9 Foods to Avoid if You’re Diagnosed With Hypothyroidism

What you eat can affect your thyroid gland as well as your body’s ability to use thyroid hormone. Learn which foods to avoid when managing hypothyroidism.

illustration of french fries, donut, coffee, meat, bread, cauliflower

Certain foods like fatty meat and cruciferous veggies may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone.

Hypothyroidism can be a tricky condition to manage, and what you eat can interfere with your treatment. Some nutrients heavily influence how well the thyroid gland works, and certain foods can inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the replacement hormones you may take as part of your thyroid treatment.

As with many health conditions, some factors of hypothyroidism are out of your control, including your family history and the environment around you. But diet also plays a prominent role. And since you’re the one in charge of your plate, you can decide which thyroid-friendly foods to choose.

Some items on this list to avoid may strike you as odd, like fiber and coffee, because for many other diets they’re considered ‘healthy’ or ‘safe’ picks. You can still enjoy these food groups, but moderating how much you have is a good idea when managing hypothyroidism.

But many of the others to watch out for already fall into the no-no category as part of a smart diet, so skipping them, or at least cutting way back, is definitely a no-brainer. These include fried fast-food meals, salty processed foods, sugary treats, such as pastry, cake, cookies, and ice cream, and excessive alcohol.

So while there’s no such thing as a “hypothyroidism diet” that will make you well, eating smart can help you feel better despite the condition. Here are nine foods to limit or avoid as you manage hypothyroidism.


Foods With Soy, Including Edamame, Tofu, and Miso

a bowl of tofu

There’s long been concern over the potential negative effects that certain compounds in soy — called isoflavones — may have on the thyroid. Some researchers believe that too much soy may increase a person’s risk for hypothyroidism. A study in Scientific Reports, however, found that soy has no effect on thyroid hormones and very modestly raises thyroid stimulating hormone levels.

So there are no specific dietary guidelines, but some research does suggest that eating soy may interfere with your ability to absorb thyroid medication. For that reason, the Mayo Clinic advises waiting four hours after eating soy-based foods before taking your regular medication dose. Check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.


Cruciferous Vegetables Like Broccoli and Cauliflower

green vegetables, including cabbage and brussels sprouts
You may have heard that you should avoid cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, when you have hypothyroidism. The concern has been that they may interfere with the production of thyroid hormone if you have an iodine deficiency. Research has shown that digesting these vegetables may block the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, you would need to eat a significant amount of cruciferous vegetables for these foods to truly impact iodine uptake.

Gluten, Found in Bread and Pasta

a loaf of bread
research review noted that hypothyroidism and celiac disease are often present together. While no research has demonstrated that a gluten-free diet can treat thyroid conditions, you may still want to talk to a doctor about whether it would be worth eliminating gluten, or getting tested for celiac disease. If you do opt to eat gluten, be sure to choose whole-grain varieties of bread and pasta, which are high in fiber and other nutrients and can help improve bowel irregularity, a common symptom of hypothyroidism. Also be sure to take your hypothyroidism medication several hours before or after eating high-fiber foods, to prevent them from interfering with the absorption of your synthetic thyroid hormone.

Fatty Foods Such as Butter, Meat, and All Things Fried

a plate of fried chicken

Fats have been found to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormone replacement medicines, says Stephanie Lee, MD, PhD, director of the Thyroid Health Center at Boston Medical Center and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine in Massachusetts.

Fats may also interfere with the thyroid’s ability to produce hormone as well. Some healthcare professionals recommend that you cut out all fried foods and reduce your intake of fats from sources such as butter, mayonnaise, margarine, and fatty cuts of meat.


Sugary Foods Like This Delicious Chocolate Cake

a slice of chocolate cake

Untreated or undertreated hypothyroidism can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down, says Ruth Frechman, RDN, a dietitian in the Los Angeles area. That means it’s easy to put on pounds if you aren’t careful. “You want to avoid foods with excess amounts of sugar because it’s a lot of calories with no nutrients,” she says. It’s best to reduce the amount of sugar you eat or try to eliminate it completely from your diet.


Processed Foods in Packages and the Frozen Aisle

a plate of chicken nuggets

“Processed foods tend to have a lot of sodium, and people with hypothyroidism should avoid sodium,” Frechman says. Having an underactive thyroid increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, and too much sodium further increases this risk.

Read the “Nutrition Facts” label on the packaging of processed foods to find the lowest-sodium options. People with an increased risk for high blood pressure should limit their sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams a day, according to the American Heart Association.


Excess Fiber From Beans, Legumes, and Vegetables

bowls of different types of beans

Getting enough fiber is good for you, but too much can complicate your hypothyroidism treatment. The most recent edition of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most adults should take in 25 to 38 grams (g) of fiber a day (based on a goal of 14 g of fiber per every 1,000 calories in their diet). Amounts of dietary fiber from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes that go above that level affect your digestive system and can interfere with absorption of thyroid hormone replacement drugs.

If you change to a high-fiber diet, ask your doctor if you need a higher dose of thyroid medication. Your maintenance dose may need to be increased if you aren’t absorbing enough medication.


Coffee: Time Your First Cup Carefully in the Morning

a cup of coffee

Per a study, caffeine has been found to block absorption of thyroid hormone replacement. “People who were taking their thyroid medication with their morning coffee had uncontrollable thyroid levels, and we couldn’t figure it out,” says Dr. Lee. “I now have to be very careful to tell people, ‘Only take your medication with water.’” You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medication before having a cup of joe.


Alcohol Doesn’t Play Well With Your Thyroid

beer bottles with an opener

Alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on both thyroid hormone levels in the body and the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones, according to a study. Alcohol appears to have a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the ability of the body to use thyroid hormone. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should cut out alcohol completely or drink in careful moderation.


Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.

  • Otun J, Sahebkar A, Östlundh L, et al. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis on the Effect of Soy on Thyroid Function. Scientific Reports. March 8, 2019.
  • Messina M, Redmond G. Effects of Soy Protein and Soybean Isoflavones on Thyroid Function in Healthy Adults and Hypothyroid Patients: A Review of the Relevant Literature. Thyroid. March 2006.
  • Soy: Does It Worsen Hypothyroidism? Mayo Clinic. August 3, 2023.
  • Cruciferous Vegetables. Oregon State University. December 2016.
  • Truong T, Baron-Dubourdieu D, Rougier Y, Guénel P. Role of Dietary Iodine and Cruciferous Vegetables in Thyroid Cancer: A Countrywide Case-Control Study in New Caledonia. Cancer Causes & Control. August 2010.
  • Torborg L. Mayo Clinic Q and A: Hypothyroidism, Spinach and Kale. Mayo Clinic. December 25, 2016.
  • Lerner A, Jeremias P, Matthias T. Gut-Thyroid Axis And Celiac Disease. Endocrine Connections. May 2017.
  • How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association. November 1, 2021.
  • Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 [PDF]. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. December 2020.
  • Benvenga S, Bartolone L, Pappalardo MA, et al. Altered Intestinal Absorption of L-Thyroxine Caused by Coffee. Thyroid. March 2008.
  • Balhara YPS, Deb KS. Impact of Alcohol Use on Thyroid Function. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. July–August 2013.
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