Find out the best naturally diuretic foods that may help you pee more frequently.
Reviewed by Dietitian Maria Laura Haddad-Garcia
Swollen arms, legs or ankles can be telltale signs your body is carrying more water and salt than normal, making moving pretty uncomfortable. About 60% of your body is water, and maintaining a healthy balance of fluids is critical for optimal health and normal function, per a 2018 article in BMC Public Health. High blood pressure, heart failure and kidney dysfunction disrupt your body's fluid balance and may require water pills for treatment. Water pills, or diuretics, help eliminate fluids from your body by making you pee more frequently. Without diuretics, extra water can make your organs work overtime, create electrolyte imbalances, and potentially become life-threatening, according to a 2022 review in StatsPearls.
Diuretics are among the most often used drugs in the medical field, according to a 2021 review in LiverTox. While diuretic medications are available with the help of a physician, some foods and beverages are pro-urine and likely to increase your bathroom trips, prescription-free.
How Do Diuretics Work?
Diuretics are medications that help your body get rid of extra fluids and sodium by increasing how often you pee, per the 2021 review in LiverTox. How do they work? Diuretics act on receptors in your kidneys to reduce sodium absorption, driving sodium to exit the body. And where sodium goes, water goes along with it, leading to water losses, too. The goal of diuretics is to restore the body's fluid balance since fluid overload can negatively impact lung, heart and kidney health by causing these organs to work harder, according to a 2021 review in Frontiers. According to the National Kidney Foundation, some of these harmful effects are swelling and difficulty breathing.
The 6 Best Natural Diuretics
Many people can attest their morning cup of joe often sends them to pee frequently—and caffeine is the culprit. According to a 2017 study in Frontiers, caffeine mimics diuretic medications by reducing sodium reabsorption in the kidneys. It's possible that caffeine also stimulates contractions in the smooth muscle in the urinary tract and triggers the central nervous system, which can cause diuresis, per a 2020 study in F1000 Research. Further, a 2020 review published in the World Journal of Urology analyzed 13 studies of caffeine drinks and found that these caffeinated beverages, at 300 to 360 milligrams of caffeine (3 to 4 cups of coffee), showed their diuretic abilities. Additionally, caffeine demonstrated other diuretic skills by promoting the urinary excretion of electrolytes, calcium, magnesium and sodium. But remember that its fluid-removing benefits aren't a license to overdrink caffeinated beverages. The Food and Drug Administration advises that limiting your daily caffeine intake to no more than 400 milligrams is best for good health.
Another popular caffeinated beverage, tea, is chock-full of antioxidants and a regular addition to many people's daily routines. On average, tea has a lower caffeine content than coffee. According to the USDA, green tea has about 29 milligrams of caffeine per cup, whereas black tea has 47 milligrams of caffeine per cup, though some can have much more depending on the type and concentration. Still, tea, too, can be a natural diuretic. That said, it could take a lot of tea drinking to reap its diuretic effect. Surprisingly, teas without caffeine may also help rid the body of fluid. Hibiscus tea, in particular, may help excrete fluids and lower blood pressure, according to a 2022 review published in Pharmaceuticals. A 2019 study of 46 adults with hypertension published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research had participants drinking two cups of hibiscus tea daily for 30 days, with half receiving tea and medication and the other half only receiving the tea. Results showed significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The review suggests hibiscus helps lower blood pressure by relaxing the pressure in the blood vessels, playing a role in sodium balance, and assisting with diuresis.
On a hot summer's day, juicy, sweet and hydrating watermelon is just what you need to cool down. Watermelon is a well-known diuretic and is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its ruby red color is due to the presence of the antioxidant lycopene, according to the USDA. Every bite of watermelon is water-saturated, which may be what makes it an effective diuretic. A 2018 animal study published in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy showed watermelon may encourage sodium and chloride to leave via urine, taking water along with it. The popular fruit may also help maintain proper fluid balance by lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure, according to a 2022 review published in Nutrients. Watermelon has amino acids, like L-arginine, that may increase nitric oxide, an important molecule in vasodilation (keeping the blood vessels open) for healthy blood flow.
