Thyroid problems are a prevalent health concern these days, affecting an estimated 20 million Americans; some experts believe the number may be as high as 30 million. In our own personal experiences having lived with Hashimoto’s and our work with clients, we have found that nutrition, along with lifestyle changes, can be a powerful tool for improving thyroid health.
By emphasizing specific nutrient-dense foods and eliminating common food triggers, we’ve helped clients reduce flare-up symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and joint pain. Of course, people who don’t have a thyroid condition can also benefit from nutrition that enables them to maintain healthy thyroid function. (For more on this, see “Listen to Your Thyroid“.)
When we decided to write The Essential Thyroid Cookbook, we sought to develop recipes that reflected current research into how various micronutrients affect this important gland. Whether you have Hashimoto’s or not, these recipes can provide a wealth of support for one of the most important systems in your body.
Toasted Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Chai Spices and Caramelized Apples
Skipping grains altogether can certainly be helpful for some with thyroid issues, but it may not be necessary for all. Soaking and toasting grains like oats helps remove phytic acid — which can prevent nutrient absorption — and makes them easier to digest. Preparing grains this way may enable you to take advantage of the health-supporting vitamins and minerals they provide, without the bloating and discomfort.
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus overnight to soak oats
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 2 tsp. coconut oil or ghee
- 1 cup gluten-free steel-cut oats
- 2½ cups filtered water
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut, cashew, almond, or hemp milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cardamom
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- 1⁄8 tsp. black pepper
- 2 tbs. coconut oil or ghee
- 1 tbs. coconut sugar or Sucanat
- 2 apples, sliced thinly
- 2 tbs. local honey or pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup pecans
The evening before
Melt 2 teaspoons oil or ghee over medium-low heat in a saucepan. Add oats and toast for two to three minutes, stirring frequently until lightly golden and fragrant. Reduce heat to low, and carefully pour in the water and milk. Add vanilla, spices, salt, and pepper, and stir. Remove from heat, cover, and cool; allow to soak in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning
Melt 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Add coconut sugar or Sucanat and stir until the sugar begins to melt. Add sliced apples and cook until brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, return the oats to medium heat and simmer gently, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove oatmeal from heat, sweeten with honey or maple syrup, top with pecans and caramelized apples, and serve.
Tip: Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar.
Tip: Healthy fats from pecans slow digestion and balance energy. To make them more digestible, you can soak pecans in water overnight.
Asian Forbidden Rice Salad With Mango and Jicama
Ancient Chinese tradition held that black rice was so rare that only emperors could eat it. These days, we celebrate this “forbidden rice” for its health properties: It contains more disease-fighting antioxidants — including purple and reddish pigments called anthocyanins — than any other rice variety.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 to 50 minutes
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 2 cups filtered water
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup black rice
- 2 fresh mangos, diced
- 1 small jicama, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- 3 tbs. brown-rice vinegar
- 1½ tbs. toasted sesame oil
- 1½ tbs. pure maple syrup
- 1 tbs. reduced-sodium tamari or coconut aminos
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread cashews on a sheet pan and place in the oven until toasted, approximately six to eight minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a plate to cool.
- Combine water, salt, and rice in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to low and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until all liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork, and then spread it evenly on a parchment-lined sheet pan and allow to cool.
- Combine dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- When rice has cooled to the touch, transfer it to a large bowl and combine with mango, jicama, bell pepper, cilantro, and mint. Add dressing to taste and toss until well coated.
- Garnish with toasted cashews and serve with lime wedges.
Tip: Whole foods that are deep colored — black, blue, or dark purple — are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients, which reduce inflammation.
Moroccan Chickpea and Vegetable Stew
This stew is seasoned with a prized Moroccan spice blend called ras el hanout, which offers a well-balanced, curry-like flavor that is anti-inflammatory, warming, and slightly sweet. Find it at natural food stores and specialty shops, or make your own blend (see recipe below).
