Medically reviewed by Dr. George Kosco, DO on September 20, 2023
Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolic rate. To optimize their performance, you need to get the right nutrients inside of you. In this post, I’ll share 10 low carb foods that contain these nutrients so that you can eat your way to a better metabolism.
Best Low Carb Foods for Thyroid [Download]
Best Low Carb Foods for Thyroid [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- How thyroid hormones affect your metabolism.
- Ten best low-carb foods for thyroid.
- The benefits and nutrients found in each food on the list!
Thyroid Hormones and Metabolism (BMR)
To do their job, these metabolic hormones must get inside your cells. This is no small feat because there are three obstacles that your body must overcome.
- Your thyroid gland must make enough of the thyroid hormones.
- The inactive form, which is T4, must be converted to the active form, which is T3.
- That activated hormone must cross the cell membrane to get inside the cell.
Overcoming each of these obstacles requires specific nutrients. You can get those nutrients into your diet with the following ten foods.
Thyroid Food #1: Shrimp
First on our list is shrimp. I put it first because it is rich in iodine, which is one of the principal nutrients needed to make thyroid hormones. In fact, the full name for T3 is triiodothyronine.
If you look at that name closely, you’ll see that the beginning of the word: tri – iodo means three iodine atoms are within the chemical compound.
Our bodies cannot make iodine, so we need to get enough of it from our diet (1). We do that by eating iodine-rich foods like shrimp or other foods from the sea, like different kinds of seafood or even seaweed (3).
Iodized salt is another option for boosting the amount of iodine that you’re consuming. However, shrimp gives you an added thyroid benefit. Besides being high in iodine, shrimp is also a good source of selenium, a mineral that helps turn the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) into the active form ( T3).
Thyroid Food #2: Wild Salmon
Wild Salmon is a type of fish that contains many nutrients that are vital for thyroid function. One of those nutrients is tyrosine, which is an amino acid. Like iodine, tyrosine is needed for your thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones.
Salmon also provides a healthy dose of selenium that helps with the activation of the thyroid hormones. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats support your cell membranes’ integrity, creating a smooth path for thyroid hormones to cross into your cells, where they regulate energy production.
When you include salmon in your diet, you provide the nutrients needed to make, activate, and deliver thyroid hormones more efficiently.
Thyroid Food #3: Spinach
Spinach and other dark leafy greens are good sources of selenium, iron, and zinc. Iron and zinc work alongside selenium to enhance the conversion of T4 to active T3. Zinc also supports your immune system, which may offer additional support to individuals with the most common form of hypothyroidism, an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Spinach can be used as a base for your daily salad or added to omelets or soups. These richly colored leaves also pack a healthy serving of vitamin A, which supports optimal thyroid hormone function (4).
Thyroid Food #4: Bone Broth
Bone Broth is rich in collagen and the gut-healthy amino acids glycine and proline that help prevent or heal leaky gut.
Leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is a condition that can increase your risk of the autoimmune form of hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s). The cell junctions that line the digestive tract walls spread apart with leaky gut, allowing small food particles to seep out of the tract and into the blood.
These leaks provide a path for food proteins, like gluten or dairy proteins, as well as other digestive tract particles to pass into your bloodstream, where your immune system identifies them as foreign invaders that must be attacked.
Because gluten and dairy molecules look a lot like thyroid cells, your thyroid cells get attacked in a case of mistaken identity. This is a phenomenon known as molecular mimicry and has been identified as playing a role in autoimmune diseases (5).
Different bone broths are available in liquid or powder form that easily mixes with any hot or cold drink. An added perk is that the collagen in the bone broth supports the health of your hair, skin, and nails. But, you do need to buy quality.
The cheap bone broth cartons that you find in the grocery store are likely only simmered for a few hours, which is not long enough to extract the collagen and nutrients you need to benefit your gut and ultimately your thyroid.
Thyroid Food #5: Garlic
Garlic is often touted for its health benefits and contains nutrients beneficial for optimal thyroid function. It is a good source of selenium and may help your body metabolize iron.
A daily dose of garlic will also supply your body with B vitamins needed to support your immune system and inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines involved in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Thyroid Food #6: Walnuts
Walnuts are a great source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. These healthy fats support your cell membranes allowing thyroid hormones to move into your cells easily. Walnuts are something that I eat just about every day on my daily salad. They taste great and provide a nice crunch, and they have a wonderful mix of macronutrients for low carb dieters.
Even if you eat just four or five walnut halves a day, which is about a half of an ounce, you’ll get more than nine grams of healthy fats and less than 2 grams of carbs. And while that half-ounce will have 90 calories, walnuts are hunger satiating, making them an easy, enjoyable, and effective part of your overall weight loss plan.
One small note, according to the Mayo Clinic, if you are taking thyroid hormone replacement medication, walnuts may impair absorption of the drug, so they should not be consumed together.
Thyroid Food #7: Blueberries
Blueberries are filled with the vitamins your body needs to make thyroid hormones and move those hormones into your cells. The deep rich color also indicates that they are rich in antioxidants, which indirectly support thyroid health by reducing inflammation and boosting your immune system.
Blueberries are not the lowest carb berry, but they have a favorable glycemic index of 53, so you can feel good about incorporating them into recipes without fear of a blood sugar spike that can block fat loss and trigger hunger.
Thyroid Food #8: Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are one of the most concentrated dietary sources of selenium. With only about 3 grams of carbs per ounce, they are a satisfying way to support your thyroid function and metabolism.
Brazil nuts are large. Eating just one nut a day will be enough to meet or exceed the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for selenium, which for adults is 55 micrograms (6).
Thyroid Food #9: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are quickly metabolized to provide energy and encourage weight loss. One of the main benefits for thyroid support is the high concentration of lauric acid in coconut oil.
This particular MCT prevents the overgrowth of gut bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can open the door to thyroid issues. Some people stir coconut oil into coffee, but being that it remains stable when heated, it is also a safe oil choice for cooking.
Thyroid Food #10: Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds are a tyrosine source, which is the amino acid that links with iodine to make thyroid hormones. Since many tyrosine sources are animal-based foods, pumpkin seeds are a viable way for those who don’t eat a lot of animal products to boost their tyrosine intake.
Pumpkin seeds also supply iron and selenium, two of the nutrients needed to convert inactive thyroid hormones to their active form.
When your thyroid hormones are doing their job, your metabolism is working for you, helping you burn calories and lose weight.
When you include these 10 low carb foods in your diet, you give your body the nutrients it needs to support your thyroid and metabolism and add to the enjoyment of your low carb diet. I put these foods together in a PDF that you can download below.
(1) “How Does the Thyroid Gland Work?” InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Apr. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/.
(2) Hoch, Frederic L. “Biochemistry of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.” Postgraduate medical journal 44.511 (1968): 347-362.
(3) “Office of Dietary Supplements – Iodine.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/#h3.
(4) Farhangi, Mahdieh Abbasalizad, et al. “The effect of vitamin A supplementation on thyroid function in premenopausal women.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 31.4 (2012): 268-274.
(5) Cusick, Matthew F., Jane E. Libbey, and Robert S. Fujinami. “Molecular mimicry as a mechanism of autoimmune disease.” Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology 42.1 (2012): 102-111.
(6) “Office of Dietary Supplements – Selenium.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Selenium-HealthProfessional/#h3.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.