My feet were puffed up like pierogis. New York City was experiencing a record-breaking heat wave and I was a week beyond my due date. I was anxious to have the baby.
For relief for my swollen feet, I turned to a bit of Old World magic I'd learned from my grandmother, and sent my husband out for a head of cabbage. When he returned, I ate some of the cabbage, and wrapped a few of the raw leaves around my puffy feet. I put on my socks over the cabbage, elevated my feet, shut my eyes and let the cabbage work its magic.
Besides being extremely nutritious, cabbage is also a natural diuretic. Diuretics help your body get rid of salt and water mainly by stimulating your kidneys to release sodium into your urine. Water is then pulled from your blood to concentrate the sodium levels. That produces more urine and decreases the amount of fluid flowing through your blood vessels, providing relief from water retention if you're suffering from edema, high blood pressure, and other conditions where chronic water retention presents an issue.
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But it’s not just chronic conditions that can be helped by diuretics. They can help relieve bloating after a salty meal or from monthly hormonal fluctuations. (Some bodybuilders turn to diuretics to lose water weight and to look more sculpted before competition, while models use “water pills” to reduce puffiness before a photo shoot.)
Over-the-counter diuretics are available in pill form, but there are a couple of reasons you might want to avoid them. While generally safe for occasional use, they can have side effects like hypokalemia, caused by too little potassium, which can lead to heart problems. Other potential side effects include dehydration, muscle cramps, dizziness and rashes. You can avoid these side effects by pairing over-the-counter diuretics with foods high in potassium like bananas, sunflower seeds, apricots or oranges. (Here are 13 foods that have more potassium than a banana.)
Happily, natural diuretics—like my cabbage—offer relief from water retention and bloating without taking any pills at all. Below, nine natural diuretics you can snag in the produce aisle of your grocery store.
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