We’ve all heard the hype that consuming goitrogenic foods must be avoided like the plague or risk incurring potentially devastating effects on the thyroid.
Fact or fiction…?
Let’s sort it out.
First of all, what the heck is a goitrogen? Simply put, it’s a naturally-occurring chemical in certain foods. Rumor has it that these goitrogens might interfere with thyroid function and cause a swelling of the thyroid gland, also known as a goiter, hence the name goitrogen.
But, where did this theory come from? Seems in the early 1900’s, a group of scientists noticed enlargement of the thyroid gland in some rabbits eating fresh cabbage, a goitrogen-containing food.
What we don’t know is what else these rabbits might have been up to.
This observation lead to the modern-day hypothesis that eating goitrogenic foods could affect thyroid health in humans if eaten to excess.
You heard right. All the rantings out there on goitrogens being the thyroid anti-Christ appear to boil down to a theory based on some rabbits with swollen thyroids who were eating fresh cabbage back in the 1920’s.
Be careful what you accept as truth.
But what about the studies on the goitrogenic effects on humans?
It seems no such studies exist.
What are some of these goitrogenic foods anyway that have found their way to the chopping block thanks to some silly wabbits who just couldn’t say no to cabbage…
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach
- Some starchy fruits and vegetables like peaches, strawberries, and sweet potatoes
- A few odds and ends like pine nuts and millet
We have been told we can circumvent any potential goitrogen damage simply by cooking or steaming before consuming these devilish crucifers to mitigate the harmful impact of these thyroid busters. But what if we like our veggies raw and don’t want to destroy all the enzymes by cooking them? What about our enzyme-rich, fresh kale smoothies? Are our days of delicious fresh spinach salads truly over?
Let’s dig deeper into this goitrogen mystery before we make a final ruling.
Here’s an indisputable fact… Vegetables in the Brassica family, also known as cruciferous vegetables, are some of the most nutritious superfoods on the planet.
Meet the Brassicas…
- Brussels Sprouts
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
Now upon further digging, I was also able to unearth some sketchy goitrogen studies on pigs, rats and sheep. But should our decision to give up some of the most nutritionally-dense vegetables in existence be based on animals and rodents who may or may not be running around with goitrogen-induced hypothyroidism?
Another point of these studies was the conclusion that these goitrogens would have to be consumed in extreme excesses to have any affect at all. For example, one study showed that it would take consuming 7.5 heads of broccoli every day to have any potential decrease in thyroid uptake activity of iodine.
I can think of a few other problems one might develop by eating 7.5 heads of broccoli every day, but none of them have anything to do with the thyroid.
Fact is, the Brassica family of vegetables is loaded with powerful antioxidants that may reduce thyroid cancer risk and protect against oxidative damage.
The sulfur content of these foods also revitalizes the thyroid and acts as a disinfectant against viruses like Epstein Barr that like to take up residency in this gland and create all kinds of resulting havoc, immune attacks, and resulting inflammation.
These powerful Brassica’s also contain phytochemicals that can actually prevent thyroid atrophy due to overmedication of long-term prescription thyroid medications.
Not to mention the highly alkalizing abilities of these amazing “goitrogen-containing” vegetables that provide highly absorbable nutrients to the body and natural detoxifying abilities that actually help cleanse the thyroid!
Sounds to me like the goitrogenic foods we are told to avoid for the sake of our thyroids are the very foods that this gland needs in order to remain healthy!
It really boils down to this…
Every food out there has pros and cons. In deciding what stays and what goes, we need to evaluate the benefits vs. the shortcomings.
In the case of these goitrogen-containing foods, the benefits far outweigh any possible detriments to the thyroid from all the evidence I’ve been able to gather.
But what about those who claim to have noticeable issues and reactions every time they eat one of these goitrogenic foods…?
Keep in mind that sensitivities and allergies to other naturally-occurring components in these foods may be the culprits and not the fault of the goitrogens who automatically take the bullet due to their dicey, and likely unmerited, bad reputation.
The bottom line…
Based on the evidence for and against goitrogenic foods, their amazing benefits to the body and the thyroid in particular, they win with a resounding thumbs up in favor of consuming these nutritionally dense superfoods without concern.
What may have once held up as sufficient and accepted buzz and assumptions against these powerhouse superfoods amongst all the “thyroid experts” who wrote the books, at this point, is simply an outdated approach in dire need of purging and a fresh outlook from that of antiquated bunny theory from the 1920’s.
Still hanging on that goitrogens are doing you more harm than good? Let’s talk it through.