Your thyroid is an unassuming butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that secretes all-important hormones that control major bodily functions, including how you digest food and use energy. When your thyroid slows down, everything slows down; hence the fatigue and weight gain when it does.

Many things can put you at risk for a sluggish thyroid, some of which you cannot control, like family history. Fortunately, you can control how and what you eat. And new research shows certain foods have proven potential in helping to improve thyroid health and boost the effectiveness of your metabolism master.

1) Apples

Apples Alice Omayo

While you may be a heavy metal fan, your thyroid? Not so much. That’s because heavy metals, mercury in particular, are chemically similar to iodine — an element the thyroid needs and readily absorbs. When metals like mercury take the place of iodine at binding sites, thyroid hormone production grinds to a halt. The good news is you can naturally detoxify with fruits that are rich in pectin — a gelatin-like fiber that sticks to toxic compounds in the blood and flushes them out of the body through the urine. In fact, citrus pectin increased mercury excretion in the urine by 150 percent within 24 hours of supplementation, according to one study. As a weight loss bonus, research shows pectin can limit the amount of fat your cells can absorb. You’ll need about four pieces of whole fruit daily to reap the benefits. Grapefruits, oranges and peaches are all good sources, but since most pectin is found in the fibrous pith and peel, whole apples are one of the best

2) Seaweed

Your car runs on gasoline, and your thyroid runs on iodine. Insufficient levels of the element inhibit the production of metabolism-regulating thyroid hormones; and since your body doesn’t make it, it’s an essential part of your diet. That’s why, since 1993, the World Health Organization has supported the iodization of table salt. But because recent health headlines have called for the radical reduction of salt intake, some people don’t get enough. But you can get your daily dose without ODing on salt; there are other dietary sources of iodine, and seaweed is one of the best. Just two tablespoons of brown seaweed, or a few rolls of sushi every week will meet your need. And as you nosh on your nori you’ll be blasting fat: Scientists at Newcastle University recently discovered that a compound in seaweed called alginate can suppress the digestion of fat in the gut.

3) Brazil Nuts

Selenium. No, it’s not Latina popstar. It’s the all essential “on” switch to proper thyroid function — converting T4 hormone into active T3. The essential mineral also protects the gland from inflammatory byproducts of thyroid hormone production. Many people who have a sluggish thyroid or thyroid diseases exhibit deficiencies in selenium, and studies show supplementation can help. Selenium supplementation of 80 micrograms per day — about what you’ll find in just one Brazil nut — helped to reduce anti-thyroid antibodies in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis (inflammation of the gland that can make it sluggish if left untreated), one study showed. As a weight-loss bonus, the nuts are rich in L-arginine, an amino acid research shows may help blast belly fat.

4) Oysters

Oysters Alice Omayo

Shuck one for your metabolism. Heck, make it a half dozen. After all, oysters are one of the best dietary sources zinc—a mineral that’s critical, and complementary, to a healthy thyroid. In fact, the body needs enough zinc to activate production of thyroid hormone. And, in turn, we need enough thyroid hormone to absorb zinc. Any way you look at it, deficiencies are likely to result in a sluggish metabolism, and supplementing with the mineral has shown to get weight loss back on track. One study found that obese people who consumed 30 mg of zinc per day—the equivalent of just six raw oysters — had improved body mass indices, lost weight and showed improvements in blood cholesterol levels. Get shucking!

 

5) Chicken

If your thyroid were a man, he’d be a meat-and-potatoes kinda guy. That’s because animal protein is brimming in amino acids, particularly tyrosine—the building block of thyroid hormone, and of dopamine — both of which are necessary for weight management. A lack of tyrosine in the diet may lead to an underactive thyroid, and a deficiency in dopamine is associated with food cravings and weight gain. You can find tyrosine in dairy and leafy greens, but poultry has the added benefit of being naturally low-fat and rich in vitamin B12—deficiencies of which are also common among people with sluggish thyroid symptoms.

6) Yogurt

Yogurt Alice Omayo

Every spoonful of yogurt acts as a protective shield for your thyroid. That’s because yogurt is naturally rich in vitamin D, and not getting enough of the nutrient puts you at a higher risk of obesity and thyroid diseases, research suggests. Over 90 percent of people with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that’s the most common cause of hypothyroidism, are deficient in D, according to one study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences. Researchers say the sunshine vitamin’s immunity-boosting and anti-inflammatory properties protect the thyroid from damage. In addition to vitamin D, yogurt is also rich in probiotics that research suggests may help balance “good bacteria” in the gut that can be thrown off by thyroid disturbances.

7) Salmon

Salmon Alice Omayo

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but salmon may be the best one for your metabolism. That’s because most cases of underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, one study that looked at the effects of weight loss and seafood consumption showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation — better than cod, fish oil and a no-fish diet. The fishy fatty acids may also signal thyroid cells in the liver to burn more fat, a recent study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests.