Also known as fluid retention or oedema, water retention occurs when the body holds more water than it should, which leads to swelling and a general sense of discomfort.
There are several reasons for this, many of which aren’t necessarily related to a health issue; for example, water retention is quite common during or before women’s monthly period.1 That said, sudden or severe water retention can be a sign of a serious problem, in which case it’s important to seek medical advice.
Ordinarily, though, simply managing your nutrition should be a good enough measure.
Here’s the list of foods that are especially good at lowering water retention:
‘Electrolytes’ are the body’s minerals (such as sodium, potassium and magnesium) that help maintain a healthy balance of water being inside and outside our cells.
Sodium helps us retain water, increasing the body’s blood pressure in the process (which explains why people who have high blood pressure or too much water retention are advised to reduce their intake of sodium chloride, a.k.a. salt).
Potassium, which bananas happen to be loaded with, decreases the body’s sodium levels while even increasing its production of urine. This expels the sodium, consequently getting rid of water retention. Avocados and tomatoes also happen to be great sources of potassium. 2
2] Nuts and Dark Chocolate
Nuts are a good source of many nutrients – especially magnesium.
Magnesium is required for about 600 reactions in the body; its supplementation been shown to reduce water retention in women with premenstrual symptoms (PMS).5, 6
Dark chocolate also happens to be a great source of magnesium – a 100 gram bar of (70-85% cocoa) dark chocolate has half the amount of magnesium that we’re recommended to consume in a day.7
Green leafy vegetables also contain magnesium, making them a good idea to include in one’s diet while trying to reduce water retention.
Tuna is a rich source of vitamin B6, which serves a number of functions in our body, like helping form red blood cells.
Vitamin B6 is also – and more relevantly – believed to help our kidneys get rid of sodium faster, by helping our brain produce ‘dopamine’, a “happiness hormone” that plays a role in getting rid of sodium through urination. In fact, researchers believe that vitamin B6 deficiency causes low dopamine in the kidneys, which is one of the reasons water retention can occur.5, 8, 9
This was also been seen in clinical studies, where vitamin B6 reduced water retention in women who were going through PMS (premenstrual syndrome), and had the added effect of improving their moods.5
Bananas and walnuts also have vitamin B6, making them especially good for reducing water retention. High amounts are also present in potatoes, meat and garlic.
4] Whole Grains
Choosing whole grains (brown rice, red rice, whole wheat bread, etc.) over refined carbohydrates (table sugar and refined grains like “maida”) can do much more for our health than most people realise, including alleviating water retention.
Eating refined grains creates a spike in our blood’s levels of a hormone called insulin, which (in addition to many other functions) makes the kidneys retain sodium. So, in effect, high levels of insulin can actually make us retain more water.10, 11
Whole grains, on the other hand, are loaded with fibre, which helps our insulin levels remain within a healthy range. The fact that they, too, contain magnesium only helps.
While exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle are known to lower water retention, having these specific foods makes the process quicker and keeps water retention at bay.
1. Rosenfeld R, et al. Hypertension 2008, 51(4): 1225-1230.
2. Gallen IW, et al. Am J Kidney Dis 1998, 31(1): 19-27.
3. Peuhkuri K, et al. Nutrition Research 2012, 32(5): 309-319.
4. de Baaij JH, et al. Physiol Rev 2015, 95(1): 1-46.
5. Ebrahimi E, et al. J Caring Sci 2012, 1(4): 183-189.
6. Facchinetti F, et al. Obstet Gynecol 1991, 78(2): 177-181.
7. SelfNutritionData. Nutrition Facts: Candies, chocolate, dark, 70-85% cacao solids. California, USA: Condé Nast; 2014.
8. Olsen NV. Dan Med Bull 1998, 45(3): 282-297.
9. Zhang M-Z, et al. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 121(7): 2845-2854.
10. Horita S, et al. Int J Hypertens 2011, 2011: 391762.
11. Tiwari S, et al. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2007, 293(4): F974-984.