Another reason to load up on veggies: lower risk of thyroid cancer. 60,000 new cases of this deadly disease are diagnosed annually — while a whopping 25 million Americans suffer from various thyroid disorders. Seated right above the collarbone, your thyroid plays a major role in regulating growth, metabolism and reproduction.

Proper thyroid function depends greatly on iodine — deficiency during pregnancy being the most common cause of childhood mental retardation globally. While most Americans get more than enough iodine (thanks to WAY too much iodized salt) we consume far too few vegetables. When Italian researchers looked at two decades of scientific literature, searching for how dietary patterns impact thyroid cancer risk, they found that people with the highest veggie consumption were 20% less likely to develop this particular cancer. We should all eat more produce — but frequent fliers, and airline personnel, should take particular note, being most exposed to ionizing radiation, which increases thyroid cancer risk.

Other dietary tips for maintaining thyroid health? Pick parsley: This breath freshening “garnish” is actually a top source of the flavonoid apigenin, which may help support the thyroid. Your thyroid will also thank you for getting enough selenium (Brazil nuts, oysters, halibut) and iron (clams, spinach, turkey). And don’t go overboard with that pricey “sea salt” — which has none of the iodine (and, incidentally, all the sodium) contained by table salt.
Published April 1, 2012