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Sauerkraut and thyroid

by (2254)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:12 PM
Created March 21, 2010 at 7:15 AM

As I understand it, the cabbage in sauerkraut is not cooked, only fermented. Does that mean it's goitrogenic?

I love cabbage in general, and would like to eat sauerkraut in particular for its beneficial gastrointestinal effects, but have been avoiding all cruciferous vegetables ever since I read they were goitrogenic. Some sources say cooking greatly reduces this effect (although I'm not convinced). What about fermentation?

(Goitrogenic = interferes with thyroid function / Cruciferous = a family of vegetables that includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, horseradish, mustard,...)

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744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:59 AM

I'm cracking up because this is the reaction everyone I know in real life has to paleo eating in general- "you avoid this too? I just ate pizza and I feel great all of the time!" I would say though- these are things to be aware of and aware of your body's reaction to. I *do* eat nightshades in moderation, I eat cooked crucifers and a little bit of fermented cabbage. I try to include tons of saturated animal fats, coconut, and avocado in my diet, as these are all thyroid boosters and provide equilibrium. I think it's similar to VLC/LC/ZeroC in the paleo community- watch what your body wants.

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744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:44 AM

@AnnaA You could reduce goitrogens by cooking the sauerkraut, but you would also kill all of the good bugs in it. I would just cook the cabbage, and then drizzle it with raw apple cider vinegar after cooking is complete so that it has the taste and is still live (this is really good with home made sausage).

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744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:39 AM

@Louisa From the first link: Steaming crucifers until they are fully cooked reduces the goitrogens to one-third the original value on average. Since release of the goitrogens from steamed crucifers depends on intestinal bacteria, however, the amount released varies from person to person. Boiling crucifers for thirty minutes reliably destroys 90 percent of the goitrogens.

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2485 · March 21, 2010 at 7:27 PM

That's certainly true, Melissa and Anna, but nothing about archaea's question implies a pre-existing condition so I read it as applying to Paleo in a general sense.

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15583 · March 21, 2010 at 7:16 PM

Individual foods aren't simply paleo/non-paleo in isolation (we should analyse lifestyles holistically), the important thing is quantity and context. Clearly cabbage etc are healthful in small quantities, but it's difficult to envisage the paleo context where masses of raw, 19-calories-per-cup vegetables like cabbage would be eaten en mass, we don't have the GI tract for it. I'd consider raw crucifers more a medicine than a food.

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78417 · March 21, 2010 at 6:42 PM

I don't think it's a problem for folks who don't have thyroid issues but trust me, if you were hypothyroid with no energy and your hair falling out you would likely willingly skip eating it.

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3268 · March 21, 2010 at 5:58 PM

Thanks Dave, I agree... I'm no Bubble Boy either! Melissa, good point. Btw, someone voted this answer down! ok.

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56596 · March 21, 2010 at 5:44 PM

For those of us with healthy thyroids there is no worry, but a large number of people now have thyroid problems caused by eating improperly for decades. I'm lucky I only had two decades of bad eating and my thyroid is in great condition. Of course that's not a reason to gorge on thyroid disrupting foods...everything in moderation, which is easier on paleo because cabbage isn't a staple food, meat is our staple food. Contrast that to vegan diets where thyroid disrupting soy is often a staple.

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2485 · March 21, 2010 at 4:57 PM

I'm with you on this, Glenn. To me, Paleo is the Real Food Diet, not the Bubble Boy Diet where you fear every little thing.

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78417 · March 21, 2010 at 1:47 PM

So what about if you cook the fermented sauerkraut- does that lessen the problem?

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56596 · March 21, 2010 at 1:07 PM

If you like the taste, you might enjoy lactofermented carrots or other veggies.

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7063 · March 21, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Does cooking remove all goitrogens?

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744 · March 21, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Yes, fermented crufifers are still goitrogenic. WAPF used to circulate information that fermentation reduces or eliminates the thyroid suppressing effects, but have since reversed their position. As someone who can easily eat bowlfuls of kim chee, I have personal experience with this as well as being able to provide links. (Nothing like a basal body temperature of 95 degrees and all of your hair falling out to get your attention!)

Cooking is a far better method of removing the goitrogens. And there is still a strong case to be made for consuming femented crucifers in condiment quantities, especially in combination with good dietary sources of iodine. Read more here and here.

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744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:44 AM

@AnnaA You could reduce goitrogens by cooking the sauerkraut, but you would also kill all of the good bugs in it. I would just cook the cabbage, and then drizzle it with raw apple cider vinegar after cooking is complete so that it has the taste and is still live (this is really good with home made sausage).

