more about thyroid stimulating foods.
How much do you know about eating for a healthy thyroid (and weight gain that happens when you aren’t)?
Unexpected weight gain (or weight loss) can often be a tell-tale sign of a poorly functioning or unbalanced thyroid gland, the key to controlling it is knowing what foods stimulate your thyroid - causing it to be over or under active - and figuring out how each one affects your body.
Thyroid Imbalance & Weight Gain: Your Body's Signals
The thyroid is a humble butterfly-shaped gland that regulates the speed of your metabolism with hormones that help process fuel into energy, getting rid of waste through respiration, and controling everything from digestion to cellular growth.
Considering most of the fat we burn is expelled as CO2 and when it’s not burned, our bodies store it for a rainy day (that just ain’t coming!) your thyroid has the power to make or break your weight loss goals.
It’s not that diet and exercise don’t work, it’s just that those you tried were not working for you, because your body has different needs and sensitivities. An underactive or hyperactive thyroid affects many bodily functions which result in multiple health issues - thyroid weight gain is just one of them!
Some of the symptoms of thyroid and hormone imbalance:
- Poor sleep
- Feeling tired even after 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Irregular bowel movements
- High cholesterol levels
- Joint pain
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Painful PMS symptoms on women
- Bloating and inflammation
These disorders are known as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. In some cases, the former is the result of an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, where your immune system attacks your thyroid because it believes it the gland is a foreign body.
Understanding the relationship between hormones, thyroid and weight gain is critical to find your balance; everybody is different and there are many factors - not just thyroid stimulating nutrients - involved.
Anything can affect your thyroid’s behavior: genetics, chemical toxins, environmental stimulants, stress, and also your diet - fortunately, the last two are under your control.
The relationship between food and thyroid weight gain
We often hear people say ‘you are what you eat,’ and with reason. Our bodies are designed to thrive with the right fuel. The problem is that we sometimes forget that food is the fuel and not all fuel is created equal.
There is a difference between filling up your car with diesel and ‘95 gasoline. Your phone doesn't run as fast on 2G speeds as it does on 5G. Essentially: just because you can operate on a certain diet doesn’t mean you’re eating the right foods to live your best life.
The tricky thing about thyroid stimulating foods is that many of your day-to-day and healthy favorites or pantry staples may be giving your body the wrong signals; this is especially if you're in the low/hypothyroidism range because it’s directly proportional to unwanted weight gain.
You can stimulate your thyroid with food to work in your advantage, or against you. Help restore your natural balance making smarter nutrition choices that are geared towards your particular needs.
The Top 12 Foods that Stimulate Your Thyroid (and Cause Weight Gain)
We know figuring out the right combination of nutrients and stimulants can be challenging, so we put together a list of the top 12 thyroid stimulating foods that are related to thyroid weight gain and how they affect your body. Plus, I share ways you can get all your daily nutrients, superfoods and boost your metabolism - like yummy drinks that you can whip up in three minutes or less ;)
Proceed With Caution: Thyroid Stimulating Foods to Avoid
Gluten is a protein found in wheat that resembles thyroid gland structures, confusing your organism and weakening your thyroid. In some cases, it can create conditions for thyroid antibody production. Avoid gluten completely by removing wheat, barley, rye, and kamut.
Replace it with alternative flours made out of coconut, black bean, chickpea, hemp, quinoa, etc. While switching to gluten-free pasta and bread might feel a little annoying at first, you’ll see bloating and thyroid related weight gain decrease significantly.
2. Soy and Soy Protein Isolate
This is particularly important for vegans and flexitarians who are looking to replace meat and dairy with soy-based products (soy ‘meats,’ soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, etc.) Instead of soy, look for a complete protein with ingredients like quinoa, rice, pea and hemp. While this is only significant if you already have diagnosed thyroid issues (1), it doesn’t hurt to cut processed soy products and reintroduce them slowly to see how they affect you.
Soy contains lectin and isoflavones, which may prevent the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormones and may inhibit natural synthesis.
Love Asian cuisine? Tamari sauce is a great alternative for soy sauce if you’re craving it!
Morning Joe, Green Tea, and Black Tea! Yes, they all have great properties and antioxidants that can be really good for you - if you don’t happen to have thyroid issues. Caffeine increases sugar blood levels and if you have Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism it causes sugar fluctuations, cortisol level spikes, drains your immune system and affects the adrenal glands.
For women, it stimulates estrogen dominance which leaves your body with less thyroid hormone availability making your metabolism extra sluggish. Finally, caffeine has been shown to inhibit synthetic thyroid hormone absorption. So, if you got medication, it would be less effective.
Even when you don’t have thyroid issues dairy can produce bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome and the casein in it affects people with autoimmune diseases making them more acute. All these are not good if you have Hashimoto’s or Grave’s.
Switch to coconut, oat, almond or hemp milk instead.
5. Refined and Processed Sugar
Sugary foods are generally void of nutritional value and the insulin spikes deplete your thyroid glands, not to mention it is related to “leaky gut syndrome” which may be the gateway to autoimmune diseases. Switch to small amounts of maple syrup or honey instead.
This is not just good to avoid or reduce thyroid weight gain, but to improve your overall health! Sugary foods are nobody’s friend.
6. Kale, Broccoli, and Dark Leafy Greens
Also known as “cruciferous vegetables,” they have gotten a bad reputation because they contain goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid hormone synthesis. But these are also the most powerful vegetables to fight and prevent cancer. Nobody wants to skip those!
Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine recommends enjoying them steamed or cooked to leverage their health benefits without slowing down your system.
These veggies gained a bad rap when a 1950 study argued that they might interfere with iodine intake. The vast majority of the research shows their anticancer properties far outweigh the bad. So go ahead and eat your kale and broccoli, just do so in moderation - and preferably steamed!
7. Sweet Potatoes, Lima Beans and Corn
Taco Tuesday favorites, am I right? These foods are delicious, but they also contain a small number of goitrogens. That being said, if they are consumed cooked and in moderation, they should be OK.
You can always substitute each of these for non-goitrogenic vegetables, for example, squash instead of sweet potatoes, green beans, and peas instead of lima beans and tomatoes, bell peppers or asparagus for corn, and so on.
It’s a new Taco Tuesday sans those pesky thyroid stimulating foods.
Not all nuts stimulate the thyroid gland equally. Peanuts are seldom recommended, but hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts are rich in selenium - which is essential for T3 production - and should be on regular rotation.
However, if you have Hashimoto’s you may want to experiment with how many you can eat: Remove them and then snack on up to 6 per day and monitor your energy levels.
Eat with Joy
9. Roasted Seaweed and Sea Vegetables
In addition to avoiding foods that are bad for your thyroid, it's important to note the ones that help your thyroid functions. Seaweed is one of those greens!
Insufficient levels of iodine limit the production of thyroid hormones. Roasted Seaweed, green seaweed, nori, and other sea vegetables are rich in iodine, which helps you boost your iodine levels and aid your thyroid's everyday functions.
Maca is a superfood that contains B vitamins, iron, zinc, and stimulate both the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. This will balance the demand for thyroid hormone releasing and synthesizing.
11. Fish and Omega 3
Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and also has selenium, it’s great as a source of protein, and it’s overall a healthy option to have for lunch or dinner.
Vegans and vegetarians will need to look for other ways to get omegas in their diet, but there are multiple options available.
12. Eggs and Meat
Lean meats are an excellent source of Zinc, which is necessary for TH production. Low TH levels can understimulate your thyroid gland, make is sluggish and contribute to rapid weight gain.
On the flip side, optimum zinc levels help your butterfly gland secrete more TH regularly as needed by the pituitary gland. Eggs are incredibly abundant in iodine, one large egg is estimated 16% iodine and 20% selenium.
Thyroid imbalance and weight gain can be a tricky condition to manage, your best approach is to rule out any medical conditions and test elimination diets with reintroduction periods, to see how your body responds. Eliminating gluten, soy, caffeine and refined sugars will have a quicker effect on your energy levels, overall health and your desired waistline.
As you can see, eating for your thyroid and overall health comes down to choosing nutrient-packed ingredients and paying attention to your body. We've helped take some of the guesswork out of it for you with our Complete Health Bundle, which gives you everything from your daily probiotic to a nutrient-dense, vegan-friendly protein solution. Detox, energize, refuel and rebuild your body to help avoid thyroid weight gain and other side effects that come from an unbalanced diet.