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A diuretic will cause the number on your bathroom scale to go down, but it’s a temporary weight reduction. Diuretics pull excess fluid—not fat—from your body. They help when you feel bloated during hormonal changes like premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This is why Midol Complete contains caffeine and has a mild diuretic effect. For most times we feel like we’re retaining water, however, diuretic foods are a healthy way to alleviate that puffy feeling, such as may occur after a long day of sitting or standing, or after a meal of high-salt foods.
While not as powerful as diuretic prescription drugs (see sidebar), diuretic foods can make a difference.
Research Lacking For Diuretic Foods
We didn’t find many studies that gave us an indisputable list of diuretic foods, but the anecdotal evidence and support of nutritionists for these selections was pretty strong across the board:
WHAT IS A DIURETIC?
A diuretic drug, often called a “water pill,” increases urine production, which eliminates excess fluids and salts in your body. Prescription drugs, diuretics are often prescribed for fluid retention, which is called edema.
In some illnesses—hypertension, liver failure, congestive heart failure, abnormal persistent swelling in your body tissues, and some kidney disorders—it’s critical to get that excess fluid out of your body. Diuretics work so well and so quickly that most physicians suggest patients take the pills in the morning, so the need to urinate doesn’t interrupt a patient’s sleep. Diuretic foods are unlikely to have such a dramatic effect.
- Dandelion leaves
From there, we found a host of fruits and vegetables with properties that qualify them for your list of diuretic foods:
- Brussel sprouts
Herbs as Diuretic Foods
Dandelion leaves are one of the most widely supported natural diuretic foods, but several other herbs show potential, including horsetail, hibiscus, butchers broom, and buchu leaves.
Among the spices that may help with minor bloating are: caraway, black cumin, and ginger. Of course, you’re not going to eat copious amounts of these spices.
Some products, like aloe vera juice, are potential diuretic foods but can lower potassium, too, making them poor choices for diuretic foods. (With aloe vera juice, this is in addition to the problem that it is often not well tolerated when ingested.)
It’s important to remember that diuretics naturally remove sodium and water, which is what they’re supposed to do. But when they lower potassium levels, too, the result may be these potentially serious symptoms:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
We listed water as one of the best diuretic foods in the beginning of this article. While it might seem counterintuitive, a hydrated body performs its functions properly. If your body senses it doesn’t have enough fluid—so the body in a state of dehydration—it is going to retain water in an attempt to counter the dehydration.
- Work out. Exercise is a great way to reduce water retention as well. Work up a sweat.
- Check your magnesium intake. Studies have shown that you should take 200 mg of magnesium daily to help with fluid retention, especially with PMS. Magnesium is a critical nutrient that is involved in a mind-numbing number of physical processes.
- Eat less salt. Too much dietary salt is a guaranteed way to promote water weight. We should limit our salt intake to 1 teaspoon (2,300 mg) per day.
What You Can Do
If your interest in diuretic foods is for serious edema/water retention (like swollen ankles or feet), you need to see your doctor. This type of “water weight” can be a symptom of serious illnesses, like kidney disease or congestive heart failure.
However, if you’re simply battling bloated feelings associated with your menstrual cycle or from long periods of inactivity, you can likely adjust your diet to contain more of the foods listed in this article and whittle away at that bloat.
See also these University Health News posts: