9 Fruits And Vegetables That Are Natural Diuretics—No Pills Necessary

These can help with water retention when you're feeling bloated.

September 5, 2017
cabbage
Grzegorz Wozniak / EyeEm/getty

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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Related: How To Turn Cabbage Into A Super Tasty Vegan “Steak”

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.)

Related: Can Eating The Same Meals Every Day Help You Lose Weight?

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.

(Slash your cholesterol, burn stubborn belly fat, solve your insomnia, and more—naturally!—with Rodale's Eat For Extraordinary Health & Healing!)

asparagus
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Asparagus

From the time of the ancient Greek and Romans, Asparagus has been used for its diuretic properties. (Here's how to grow asparagus), and the West Indian Medical Journal proved its efficacy in a 2010 study. The vegetable’s diuretic effects come from the amino acid Asparagine, and has been used to treat swelling, rheumatism, and premenstrual water retention. The distinct smell of urine after eating asparagus comes from asparagusic acid which is broken down into a sulfur-containing compound when digested.

beets
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Beets

Beets are high in potassium, which helps eliminate fluid. (Here's more about why beets are great, and how to grow them.) Betanin, which gives beets their color, has been associated with lower levels of C reactive protein, making beets an anti-inflammatory as well.

Related: 11 Foods To Avoid For Anti-Inflammatory Eating

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cabbage
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Cabbage

Cabbage can be used topically (it helps draw out water when used externally), and as a food it also helps reduce water weight. The popular “cabbage soup diet” deploys the diuretic properties of cabbage, along with its high fiber and water content to support weight loss. (Here are the 6 best essential oils for weight loss.) The Romans used cabbage for hangovers and to help alcoholics “dry out.” Red cabbage is also an anti-inflammatory because it contains anthocyanins. Try these out, but remember: If your feet are always swollen or you are regularly retaining water, a visit to your doctor is a good idea to check that that it is not caused by an underlying medical condition.

Related: 6 Signs Your Kidneys Might Be Failing

celery
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Celery

Hippocrates recommended celery to eliminate excess fluid. (Here's how to grow your own crunchy celery.) Now scientists have identified that the phthalides in celery contribute to its diuretic effect. Uric acid levels in the body are reduced by the COX-2 inhibitors in celery, which makes it an ideal treatment option for gout edema, which results from excess uric acid crystals collecting in the joints.

cranberries
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Cranberries

Native Americans identified the diuretic effects of cranberries, using them to treat a number of conditions including scurvy, which they believed was caused by too much salt. Cranberry juice has been used by women worldwide to prevent and treat cystitis and other bladder disorders, although research results have been mixed. (Here are 6 crazy good cranberry recipes.) While the jury is out on the proanthocyanidins in cranberries and their antibacterial effect, as a diuretic, cranberries are especially beneficial because help fluid removal without eliminating potassium.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Feet Are Swelling Up Like Balloons 

 
 
cucumbers
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Cucumbers

Cucumbers have sulfur and silicon which increase urination by stimulating the kidneys into better removal of uric acid. Loaded with water and potassium and low in sodium, cucumbers also inhibit the production of nitric acid production and inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), which helps them reduce swelling. Cucumber slices can be used topically to reduce under eye puffiness. (Read more here for everything you need to know about growing crisp cucumbers.)

garlic
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Garlic

The same chemical that gives garlic its distinctive smell, Allicin, a sulfur-based chemical, gives it medicinal properties as well. The International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research found garlic to be effective as a diuretic. It is also a potent anti-oxidant and contributes to the breakdown of fats.

Watch below for how to make a garlic paste:

parsley
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Parsley

Parsley, especially as a tea, is a traditional remedy for water retention. (Plus parsley is vitamin-rich.) Parsley reduces the reabsorption of sodium and potassium salts in the kidney. This causes increased urine volume which helps reduce bloating.

 
 
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Watermelon

Watermelon, with its 92% water content and high potassium content also has diuretic properties. It contains the amino acid citrulline which relaxes blood vessels and keeps fluids from leaking into nearby tissue, thus reducing the retention of water.

Related: This 2-Ingredient Spiked Watermelon Slushy Is The Healthiest Way To Get Buzzed