Feeling tired lately? Notice your clothes feel a little snug? Hair getting a little thinner? A sluggish thyroid could be to blame. Fortunately, giving the small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck some much-needed nourishment could improve your mood, increase your energy and send your metabolism soaring.
Why does boosting your thyroid matter? The gland is heavily involved in nearly every bodily function, affecting your metabolism, energy, mood, heart rate, digestive function, body-temperature regulation, bone maintenance, brain function and so much more. That sounds impressive, yet “most people go their whole lives never thinking about their thyroid,” says nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, MD, author of Your Body in Balance: The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health.
Research out of Italy reveals that optimizing your thyroid function can more than double fat burning. And in happy news, treating yourself to a few little indulgences, from delicious foods that heal your thyroid to feel-great activities that boost thyroid metabolism, is all it takes to give this hardworking gland a lift. Read on for the easy “treats” that will help you feel your best.
Spoon up some frozen yogurt
Or enjoy a banana split! The most delicious foods that boost your thyroid include dairy treats like milk and yogurt. They’re so rich in iodine that just two servings provide the recommended 150 mcg. Per day. And Japanese research suggest getting ample amount of iodine powers up thyroid function by 35%. The reason? The gland relies on the mineral to produce healthy levels of its metabolism-revving hormones.
Unwind with an engrossing book
Carve out a little “me time” to simply unwind — whether you’re reading the latest page turner or admiring the birds visiting your bird feeder — and you’ll send stress packing in 10 minutes. That’s something that can enhance thyroid function by up to 45% in 12 weeks if done daily, Indian research suggests. Relaxing pursuits lower your body’s output of the thyroid-sapping stress hormone cortisol.
Upgrade your tuna melt
When it comes to foods that boost your thyroid, tuna is great one — just be sure to use the right type! Instead of using albacore tuna in your next tuna salad or delicious melt, swap in yellowfin and you’ll get 63% more selenium per serving. The nutrient is vital for converting thyroid hormone into its active, energizing form. In fact, Italian researchers found folks with sluggish thyroids who increased their selenium levels normalized their thyroid function within 16 weeks. (Click through to learn how supplementing with a special form of selenium called selenomethionine can heal the thyroid.)
Kick back and relax
Going outside is a feel-great way to boost your thyroid naturally. Canadian research suggests correcting a shortfall of vitamin D (which affects up to 91% of women) increases thyroid function by 139%. To increase your vitamin D levels, wear shorts and a T-shirt and skip sunscreen for 15 to 30 minutes while spending time outdoors. This helps your body make vitamin D, as the vitamin is produced when sunlight strikes skin. And while your first impulse may be to shower when you come inside, you can boost the benefit by waiting 30 minutes and relaxing before you do. This keeps skin oils involved in D production intact, giving your body time to finish making the vitamin. That’s key for women over 50 since our skin makes less D to begin with.
Putter around in your yard
Great news! You can ditch strenuous exercise in favor of enjoying a laidback hobby you love, such as bicycling, paddling around in the pool or puttering around in your yard. While vigorous exercise deplete the thyroid, research in the Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences found that gentle activities enhance thyroid function by as much as 76% within 12 weeks. Aim for about 30 minutes of movement three to five days a week.
Enjoy a cherry nightcap
A good night’s sleep leaves you and your thyroid refreshed and in tip-to shape! Research in the journal Endocrine reveals that sound sleepers are 69% less likely to suffer from thyroid slowdowns than those who don’t slumber as well. To get the Zzzs you need, sip 4 oz. of tart cherry juice before bed. It’s rich in sleep-inducing melatonin, and Louisiana State University scientists found founds who drank it before bed increase their time spent asleep by 84% within two weeks!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.