Beets, which belong to the same plant family as spinach, Swiss chard and quinoa, contain a variety of compounds that are gaining attention for their ability to positively impact human health. Beets contain a unique combination of phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that display antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial in reducing an enlarged thyroid, or goiter. Both the roots and greens of beets contain beneficial compounds. Consult with your doctor if you notice a swelling in the front of your neck.
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Causes of Goiter
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid, like all glands, is sensitive to environmental changes, dietary deficiencies and toxins. Virtually any problem with the thyroid leads to inflammation or swelling, which is called a goiter. A goiter is not necessarily indicative of thyroid disease or noticeable dysfunction, although it is a sign of some sort of imbalance. According to the “Textbook of Functional Medicine,” common causes of goiters include iodine deficiency, hormone imbalance, pituitary or hypothalamus gland dysfunction, radiation exposure, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as Graves' disease and Hashimoto’s disease.
Not all goiters lead to signs and symptoms; this depends on the cause of the thyroid swelling. When signs and symptoms do occur, they usually include a tight feeling in the throat, coughing, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing and difficulty breathing, according to MayoClinic.com. A swollen thyroid can also be indicative of thyroid dysfunction. The production of too much thyroid hormone is called hyperthyroidism, the symptoms of which include nervousness, increased metabolism, weight loss, oily skin and insomnia. Reduced thyroid function, called hypothyroidism, usually results in fatigue, reduced metabolism, weight gain, depression and dry skin.
Benefits of Beets
Iodine-rich foods such as kelp are usually recommended to prevent goiters, but beets contain very little if any iodine. However, the roots and greens of beets are good sources of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are betalains in beets that display antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, according to “Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine.” These betalains inhibit the activity of COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, which help to limit inflammation and swelling within the body. Consequently, eating beet roots or beet greens may help to reduce the symptoms of goiters that are caused by factors other than iodine deficiency.
Beets are not a cure for goiter, but the betalains in beets may help reduce the swelling, according to "Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine." Just keep in mind that cooking beets at high heat or in the microwave destroys many of their beneficial phytonutrients. To retain the most nutrients, lightly boil, bake or steam beets before peeling them. You can easily rub the skin off after the beets are cooked.