NPR picked up a story from the New York Times this last week about how cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, etc.) could cause people's thyroids to crash. I find it disconcerting when these kinds of articles hit mainstream media because they seem to sow subtle messages that your food is hazardous and you are really too stupid to know what you're doing when you eat healthily. The conspiracy theorist that resides in the back of my brain starts ranting and pulling out his hair knowing that "they" are trying to poison us with processed food from Costco and Sam's Club by scaring us away from Real Food. So what is the scoop here?
Cruciferous vegetables are a significantly healthy family of vegetables that all of us would be better off eating. Generally speaking they are among the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. They support good digestion, great detox and liver function, strong bones, and good blood clotting and circulation. Some studies have associated cruciferous vegetable intake with reducing cancer risks. Bottom line: they're a good nutritious food. There's nothing in them that should frighten or scare us. They have been shown in animal studies to reduce thyroid function. There have been isolated instances of humans having impaired thyroid function from cruciferous vegetables. However, in twenty years of naturopathic practice, I've not seen them work that way. I've had a fair number of people with over-active thyroids, which I've tried to treat by having them eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables without any real success. There may be a small number of individuals (who are likely deficient in a number of other nutrients) who might have a thyroid-lowering experience. I'd like to meet them to try and learn their whole story!
Another possible explanation for the impaired thyroid is how much is their cruciferous intake? There are individuals who, frankly, have some obsessive-compulsive leanings where they learn of cruciferous vegetables being healthy and they go totally overboard eating nothing but cruciferous vegetables. They chop them, dice them, blend them, stir them, saute them -- mounds and mounds of them every day. They go on the Cruciferous Diet and eat little but broccoli. They are the people with raw cabbage in a little container clipped to their belts and a bit of cabbage leaf hanging out of the corner of their mouths when they talk. They go nowhere without it. These people could have some problems -- thyroid deficiency perhaps the least of them!
As in ALL things natural health related, and I have said this for 25 years: Moderation. Moderation. Moderation. Keep things in a balance... ALL things in balance -- from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to sleep to sex to meditation to work to play to your cabbage intake. We are humans beings. We are capable of reaching stars. We cope and thrive best with balance in EVERY aspect of our lives. Keep yourself in the balance point and it will be hard for you to go wrong on anything.