What do you eat for water retention? If you have swelling in your body in the form of swelling of the legs, or just swollen ankles or swollen feet, swelling of the arms, or just swollen hands, face puffiness and stomach bloating, then changing what you eat can help you drop the water weight and reduce the swelling visibly. Results can take as little as one week to show, provided you eat right and are consistent in your efforts.
Why does the body retain water?
Water retention, also called fluid retention or, more simply, water weight, is the retention of excess amounts of fluid in the body. For the most part, retention of excess fluid leading to visible swelling in various areas of the body occurs when there is a too high a intake of sodium, usually from added salt and eating lots of processed foods.
Sodium normally helps the body retain fluid and is needed to regulate fluid levels everywhere in the body; it is of vital necessity for maintaining normal blood pressure numbers, normal blood volume and regulating the activity of nerve cells and essential cellular processes. Excessive levels cause the body to accumulate fluid and lead to high blood pressure, swelling in the arms, legs, hands, ankles, feet, face and abdomen, among other side effects.
Of course, it’s not just water retention behind visible swelling occurring in different parts of the body. For example, face puffiness is also commonly caused by seasonal pollen allergies and represents one of many symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Or it can be a sign of inflamed sinuses or a sinus infection. Face puffiness and swelling in the arms, legs and abdomen is a common side effect of medication such as corticosteroids used to treat seasonal pollen allergies and other types of allergies, asthma, autoimmune conditions, and inflammation in the body.
Abdominal swelling or bloating can also be caused by infestation with intestinal worms and other intestinal parasites, dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance, wheat sensitivity, gluten allergies or diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, ovarian cancer etc.
Abdominal swelling is also common during ovulation as part of the natural hormone fluctuations during menstruation; it’s common to gain between 1 kilogram and 3 kilograms of fluid during this time of the month and just drop it soon after the ovulatory cycle ends. Pathological changes in hormone profiles and levels also account for increased retention of fluid e.g. thyroid issues. Water retention is also common when simply eating more, more notably if you have processed foods or salty foods.
There are many caused behind what seems to be accumulation of fluid in the body, some harmless, some not so much. As such, it is imperative you do get water retention investigated at the doctor’s if it’s a recent development, uncharacteristic of your body up until that time, more so if you cannot connect it to significant dietary changes.
What do you eat for water retention?
What you eat can help regulate the amount of fluid your body retains and, more important, help you drop excess fluid, reducing visible swelling in the body and, at the same time, improving health markers such as blood pressure. To drop water weight, it helps to eat a predominantly vegetarian diet and eat clean as in eat foods as close as possible to their natural state (e.g. eat a banana or an apple instead of banana pie or apple pie; have grilled chicken or beef instead of cold cuts or charcuterie).
Below are 30 of the absolute best foods to eat if you’re dealing with water retention and want to drop the water weight!
1- Stalk celery
It’s over 95% water and has only 16 kcal (kilocalories, calories) per 100 grams. Even though it’s not sodium free, it’s content of sodium is only 80 milligrams per 100 grams out of the recommended 1300-1500 to 2300 milligrams a day for an adult.
For water retention and especially abdominal bloating, make zucchinis your go-to vegetable. It’s great grilled, stewed or as a main ingredient in creamy risotto, whole grain spaghetti and egg dishes. Zucchini is sodium-free. A good alternative is marrow.
There is no better fruit/vegetable for water retention that cucumber. High in water itself at over 95% water, but virtually sodium-free, it won’t make you retain any more fluid and also drop water weight.
4- Watermelon of all colors
Watermelon is good for water retention because it’s mostly water itself, but has no sodium. Not just this, but watermelon and watermelon seeds have potassium and magnesium to flush out excess sodium and combat fluid retention. All colors, including red and yellow watermelon, orange watermelon and also white watermelon, are equally good.
Unless you are allergic or intolerant, try eggplants for water retention. Eggplants are sodium-free, almost as high in water as watermelon, and have lots of potassium and magnesium to counteract fluid accumulation and associated swelling in the body. Try them grilled and seasoned with extravirgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or lightly stewed with sweet peppers, button mushrooms or crimini, and cauliflower.
Asparagus is good for water retention because it’s over 93% water and virtually sodium-free. It further has good amounts of potassium and magnesium, two electrolytes that regulate fluid levels in the body. Try purple asparagus full of antioxidants, pink asparagus and the variant known as white asparagus.
Radishes are light and very low in calories, and over 95% water! They’re sodium-free so they don’t contribute to fluid accumulation and swelling in the body, and full of healthy constituents with anticancer properties. Pink radishes are just as good as white winter radishes.
8- Bulb fennel (Florence fennel)
Raw bulb fennel, best known as Florence fennel, is a favorite Italian salad herb. Fragrant and light and very low in calories at just 30 kcal (kilocalories) per 100 grams, it’s great for losing weight. It’s also over 90% water, full of healthy constituents, and a great source of potassium for water retention.
9- Belgian endive
If you like the taste of bitter, then Belgian endives are a great salad option for you. The favorite Italian winter vegetable has almost no sodium whatsoever, but has a good content of both potassium and magnesium to actively combat water retention and swelling. See my guide to endives and chicories, with pictures.
Radicchio is like a magenta and white little cabbage and it’s a staple in Italian cuisine where it’s commonly used in salads. The bitter salad vegetable is great for water retention as it’s very low in sodium at just 1% of daily values, but high in potassium at close to 6.5% of daily values for an adult and a good source of magnesium. It’s also full of nutrition.
Parsnip is an excellent substitute for carrots and a root vegetable with anticancer constituents. It provides less than 1% of daily sodium requirements, but almost 8% of daily potassium AND magnesium values for an adult in just 100 grams which makes it great for balancing fluid levels in the body.
12- Carrots of all colors
Carrots are sweet and palatable and a source of anticancer constituents. Related to parsnip and parsley root, carrots are good to eat for water retention as they’re naturally mostly water (90%), but low in sodium (4-5% of daily values). They’re also one of the vegetables highest in potassium for balancing fluid levels in the body. Try red, orange and yellow carrots for better eyesight, and purple carrots for a boost in anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Kohlrabi is a pale green bulbous vegetable with a very mild cabbage-like flavor. It does not have too strong of a flavor or taste, and less than 1% sodium per 100 grams. It’s 91% water and you can eat it raw or cooked and get around 7% of your daily potassium and 5% magnesium to combat water retention.
Spinach is over 91% water and every 100 grams you eat (raw) gets you 12% of all the potassium you need in a day to balance your fluid levels, more than most vegetables. Spinach is also naturally very high in magnesium (19% of daily values) to further combat water retention.
Watercress has just 11 calories per 100 grams and makes for a great salad green for losing weight. It’s pleasantly bitter green flavor with faint cabbage notes and crispness pair nicely with just about anything, providing hydration and good nutrition. Watercress is low in sodium, high in potassium and has a good content of magnesium for balancing fluid levels in the body.
16- Celeriac (celery root)
Unless you are allergic, celeriac is a great substitute for potatoes in the diet. It’s naturally lightly fragrant, similar to parsley root, but otherwise quite bland-tasting, crisp and rather tough when raw, but soft when cooked. It has good amounts of potassium and magnesium 88 grams of water per 100 grams to help you drop water weight. Its sodium content is a little over 5%.
17- Beets (beetroot)
Beets are 88% water and have a good content of both potassium and magnesium to combat water retention. You can eat them raw in a salad, baked or roasted, and they’ll make a great food to eat for water retention. They are also a good source of folate to combat tiredness, muscle weakness and malaise.
Sure, cabbage may cause you to become temporarily bloated, but it’s also a great vegetable to flush out excess fluid from the body and drop water weight, as well as excess weight. Cabbage is low in calories (25 kcal per 100 grams), high in water (92%) and low in sodium (under 15), but with potassium and magnesium to combat fluid retention in the body.
Tomatoes are mostly water and help hydrate the body without making it retain too much fluid. They only have about 20 calories per 100 grams raw and also help you lose weight. Tomatoes are sodium-free and also provide good amounts of potassium and magnesium to further flush out excess fluid.
