Can Almond Milk Interfere with Thyroid Function?

Hi Georgie,

I have started giving my 3 and 9 year old almond milk. My 3 year old drinks at least 30 to 35 ounce of almond milk in a day, with chocolate ovaltine in it. I was wondering if this okay. She has a healthy diet of fruits and veggies too. I heard almond milk is goitrogenic if consumed in greater quantity. I am concerned if this may lead to suppressed thyroid functioning.

Thanks, Krishna

Thanks for writing. A lot of people wonder if foods they (or their children) eat might be messing with their thyroid. First, let’s go over some quick background info so we’re all on the same page.

Your thyroid gland, found in front of your neck, is a roughly-butterfly-shaped organ that plays an important role in your body’s metabolism. The thyroid takes up iodine and uses it to make thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which circulate throughout the body as part of the endocrine system. If the thyroid can’t take up enough iodine, it can’t make enough thyroid hormone.

The pituitary gland, sensing when there’s not enough thyroid hormone in the blood, shouts down to the thyroid “Hey! Turn up production will you?!” It does this by secreting more TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). In response, the thyroid gland can become enlarged as it struggles to increase production, but can’t get enough iodine. This swelling of the thyroid is known as goiter.

Burning calories today? Thank your thyroid! Notice T4 has four iodines, and T3 has 3. Biologists are a brilliant bunch.

Goitrogens are substances (food, drugs, chemicals) that interfere with the thyroid being able to take up enough iodine. Goitrogens may block the transporters that carry iodine into the cells, or they can interfere with the incorporation of iodine into T3 and T4 by inhibiting thyroid peroxidase, an enzyme necessary in the manufacturing of thyroid hormones.

So back to the original question: Is drinking almond milk in large quantities something can could pose a problem? No. Almonds are not known to be a significant goitrogen, but I suspect what you heard (or what someone else heard and misinterpreted to you) was that drinking a lot of soy milk can interfere with thyroid function, possibly leading to goiter. This is true.

Goitrogens in the food supply come from two main sources: Soy foods and from cruciferous vegetables (that’s the cabbage family). But before you run home and throw out the tofu and broccoli, let me tell you why you probably don’t need to worry.

First, most of us have plenty of iodine in our systems, thanks to the fortification of most table salt with iodine. Not having enough iodine in our blood to make thyroid hormone will never be a problem for more than 99% of us. Even if you don’t add salt to foods, it’s present in abundance in processed foods.

Second, for goitrogens to have a negative effect on thyroid function, MASSIVE quantities are needed (and usually an underlying problem with thyroid function, or an iodine deficiency must also be present). If your thyroid levels have never been a problem and you don’t have any symptoms of thyroid deficiency (I’ll leave you to Google those) I wouldn’t worry about potential goitrogens in your diet, nor would I take steps to reduce them.

Third, the foods which are known goitrogens, indeed the very compounds themselves which are known to interfere with iodine uptake, also demonstrate positive health benefits! So before you avoid cauliflower, brussels sprouts or cabbage to protect your thyroid, remember that the isothiocyanates in these vegetables also prevent cancer. The isoflavone genistein which is found in soybeans is a goitrogen, but also has been shown to prevent cancer spread, and may help ward of atherosclerosis by keeping cholesterol levels down.

Don't swear off cruciferous vegetables - They're powerfully healthy foods!

As a side note, you can reduce the bioactivity of goitrogens in cruciferous vegetables by cooking them. So if you are hellebent on eating 10 servings of broccoli and kale and cabbage each day, just steam them. Soy foods which are fermented contain much fewer isoflavones, so if thyroid function is a concern of yours, try choosing tempeh, natto or miso instead of edamame or tofu.

So for the original question: Almond milk is no concern. As for soy and cruciferous vegetables which are known goitrogens, use some common sense, consume them in moderation and you needn’t worry.

Thanks for the great question!

Got a nutrition question of your own? Send it in! Yours could be the next article on AskGeorgie.com.

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{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Georgie May 31, 2014, 2:29 pm

    I would ask your doctor about potential medication interactions to be safe, but I haven’t heard any concerns about almonds

  • Algravlin May 31, 2014, 11:16 am

    I have low thyroid being treated with levothyroxine 50 mg. once per day.i want to know if almond nuts ,or almond milk will interact with my thiroids? I am on xarelto blood thiners?

  • Georgie May 27, 2014, 8:27 pm

    Try almond milk Ken! I love it and it’s a great way to get your calcium too. :)

  • Ken Seaton May 27, 2014, 2:45 am

    Hi I’ve been hypothyroid for twenty years as a result of a pituitary tumour. It’s removal resulted in my hypothalamus being destroyed. I.e hypothyroid, hypo pituitary etc etc. I’m hoping to start armour thyroid soon. But for the last six months have been on a dairy free diet.(soy replacement)
    After reading this blog and the information regarding how destructive soy is.
    (Particularly in the morning with cereal, after having daily meds)
    What milk is a suitable dairy free milk safe for hypothyroid sufferers use?
    Thanks
    Ken.s

  • Georgie May 20, 2014, 6:21 am

    talk to a doctor Albert :)

  • Albert graveline May 19, 2014, 5:19 am

    I have ask about almond milk xarelto intraction I have low thyroid , I have. Received no answer yet? How long does it take ?

  • Connie April 6, 2014, 8:18 pm

    I love sweets, all kind of desserts and I have no problem with weight before hyperthyroidism. After thyroid, my weight was like POOF gained 20 kilos and it’s been 3 years now and no matter what exercise I did, losing weight is SO hard and it’s TOO slow! I’ve been on medication for years, I am tired and I just want my weight to be gone!

  • allredah March 9, 2014, 5:22 pm

    I am 66, active and healthy but can NOT loose wt, even at 1000 cal/day hi pro. about 1/2 of my diet has been raw kale, and other crucies. also a LOT of soy products. I do not want to take medications. no high BP, blood sugars normal, but very high LDL. I weight around 200 and my body doesn’t want to even budge but maybe 3 lbs even with swimminb 5xwk and above diet. I broke down and got TSH test thru LifeLine along with other tests. CRP is great, liver good, just high LDL (hdl good and trigs good.??? but TSH is 4.5. I have cut all the crucies (won’t really miss them I’m sick of them after 2 years!! and didn’t really like soy). I have started iodine 2x/day, selenium, and bovine hormone. I am hoping all this will be self-corrective. I feel that most doctors or nutritionists are less informed than I am – or at least many of them about this stuff, and to take this thyroid med is very extreme and scarey to me. any input from anyone with similar experience is greatly appreciated. still can’t believe this goiterans from cruciferous thing.

  • Donna February 25, 2014, 7:45 pm

    I am a fitness trainer with 25 years exp. I just had blood work done and I have hypothyroidism. I am not over weight and very fit. I was drinking most of my veggies every day for years! and now this?? I am taking thyroid medication now and Vit D along with milk thistle for thyroid support. What I want to know is should I completely stop eating kale, arugula & spinach? I use to juice this along with a little bit of fruit.
    thanks!
    donna

  • Cathy February 2, 2014, 1:20 pm

    I appreciate all the comments that are shared on this website, it was very helpful for me. I have been on Thyroid medications for now almost 15yrs! I am just now learning about how people with hypothyroid conditions have certain minerals in their diet that are crucial for a well balanced thyroid. Number one is Selenium, then goes on to add other minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium (sp?) and of course a moderate level of idodine (sea salt and seaweed are high idodine)….Plus fiber in the diet as well. Drink plenty of water too!! :)

  • Louise January 28, 2014, 5:51 am

    This is so interesting, I was wondering exactly the same thing about almond milk after seeing an advert on TV last night for it. Thank you.

  • Allison April 3, 2013, 12:11 pm

    Thanks. I was reading that it could seriously deplete iodine levels, so I started to worry….

  • Georgie March 29, 2013, 2:37 pm

    Allison, I don’t think you need to worry unless your doctor tells you to. Cauliflower doesn’t hurt too many people.

  • allison March 28, 2013, 2:43 pm

    I eat a lot of cauliflower, to the point where I crave it like an addiction. I actually eat about 4 cups of cooked cauliflower about 4-5 times a week.

    It sounds like this may negatively affect my iodine level, which can have some serious health repercussions. Is this correct?

  • admin September 23, 2012, 12:59 pm

    Those with thyroid issues can enjoy any of the types of milk you listed, I would just avoid massive quantities of soy milk. Cows milk, almond milk, rice milk are all available with added calcium.

  • Batoul Tayefeh September 23, 2012, 10:59 am

    Hi, I just want simple answer to my questions:
    The people have thyroid problem what kind of milk they can have and if they can not have a milk what they should take, because everybody needs calcium so what should they do if the milk any kind of milk, soya, almond, rice, help, oat if it is bad for thyroid but we need calcium so how we can get calcium for our bones.

    Thank you.

    Batoul

  • Nicole, RD October 24, 2011, 11:07 am

    What an interesting question! And what a wonderful answer!

  • Danielle October 24, 2011, 6:19 am

    Hey Georgie,

    I feel I should point out, that for those of us who are on medication for low/no thyroid (i.e. Synthroid, Armour Thyroid, etc.) these milks are almost always ‘calcium fortified’ meaning they add calcium to them usually in the form of Calcium Citrate. Calcium Citrate interferes with the uptake of thyroid medications, so if you’re drinking any type of drinks that have the extra calcium added in inside the 4 hour uptake window you should be avoiding iron and calcium supplements it will affect your medication levels.

    Unfortunately it’s not just almond milk that contains the extra calcium, I’ve seen it in soy, hemp, and rice milk, as well as some milk products like Lactaid and several orange juices.

  • Irene @ H.E.S.H. October 24, 2011, 5:26 am

    Very informative blog! Thyroid is one of the glands that people should look after and should monitor. Thanks to this blog it gives additional information on how to take good care of our thyroid gland.

  • judee@Gluten Free A-Z October 23, 2011, 5:09 am

    Georgie,
    Thanks for a very informative article. Great information.

  • Chuck October 22, 2011, 10:09 pm

    This was really interesting- Thanks Georgie! I still try to avoid all processed soy, but I love vegetables!

  • JP October 22, 2011, 9:33 pm

    30-35 ounces? That is a huge amount. Especially with ovaltine mixed in. Maybe the 35 ounces thing is a typo but, I’d be way more worried about the large amount of sugar and added vitamins and minerals they put in the ovaltine. depending on how much of it you mix in (i know i would likley mix in more than the 2 tbs serving) and how small your child is.

    isn’t iron overdose a worry for small kids? especially if they are getting a lot in other fortified foods or supplements? maybe its not a big deal.

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