Kale and Strawberries and Goiters – Oh My!


A goiter?  I have a goiter?  Isn’t that something only malnourished people in third world countries get?  Apparently not, since I had one this summer.  Luckily, my doctor caught it in the early stages, so I didn’t have a big, lumpy elephant neck or anything terribly dramatic, but I had a goiter none the less. And once I found out, I had to find out how it got there and how to make it go away – pronto!

I thought eating lots of Kale and leafy  greens, raw hummus, the occasional tofu, tempeh and edamame, peaches, strawberries, all that healthy stuff was, well healthy.  In fact, my beautiful garden was full of all kinds of leafy goodness.

While these foods are very healthy, too much of them can be a bad thing if you have health issues.  It was for me.


According to WHFoods.org, While it’s important to note foods themselves are not “goitrogenic” in the sense of causing goiter whenever they are consumed, or even when they are consumed in excess. In fact, most foods that are commonly called goitrogenic do not interfere with thyroid function in healthy people.  The term “goitrogenic food” makes it sound as if something is wrong with the food, but in reality, the problems occurring for certain individuals is not the food itself, but the mismatched nature of certain substances within the food to their unique health circumstances.

Turns out my body needed iodine. Badly. While I suspect my gluten-intolerant gut and it’s inability to absorb nutrients efficiently may have also had something to do with this mess,  I learned goitrogenic foods can prevent your body from absorbing iodine, especially if you’re also deficient in selenium.  I’d also switched to sea salt which I thought was better than iodized. I rarely ate sea veggies, so I wasn’t getting much iodine and I was eating tons of goitrogenic foods.  For me, probably not the best move.

After researching and compiling a list of goitrogenic  foods and seeing they made up about 80% of my diet, I felt sick.  Being vegan, gluten-free and non-goitrogenic  – what would I eat? At first I cried big sobbing tears, thinking about how limiting my diet would be. But like my gluten-free challenge years ago, I reminded myself to think about what I could eat, not what I couldn’t. I worked hard to put together a couple lists – goitrogenic foods to avoid and non-goitrogenic foods that contain nutrients that promote healthy thyroid gland function.

The beautiful thing I learned on my own (not from doctors) was that after avoiding the goitrogenic foods for about a month, adding a few sea vegetables and small amounts of iodine, selenium and potassium supplements to my diet, the ultrasound showed the goiter was going away.  I’m slowly adding the goitrogenic foods back into my diet and trying to eat more of them cooked, rather than raw. And fingers crossed, I’m doing OK. I will be going back to see my endocrinologist again in a few months and advise anyone with thyroid issues to find a good doctor. But never stop advocating for your own health and learning about alternative treatments so you can make the best choice possible for YOU!

Gluten-Free, Vegan
Goitrogenic Foods

Gluten-Free, Vegan
Non-Goitrogenic Foods


African Cassava (used in tapioca)
Bamboo Shoots
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage (including Kimchi and Sauerkraut)
Garbanzo Beans
Leafy Greens (Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Spinach)
Sweet Potatoes
Azuki Beans
Beet root and leaves
Bell Peppers
Black Beans
Green Beans
Jerusalem Artichokes
Lima Beans
Mung Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Red Kidney Beans
Sea Vegetables
Grape juice
Citrus Fruits
Nuts, Seeds and Grains
Flax Seed
Hemp Seed
Pine Nuts
Pumpkin Seed*
Brazil Nuts (great source of selenium to help absorb iodine)
Macadamia Nuts
Rice – brown, white, wild, etc..
Sunflower Seeds
Black Tea – leaves absorb fluoride from the soil
Green Tea – leaves absorb fluoride from the soil
Soy Milk
Soy Oil
Soy Flour
TVP (soy)
Many herbs have healing properties that can help thyroid and other body functions. Cayenne, Turmeric, Ginger, Mint, Cilantro, Parsley, Cinnamon are just a few good ones to add to your food.

* I checked many lists to create mine and found some foods to be listed as both goitrogenic and non-goitrogenic. To err on the side of caution, I’ve listed them on the goitrogenic side but they may have benefits to help with thyroid.


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14 Responses to Kale and Strawberries and Goiters – Oh My!

  1. Thyroid geek says:

    If thyroid volume is more than 18 cu cm for adult female it is considered a goiter.

  2. jmkay says:

    Thanks for the long list Janie. Very helpful. I hate the word ‘Goitre’ but I have just been told by my radiologist that the swelling on the left side of my neck which I only noticed 2 weeks ago is goitre. I use medications for high blood pressure and had been told by my doctor to avoid salt hence my iodine deficiency. In addition to eating iodine rich foods and using iodised salt, I have been trying to avoid goitrogenic foods but did not have a good list. Thanks for yours. I bought some almond milk recently to replace the soy milk I had been consuming for years. Unfortunately I will have to stop drinking almond milk now since almonds can be on both sides of the list. I might just stick to Quinoa milk. What do you think?

    • Janie says:

      So glad you found my list helpful! I have been eating goitrogenic food again but also taking iodine supplements and seem to be doing much better. Hopefully the supplements will help you. Quinoa, hemp and coconut milks are all good choices. Almond may be ok if you supplement. Avoid the soy until you are better and enjoy it sparingly once you’re well.
      Also make sure to get selenium too. It works together with iodine.

  3. So glad you are doing better!!! Thanks for this great information. I keep a jar of kelp to sprinkle on salads, etc. Good to know I need to keep this up and incorporate more from the non-gout list! Will try some of the other “milks” too….have loved the Almond! Food is our medicine, but I guess too much of one kind of medicine will tip the scales! 🙂

    • Janie says:

      Very true that food is our medicine. Almond milk is great. I also love rice and coconut, depending on what I’m using it for. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Linda says:

    Sounds like me, in love with leafy veg, sweet potatoes and switched to sea salt, big tears here also. Thank you for your research now I will focus on what I like from the Non-Goitrogenic Foods!!!

    • Janie says:

      Linda, I stopped eating goitrogenics for about a month so I could catch up on my iodine with a supplement and my goiter shrunk quickly. I can eat these foods again but make sure I take a bit of iodine (too little is bad and too much is bad, so just take the recommended amount to be safe.) I also don’t overload on kale even though I love it! Good luck and hope you feel better!

      • widged says:

        What amount did work best for you? I have been diagnosed with a goiter too, very recently and a blood test confirmed that my iodine level was very low.

        My doctor told me that snacking on seaweed was safe. However, I found out that some types, like brown seaweed, have iodine concentration that can be all over the place (from 11% RDI to 1000%). Apparently, there is less chance to get too high a dose with green seaweed.

        I am still trying to figure out what dosage to aim for. What daily concentration worked for you?

        • Janie says:

          I’ve actually been taking iodine supplements with 225 mcg most days and occasionally, a few sprinkles of dulce. I also take a bit of selenium drops and potassium. It seems to be working well and I got a good check-up. I go back in December for another check-up. Best wishes with your health!

  5. Jenna says:

    Wish you list was a picture, I would Pin it. Thank you so much.

  6. Pingback: 14 Vegan Gluten-Free Favorites from 2014 | Gluten-Free Vegan Me

  7. Maja says:

    I’ve heard that SOY is the absolute worst in regard to thyroid problems. Do you agree?!

    Seeing pine nuts, chick peas, almonds and cashews on the ‘avoid’ list made me want to cry! 🙁
    I eat hummus daily, love pine nuts, make vegan cheese from almond flour and cashews are my favorite nut… not to mention that spinach is my favorite green for my green smoothie – now what?!! lol maybe I’ll trying switching it for chard….

    Thanks for the great list by the way! 🙂


    • Janie says:

      Oh Maja, I know how you feel. I did cry. But the good thing is my goiter is gone, I still eat all these foods too, at least a couple of them every day, but I take a kelp tablet so I get enough iodine. Since my problem was related to iodine deficiency, it was pretty easy to fix with a supplement. I did stay off of the list for a few months and added some sea veggies to my diet to help the goiter heal. Lucky for me, it healed very quickly.

      Soy tends to get a bad rap, but I think tofu, tempeh and edamame are fine to eat in moderation. The Asians have eaten these daily for thousands of years. It’s the heavily processed soy protein added to processed foods, soy “meat” etc, especially if it’s GMO (genetically modified) that I would avoid. You see it labeled as soy protein isolate or TVP on labels. You’d have to eat mountains of tofu to get the same amount of soy that ends up in some of the processed stuff. You couldn’t eat that much in nature, which is probably why it could be harmful to some people.

      Make sure to get everything checked by a doctor. My thyroid levels are fine and they watched my goiter for a couple years. I got a clean bill from the doctor in December and don’t need to even go back to get it checked. Be an advocate for your own health, learn as much as you can, keep a watch through your doctor but also listen to your body. No body knows it better than you! Sending some healing thoughts your way!

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