Although dietary changes can’t cure Graves’ disease, it helps to be aware of how nutrition affects the condition. Depending on your treatment plan, you may want to avoid ingredients that stimulate or inhibit thyroid function.
People with Grave’s disease can be more susceptible to certain deficiencies. A balanced meal plan will help you feel more even keel with Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease speeds up the metabolism, producing unpleasant symptoms, like:
- Rapid and irregular heartbeat
- Weight loss
Caffeine exacerbates these symptoms, so it’s best to avoid overdoing it until your thyroid levels are under control. Stay away from energy drinks and supplements, limit your intake of caffeinated sodas and chocolate, and try switching to decaf coffee or tea.
Iodine ramps up your thyroid’s production of thyroid hormone, which is an effect that people with Graves’ disease should aim to prevent. Talk to your doctor about whether you should avoid supplements or food that are high in iodine.
Individuals with Graves’ disease are more prone to other chronic health conditions, including heart disease and osteoporosis. Choosing a nutritious meal plan overall that includes sufficient amounts of vitamin D, calcium, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants can help protect your long-term health.
Research has identified an elevated risk of developing Graves’s disease for individuals deficient in vitamin B12. Low vitamin D levels are also a common concern. For individuals with borderline levels, keeping an eye on micronutrient status may help slow or reduce the progression of hyperthyroidism.
How it Works
There’s no official blueprint for healthy eating with Graves’ disease. However, staying away from things that are known to exacerbate an overactive thyroid is a smart strategy for long-term disease management.
Antiinflammatory foods are generally recommended for people with autoimmune conditions and cardiovascular disease. Focusing on nutritious new foods to include (rather than just what to exclude) can help you maintain a positive outlook with Graves’ disease.
There’s no official “cure” for Graves’ disease. Even if treatment successfully suppresses your hormone levels, it’s still important to be mindful of making healthy lifestyle choices. Instead of trying to find a short-term diet for Graves’ disease, work towards making sustainable changes for life.
What to Eat
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet may be of benefit to people with Graves’ disease. These are some suggested items.
All fresh vegetables
Berries, avocado, and other fruits
Dry beans or canned beans with no added salt
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
Decaf coffee or tea
Whole grains, including oatmeal and brown rice
Chia and flax seeds, nuts
Fatty fish: Salmon and sardines are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. This essential nutrient is anti-inflammatory, making it particularly crucial for the management of autoimmune diseases, like Graves’ disease.
Decaf coffee and tea: While these items are certainly not required, they can be helpful substitutes for those trying to cut back on more caffeinated versions.
Chia and flax seeds, nuts: These items are another way to get more omega-3s, especially for vegetarians who don’t eat fish.
Processed snack foods: Processed foods can have preservatives or dyes that some individuals with Graves’ disease are sensitive to.
Sugar and refined grains: Foods with a high glycemic index, meaning they increase blood sugar faster, may increase inflammation.
Management of Graves’ disease revolves around strategies to dampen an overactive thyroid. It’s normal to experience ups and downs as your body adjusts to new treatments and medications. Maintaining a consistent meal schedule can help you experience more stable blood sugar and energy levels.
Sleep disturbances are a common symptom of Graves’ disease. Some people sleep better on an empty stomach, while others prefer to have a snack before bed.
If you find yourself waking up because your stomach is grumbling, aim for a small evening snack with healthy fats, protein, and fiber to keep you full. An apple with peanut butter, whole-grain crackers with cheese, or carrot sticks with hummus are some
Cutting back on your total salt intake is a healthy habit. If your doctor also recommends less iodine, using non-iodized salt may part of this plan.
Avoid unhealthy cooking methods, like deep frying. Instead, try grilling, roasting, and sauteeing with small amounts of heart-healthy olive oil to bring out the best in your food.
When baking, replace added fats with pureed fruits and vegetables. Zucchini, applesauce, pumpkin, or mashed bananas can add moisture and a boost of nutrition to your favorite recipes.
Food allergies can be more common in individuals with autoimmune conditions, like Graves’ disease. Even mild allergies can make living with Graves’ disease more challenging. Ask your doctor if you would benefit from allergy testing to help you better navigate your Graves’ disease management.
Eating well with Graves’ disease is easier than most people assume. A meal plan for Graves’ disease fits in line with the USDA’s latest recommendations to “make every bite count.” The dietary guidelines encourage nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables while reducing sodium and sugar intake for better health.
If you’re used to frequenting restaurants or grabbing processed snacks on the go, you may need to spend a bit more time in the kitchen. Choosing items that require minimal prep, like fresh fruits and vegetables or nuts and seeds can make anti-inflammatory eating seem a bit more practical day-to-day.
You may be surprised to find that eating fresh actually reduces your overall food costs compared to processed or restaurant meals. Enhancing your menu with vibrant ingredients can bring new life to your plate so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
The positive dietary changes that you make (such as using less salt and eating fewer processed foods) can benefit you and your whole family. Recommendations for Graves’ disease overlap with the guidelines for other autoimmune disorders and the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
There’s speculation about whether cruciferous vegetables, gluten, and soy should be avoided for individuals with thyroid issues. Current recommendations suggest that these foods are generally safe and don’t need to be avoided unless a specific intolerance is identified (such as with celiac disease and gluten).
The effects of soy protein don’t appear to be strong enough to make a significant difference in the development of Graves’ disease. Furthermore, soy may help ward off cardiovascular disease, which is a concern for thyroid patients.
Rather than viewing soy as an off-limits ingredient, aim to consume it in moderation as part of a varied diet. Avoid copious intake from soy sauce, soymilk, or soy-based protein supplements.
A Word From Verywell
Every person with Graves’ disease is unique and may respond better to a particular way of eating than others. Work with your endocrinologist to monitor your condition and determine how your body responds to different lifestyle habits. With patience and a mindful approach to your condition, you can learn how to best fuel your body and reduce your risk of related health issues in the future.