245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d
744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:39 AM

@Louisa From the first link: Steaming crucifers until they are fully cooked reduces the goitrogens to one-third the original value on average. Since release of the goitrogens from steamed crucifers depends on intestinal bacteria, however, the amount released varies from person to person. Boiling crucifers for thirty minutes reliably destroys 90 percent of the goitrogens.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · March 21, 2010 at 1:47 PM

So what about if you cook the fermented sauerkraut- does that lessen the problem?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 21, 2010 at 1:07 PM

If you like the taste, you might enjoy lactofermented carrots or other veggies.

33b6c516904a967ef8ecb30f1dbd8cf2
7063 · March 21, 2010 at 12:02 PM

Does cooking remove all goitrogens?

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1453 · March 21, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Here is an extensive list of goitrogenic foods, of which there are surprisingly many: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goitrogen

But there's no need to freak out over this; they are in no way "toxic" as foods and there's no comparison to the evil effects of soy. Even people with hypothyroidism generally just need to keep an eye on intake and see by experimentation which if any of the foods seem to affect them; my understanding is that cooking the foods greatly reduces if not completely eliminates the problem. I avoided them all after I was first diagnosed but really they don't cause any problem that I can see. I don't eat any significant amount of raw crucifers though (maybe some bits of raw broccoli when hitting a salad bar, a spinach salad on rare occasion). But I certainly eat raw strawberries, and ate peanut butter before I went paleo.

The sauerkraut is interesting but I can't remember the last time I had any anyway -- not a big item for me without a hot dog underneath it. :)

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3268 · March 21, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Cauliflower and cabbage interfere with your thyroid?! This is the first time I've heard this.

I'm not saying it's not true, but I feel like every time I turn around, there is another item that looks like "real food" but is supposedly off-limits: night shades - not technically paleo; tubers - not allowed according to some; nuts - have to be soaked; now broccoli is toxic!?!

I've made my own sauerkraut; it came out great. I had no problems. I will make it, and eat it, again.

245c53790116339bcc79fb789f6f9c9d
744 · March 22, 2010 at 1:59 AM

I'm cracking up because this is the reaction everyone I know in real life has to paleo eating in general- "you avoid this too? I just ate pizza and I feel great all of the time!" I would say though- these are things to be aware of and aware of your body's reaction to. I *do* eat nightshades in moderation, I eat cooked crucifers and a little bit of fermented cabbage. I try to include tons of saturated animal fats, coconut, and avocado in my diet, as these are all thyroid boosters and provide equilibrium. I think it's similar to VLC/LC/ZeroC in the paleo community- watch what your body wants.

5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6
2485 · March 21, 2010 at 7:27 PM

That's certainly true, Melissa and Anna, but nothing about archaea's question implies a pre-existing condition so I read it as applying to Paleo in a general sense.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107
15583 · March 21, 2010 at 7:16 PM

Individual foods aren't simply paleo/non-paleo in isolation (we should analyse lifestyles holistically), the important thing is quantity and context. Clearly cabbage etc are healthful in small quantities, but it's difficult to envisage the paleo context where masses of raw, 19-calories-per-cup vegetables like cabbage would be eaten en mass, we don't have the GI tract for it. I'd consider raw crucifers more a medicine than a food.

85026a0abe715229761956fbbee1cba0
78417 · March 21, 2010 at 6:42 PM

I don't think it's a problem for folks who don't have thyroid issues but trust me, if you were hypothyroid with no energy and your hair falling out you would likely willingly skip eating it.

03aeff8d87a3b53a449b5b8e9158da98
3268 · March 21, 2010 at 5:58 PM

Thanks Dave, I agree... I'm no Bubble Boy either! Melissa, good point. Btw, someone voted this answer down! ok.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad
56596 · March 21, 2010 at 5:44 PM

For those of us with healthy thyroids there is no worry, but a large number of people now have thyroid problems caused by eating improperly for decades. I'm lucky I only had two decades of bad eating and my thyroid is in great condition. Of course that's not a reason to gorge on thyroid disrupting foods...everything in moderation, which is easier on paleo because cabbage isn't a staple food, meat is our staple food. Contrast that to vegan diets where thyroid disrupting soy is often a staple.

5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6
2485 · March 21, 2010 at 4:57 PM

I'm with you on this, Glenn. To me, Paleo is the Real Food Diet, not the Bubble Boy Diet where you fear every little thing.

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0 · March 09, 2013 at 5:54 PM

I was wondering about sauerkraut. Just made a crock... think I'll give it all away. Recently, I put cabbage in the Vitamix and drank it. Within 15 minutes I was horizontal. When I dragged myself out of that coma, I checked my temp...95.2. Bummer. Love sauerkraut.

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