Note that cauliflower contains goitrogens, a substance found in cruciferous vegetables that research suggests may work against thyroid health. But many functional-medicine practitioners believe this veggie contains too many beneficial nutrients to avoid; enjoy it cooked rather than raw.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 2 tbs. ghee or coconut oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbs. freshly grated gingerroot
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1½ cups chopped cauliflower
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 15-oz. can coconut milk
- 1 to 2 cups filtered water
- 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 2 to 3 tbs. ras el hanout
- 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 3 cups chopped Swiss chard
- Toasted coconut (optional)
- Fresh cilantro (optional)
- In a large soup pot, heat ghee or oil over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, gingerroot, carrots, celery, and cauliflower for five to six minutes.
- Add broth, coconut milk, water, quinoa, and ras el hanout, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes to allow quinoa to cook thoroughly.
- Add chickpeas and cook for an additional two to three minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, place about a ½ cup of chopped Swiss chard in the bottom of each soup bowl and cover with soup. Stir well and allow chard to wilt. Garnish with toasted coconut or fresh cilantro, if desired.
Tip: Substitute orange cauliflower, if available, for a boost in carotenoids, a phytonutrient that supports skin and eye health.
Grassfed Beef, Red Bean, and Quinoa Chili
Grassfed beef is nutritionally superior to its grain-fed counterpart — and stands out in terms of sustainability. Beef and beans are also good sources of energy-producing B vitamins and iron, which are important for overcoming the kind of fatigue that thyroid issues can create.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 to 30 minutes
- 1 tbs. ghee or avocado oil
- 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb. lean ground grassfed beef
- 1½ tsp. sea salt
- 2 tbs. chili powder
- 1 tbs. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
- ½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup filtered water, plus more to thin, if desired
- 2 15-oz. cans kidney beans with no salt added, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen organic corn (optional)
- Heat ghee or oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot. Sauté the onion and garlic for three to four minutes, until onion is translucent.
- Add the beef, salt, and spices. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up beef into smaller pieces and continue to cook an additional three to four minutes, until browned.
- Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, quinoa, water, beans, and optional corn. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. The chili will thicken as it cooks; thin with additional water if desired. Serve with guacamole or other toppings, if desired.
Tip: The avocados in guacamole are a good source of healthy fats, which can help reduce inflammation and balance hormones.
Recipes excerpted with permission from The Essential Thyroid Cookbook by Lisa Markley and Jill Grunewald, published by Blue Wheel PressTM. Text © 2017 by Lisa Markley and Jill Grunewald. Food photography © 2016 by Kenny Johnson.
Why No Numbers? Readers sometimes ask us why we don’t publish nutrition information with our recipes. We believe that (barring specific medical advice to the contrary) if you’re eating primarily whole, healthy foods — an array of sustainably raised vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, meats, fish, eggs, whole-kernel grains, and healthy fats and oils — you probably don’t need to stress about the numbers. We prefer to focus on food quality and trust our bodies to tell us what we need. — The Editors
This originally appeared as “Healthful Essentials” in the October 2017 print issue of Experience Life.
Golden Turmeric Milk
Autoimmune issues signal underlying inflammation, so turning to foods that reduce that inflammation and support the immune system is crucial. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and this warming milk is a tasty way to boost your health.
Prep time: five minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut, cashew, almond, or hemp milk
- 1 tbs. local honey or pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. freshly grated gingerroot or ¼ to ½ tsp. ground dried ginger
- Dash of black pepper
- 2 organic chai green tea bags (optional)
- Pour all ingredients except the tea bags into a small saucepan.
- Bring to a gentle boil while whisking until spices are well incorporated.
- Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes to allow flavors to blend.
- Whisk again and serve, or add the chai green tea bags and steep for two to three minutes before serving, if desired.
Ras el Hanout Spice Blend
The name of this prized Moroccan spice blend translates to “top-shelf,” meaning it’s the best a spice seller has to offer. It’s not fiery hot, but it is warming in flavor. The cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg add pleasing sweet notes. Make extra and store in a cool, dark place for up to six months.
Makes: 3 tbs.
Prep time: five minutes
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp. paprika
- ¾ tsp. black pepper
- ½ tsp. cardamom powder
- ½ tsp. ground allspice
- ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Combine spices and stir until well mixed.