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Hormones are the foundation of our health. And they affect everything from our mood, stress response, growth and development, sexual function, tissue function, hunger, fat burning & storage, as well as overall metabolism. Hormones are manufactured and distributed within our endocrine system, made up of adrenal, thyroid, and pituitary glands and even the smallest imbalance in this system can throw your body, energy, emotions, and thoughts into a wicked frenzy.

The thyroid specifically, is directly responsible for your metabolism. It produces two hormones (T-3 and T-4) that control your body temperature and the rate at which your body uses and expends energy from carbs, fats, and proteins. The thyroid also regulates your hormones and hormonal communication. When everything is in balance, it cruises along at a consistent speed. But when it gets out of whack—from something like poor nutrition or stress—your metabolism comes to a grinding halt that’s worse than Friday afternoon traffic before a long weekend.  An underactive thyroid (hypothyroid) can cause symptoms of weight gain, depression, constipation and fatigue.

5 Foods for an Under Active Thyroid

To keep your thyroid performing at its peak and to help with overcoming the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, here are the top plant-based foods to add to your diet: 

1) Kelp

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Even the slightest dip in thyroid levels can send your metabolism to a crashing halt. For your thyroid to function optimally it needs to absorb iodine from your blood, which enables it to manufacture and distribute hormones throughout your body. If adequate amounts of iodine aren’t absorbed, your thyroid and metabolism become sluggish, and you can kiss precious fat-burning goodbye.

Sea veggies have exceptionally high iodine content, with kelp being the highest. Kelp can not only help you overcome iodine deficiencies, but it boosts metabolism, and as a result, helps you shed some unwanted pounds. In addition, kelp is extremely alkaline, which helps to balance the body’s pH level, improving overall health. It also helps to boost energy levels and aids in digestion. This is key because undigested food particles become toxic, and fat binds onto toxins, making them harder to get rid of. And because your body craves nutrients, not calories, proper digestion is vital because it helps your body assimilate nutrients, keeping you satisfied.

2) Brazil Nuts

The mineral selenium is required for the synthesis and metabolism of thyroid hormones, which can also tamper with your mood. Those suffering from a sluggish thyroid tend to suffer from feelings of depression and fatigue as well. Thyroid disease can interrupt neurotransmitter receptor cells in the brain, preventing the feel-good chemicals from latching on. Selenium actively increases thyroid hormone T3 (triidothyronine) by kick-starting the conversion of T4 (thyroxine), boosting metabolism and mood, and helping alleviate symptoms of thyroid disease.

Brazil nuts house the perfect dosage of selenium. Pop one or two nuts a day for just the right amount of selenium (100 to 200 micrograms) to give your thyroid a boost and your brain a pick-me-up. But remember to stop there. Any more, and not only will the excess calories tip the scale, but too much selenium can become toxic, especially when pushing the 3,200-microgram threshold.

3) Maca

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For those who are stressed, need more energy, have hormone imbalances, or are looking for a little boost in the love department (which anyone with hypothyroidism can use a little more of!) maca is the go-to. A Peruvian herb that’s rich in amino acids, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, maca is an adaptogen, meaning it can help restore balance within the entire body system. One of the best qualities of maca is its ability to support the body’s endocrine system. Maca on its own doesn’t contain hormones, nor does it actually change blood hormone levels when ingested. Rather, it restores the endocrine system through the hypothalamus–pituitary axis by improving communication between the brain and the pituitary gland as well as the adrenals. This ensures proper hormone balancing and secretion within the body. So basically, it helps ensure that whatever hormone message is required actually gets across.

When purchasing maca, be sure to get gelatinized maca (where the maca is heated at high heat temperatures to breakdown or “gelatinize” the long-chain starches). This process makes the maca much more digestible and improves the nutrient absorption and benefits. In addition, raw maca contains goitrogens, which can inhibit thyroid functions. Gelatinized maca breaks down and eliminates these goitrogens making it much more beneficial for thyroid health.

Maca can be purchased in powdered form or in capsules. It also works great in smoothies or cooked in your favorite recipe. Try this Chocolate Maca Acai Smoothie Bowl for a delicious way to start the morning and get your thyroid off to a good start for the day.

4) Lentils

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When it comes to boosting mood and combating fatigue, lentils are an excellent choice. Lentils are rich in B vitamins, in particular, B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine), which help to boost energy and lift mood.  B1 fuels the brain with glucose for energy and is required for nerve stimulation. Vitamin B6 is required for the production of serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter) and is essential in regulating mood. Lentils are also an excellent source of folate, another nutrient required for the production of mood-boosting serotonin. Plus, one cup contains nearly two-thirds of your daily recommended intake of fiber. Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar levels, keeping energy up and stable, and can help with symptoms of constipation associated with hypothyroidism.

5) Vega One

Optimal Nutrition is key when it comes to a healthy thyroid and endocrine system. And Vega One takes out all the guess work for you making it super-simple. Vega One is an all-in-one nutrition shake that contains 20grams of plant-based protein and 25% of recommended Daily Value of fiber – both with help to sustain energy levels, curb cravings and aid in weight-management. In addition, one scoop contains 6 servings of greens, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all from whole-food sources, which help to keep body systems healthy. In addition, it contains 1.5grams of omega 3 fatty acids (from plant-based sources) which help to regulate hormones, as well as gelatinized maca. Just blend 1 scoop into a morning smoothie and you are good to go!

How well do you know your healthy ingredients? Take the quiz to find out!

About the Author: Peggy K., RHN

PEGGYK003_smPeggy Kotsopoulos is a celebrity Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Culinary Consultant focused on teaching real health through lifestyle and dietary choices that are easy and delicious! She is the Host of her own cooking show “Peggy K’s Kitchen Cures” on Veria Network and the Author of “Must Have been Something I Ate” and “Kitchen Cures” (Penguin, 2013).  Peggy has been coined as the “New IT Girl of Alternative Health” by Dr. Oz himself, and has been featured as an expert on his show. Peggy is a regular health expert with CBS Insider, KTLA, Good Day LA and Rodale Publications. Peggy is dedicated to promoting long-term health and vitality. And she’s on a mission… to make REAL health mainstream!

Need recipe inspiration or nutritional tips? Check out Peggy’s website http://www.peggyk.com/, check out her snaps on Instagram and follow along on Twitter.

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