We all have those days when we’re feeling puffy, bloated and uncomfortable – whether you’ve just downed a particularly salty meal or you’re skimping out on your aqua, natural diuretics in the form of herbs, fruits and veggies can help get things moving again.
Diuretics work by stimulating your kidneys, thereby flushing excess salt and water from your body. But diuretic tablets can leave you with depleted potassium stores and put your kidneys under the gun – that’s why opting for foods with natural diuretic properties can be beneficial for those with mild fluid retention. Let’s take a look at 4 whole-food options that are tasty, nutritious and easily-accessible.
It’s the asparagine – an amino acid – in asparagus that you can thank for its diuretic properties. The use of this veggie to treat fluid retention dates back to ancient Greece, and for good reason. Asparagus’ diuretic effects reduce swelling, water retention and inflammation – in fact, it’s believed that foods that are rich in sulphur, like onions, garlic, cabbage and asparagus, may even improve the symptoms of arthritis. Asparagus in particular contains asparagusic acid, and this is the stuff that breaks down into sulphur during the digestive process – it’s also what makes your urine smell funky. But not everyone’s averse to a bit of sulphuric pee; the great writer, Marcel Proust, declared asparagus turned his “humble chamber pot into a bower of aromatic perfume.” Something to look forward to then!
The humble cucumber is another natural diuretic, and this comes down to it’s dose of sulphur, which, as we mentioned earlier, stimulates the kidneys to flush out excess uric acid and fluid. Cucumbers also contain silicon, which has a similar effect on the kidneys. The potassium content of this popular salad ingredient also contributes to reducing fluid retention as this nutrient is known to help us flush out excess salt, a common contributor to swelling. But it doesn’t end there – the nitric acid in cucumbers are another impressive combatant for bloating and swelling as they have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s why you’ll often see people sticking cucumber slices on their eyes in the movies – they really do have the ability to reduce puffiness and swelling.
This crunchy veggie is loaded with what are known as phthalides – these are the compounds responsible for its diuretic effects. Celery also reduces uric acid in the body, and high levels of these acids are known to increase the risk for gout as excess crystals form in the joints from the uric acid. It may be especially helpful in treating edema caused by gout – this is the swelling and puffiness that results from trapped excess fluids – according to researchers.
Caraway is commonly used as a spice in curries, soups, cakes and bread – but its culinary potential isn’t its only draw point. Caraway has long been used to improve digestive issues and inflammation due to its antioxidant content, particularly in Moroccan medicine – and while research is lacking on the topic, one study found it to have a natural diuretic effect. There are a few other simple ways to reduce swelling and puffiness outside of consuming foods with mild diuretic properties:
- Exercising can increase your blood circulation, and thereby help get your lymphatic system moving and also excrete excess fluid through sweat.
- Drinking more water is another way to prevent fluid retention, though it may seem counterintuitive, it’s an essential element of a healthy lymphatic system – and your survival, of course.
- Up your intake of magnesium and potassium – both of these nutrients play a role in preventing fluid retention.
- Watch the salt – too much salt is a known risk factor for swelling, so keep an eye on your intake, especially if you’re eating processed foods.
- Watch the sugar – high-sugar diets promote high insulin levels, and this in turn can result in the kidney’s retaining sodium and water, leading to swelling and the dreaded bloat.
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