Having a salad such as lettuce is a great way to flush out excess fluid from the body and reduce swelling. Lettuce is 95% water and has no sodium, and it’s naturally very low in calories which helps with losing weight as well. Pair it with tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, zucchini or eggplant for a real boost in your intake of potassium and magnesium to lose water weight fast.
What makes pineapple a good option for water retention is the fact that it’s around 86% water, and sweet so you do eat plenty of it. This contributes to hydration, but doesn’t make you retain fluid because pineapple has no sodium. Also, there are only 50 calories per 100 grams of pineapple which means it’s good for weight management too.
Pears are one of the best tolerated fruits. They are around 85% water and have no sodium which means they hydrate and help you flush out excess fluid at the same time. Pears further provide small amounts of potassium and magnesium to regulate fluid uptake and good amounts of fiber to regulate digestion and help you get a flat stomach.
Kiwifruit is virtually sodium-free and has very good amounts of potassium and small amounts of magnesium to regulate fluid levels in the body. Eating kiwifruit helps flush out excess water from the system, as well as regulates bowel frequency for a flatter stomach. You can have green or yellow kiwifruit, or kiwifruit berries.
24- Cactus fruit
Cactus fruit, also known as prickly pears, are sweet and pleasant, albeit annoying to eat because of how many seeds they have. But the delicious pulp is hydrating and energizing, and provides high amounts of magnesium (20% of daily values), no sodium and a good content of potassium (7% of daily values). Eating cactus fruit helps flush out excess sodium and counteracts its water-retaining effect.
Grapefruit may taste bitter, but it’s one of the best foods to eat for water retention. Grapefruit is sodium-free and high in water meaning it hydrates, but does not cause the body to retain excess fluid. On the contrary, its nutritional makeup makes it a diuretic, increasing the output of urine and flushing out excess sodium and excess fluid.
Pomelo is the acidless, mildly bitter version of grapefruit, equally good for water retention. With almost 90 grams of water per 100 grams and no measurable contribution to daily sodium intakes, pomelo is one of the best foods to eat to stay hydrated and flush out excess fluid from the body at the same time. It also has slightly more potassium than grapefruit.
27- Oroblanco (Sweetie)
Oroblanco is a citrus fruit obtained by crossing grapefruit and pomelo; it tastes somewhat like a pomelo with a bit of a grapefruit flavor and minimal acidity. Oroblanco is a great fruit to eat for water retention as it’s high in water and has no sodium. Its diuretic effect helps flush out excess sodium and excess fluid, not to mention it’s low in calories and helps shed excess weight too.
Pomegranate is a good fruit to eat for water retention. Pomegranate seeds are about 80% water and sodium-free, and have a diuretic effect that promotes the elimination of excess fluid from the body. Not just this, but pomegranate has both potassium and magnesium to further regulate the uptake of fluid and balance fluid levels.
29- Oats and oatmeal
Eating oatmeal (almost) every day can help with water retention. A serving of oatmeal made with just 50 grams of rolled oats and 200 milliliters of low fat 1.5% or 1% cow milk can get you close to 40% of your total magnesium values for the day and 11% of daily potassium values, with only minimal amounts of sodium, enough to keep you healthy, but without any ill-effects.
Magnesium and potassium are electrolytes that regulate body fluid levels and counteract the water-retaining effects of excess sodium in the diet. Oatmeal in the morning for breakfast help balance fluid levels in the body and flush out excesses, while also regulating bowel movements for a visibly flatter stomach in a matter of days. See more ways oatmeal helps you get a flat stomach.
One of the best natural diuretics to flush out excess water from the system is coffee. Coffee is made from the seeds of coffee berries, known as coffee beans. Coffee beans are a major diuretic, triggering the elimination of fluid from the body at an impressive rate. However, when consuming coffee, even for its diuretic action, it’s important to also restore hydration levels with still water.
This post was updated on Tuesday / September 28th, 2021 at 11:16 AM