Since the 1950s, there has been a long-standing belief that certain foods termed “goitrogens” are bad for thyroid health. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts are among the suspects. Goitrogens are substances that can lead to an enlarged thyroid gland called a goiter, but a goitrogen comes in many forms and may hamper iodine absorption, suppress thyroid hormone, or interfere with thyroid hormone production. But not all goitrogens are created equal, and they don’t all have the same effects on the body.
The goitrogenic activity of cruciferous vegetables is due to glucosinolates, which can prevent the absorption of iodine into the thyroid gland.
However, low iodine levels are rarely seen today due to the iodization of salt in the 1920s, so avoiding healthy and nutritious cruciferous vegetables is not necessary unless there is an underlying food sensitivity.
Low thyroid caused by an iodine deficiency is largely a thing of the past in the US, and over 90% of low thyroid cases are caused by the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
For most low thyroid sufferers, the benefits of cruciferous veggies far outweigh the risks. For these five reasons, I encourage you to boost your brussels sprout intake instead of bypassing them.
1. Lowers inflammation
Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and the like are loaded with phytochemicals and micronutrients that boost health. These powerful veggies help reduce inflammation and protect tissues from damage.
2. Prevents cardiovascular disease
Eating more cruciferous veggies means lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This is probably attributed to their high levels of antioxidant vitamins, folate, potassium, fiber, and various phytochemicals. Eating more veggies is shown to lower blood pressure, homocysteine, oxidative stress, and inflammation— all amazing effects that contribute to a healthier heart.
3. Prevents cancer
Cruciferous veggies are linked to lower rates of cancer, and that is largely attributed to the presence of glucosinolates, the same compound blamed for blocking iodine absorption. That being said, high levels of phytochemicals, vitamin C, and fiber also boost the immune system and may be helpful in cancer prevention.
Cruciferous veggies can support younger looking skin because of their vitamin C content, which helps build collagen and protect against UV damage. Vitamin A and vitamin E are also crucial for healthy skin, which can be found in many cruciferous veggies as well.
5. Boost bone health
Many cruciferous veggies like broccoli are rich in vitamin K and calcium. These two nutrients help build and preserve bone health.
Cruciferous veggies are a benefit to most people, even with thyroid disorders. That being said, many with autoimmune thyroiditis, which accounts for most cases of low-thyroid have food sensitivities and disrupted gut health. This means that there’s always the chance that certain foods, even veggies, can cause unwanted and harmful symptoms. It is always best to take a personalized dietary approach and utilize comprehensive and cutting-edge diagnostic testing to help you decide which foods are best for you. Following generalized nutrition advice will only get you so far; to truly heal from low thyroid, you need a therapeutic plan built just for you.