Celery, a crunchy fibrous veggie, includes essential minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium and is made of 95% water, per the USDA. According to a 2021 article in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, traditionally, celery seed was used in Iranian medicine as a diuretic. N-butyl phthalide (NBP), an active component of celery seed extract, could help reduce blood pressure. NBP is responsible for celery's distinct aroma and may give celery its urine-clearing abilities, according to a 2018 review published in Phytotherapy Research. The review mentions an older study of 30 adults with high blood pressure that found NPB caused a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure because of its diuretic effects. More current studies of celery and its diuretic potential are needed to confirm that it's an effective natural diuretic.
5. Coconut Water
Though it's trendy, coconut water isn't the magic elixir influencers chalk it up to be, but what's true is that it does have nutrients and polyphenols to enhance hydration and health overall. Coconut water has multiple health benefits, from fueling your body with energy to providing electrolytes to help prevent dehydration. Moreover, coconut water was recently studied for its diuretic effects in a 2022 animal study published in Frontiers in Nutrition. Forty rats were split into four groups, each receiving either a diuretic drug, saline, coconut water or concentrated coconut water. Coconut water groups had boosted sodium and chloride excretion. Further, urine output from coconut water, especially in the coconut water group, was more significant than in the group given the diuretic drug. So, what's the trick of the tropical beverage? The study reports coconut water suppressed hormones controlled by the renin-angiotensin system, which strongly influences maintaining your body's fluid and electrolyte balance, potentially increasing diuresis. Coconut water also enhances levels of atriopeptin—a hormone that excretes sodium and increases diuresis.
Whether a major ingredient or an eye-catching garnish, parsley has a place in many dishes, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. According to animal studies, the earthy-tasting herb may also act as a diuretic. In a 2017 animal study published in the American Journal of Clinical and Experimental Urology, parsley extract ingestion for 15 days caused significant increases in urine output in test rats compared to the control. Further, a 2016 animal study published in the Journal of Functional Foods found favorable results in the diuretic potential of parsley after giving it to mice for 28 days. Despite these studies, there aren't human studies to confirm the diuretic benefits of parsley. Consider this delicious Green Juice recipe to increase your intake of parsley.
Are Natural Diuretics Harmful?
The only natural diuretics in this list that can lead to harm are caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea. Too much caffeine can pose a danger to your health. But you'd have to drink an unfathomable amount of caffeine to reach these levels. Ingesting around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine has been observed to have toxic effects such as seizures. Generally, limiting your caffeine consumption to 400 milligrams per day (around 4 cups of brewed coffee) is safe for healthy adults. If you're pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, it may help to limit your caffeine intake. Accordion to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, sticking to no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine daily in pregnancy seems safe. It may help to discuss your caffeine intake with your medical provider.
Other Ways to Reduce Fluid Retention
Limit your fluid intake: People with blood pressure or kidney problems may be directed to watch their water intake to help sustain better fluid balance. Be mindful of foods that turn to liquids, including ice cream and popsicles, as they're considered fluids. Since every person is different, it's best to speak with your medical provider to understand your individual fluid needs.
Slow your salt intake: High sodium intakes may increase your thirst, making it tough to limit your fluid intake. Generally, limiting daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams is the general guidance, per the American Heart Association. Still, you may need even less if you have heart, blood pressure or kidney issues. Too much dietary sodium could worsen fluid balance, blood pressure and heart and kidney health. Speaking with your medical provider about your sodium needs is vital here.
Talk with your doctor about diuretic medications: While natural diuretics offer many health benefits, a diuretic drug may be a convenient, quick and effective way to rid your body of extra fluids.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most effective natural diuretic?
Caffeine in coffees and teas is famous for its function as a diuretic. Since caffeine is 100% bioavailable and acts within 30 minutes of ingestion, per the CDC, it may be the most effective natural diuretic out there.
Which is a fast-acting natural diuretic?
According to the CDC, caffeine only takes 30 minutes for your body to feel its effects, which could qualify it as a fast-acting natural diuretic. Though, keep in mind everyone's body reacts differently to stimulants.
Which fruit is the most diuretic?
The most diuretic-acting fruit is watermelon. Not only is it brimming with 91% water, per the USDA, but it's tasty, easy to eat, and likely to send you to the restroom to pee frequently.
What drinks are natural diuretics?
Natural diuretic drinks include caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea. Coconut water, a tropical, pleasant-tasting, non-caffeinated drink, also has been studied for its natural diuretic benefits.
The Bottom Line
About 60% of your body is water; proper water levels are critical for optimal health and normal function. Too much water, or fluid overload, can harm your health, so you may have considered natural diuretics to help increase urination. While natural diuretics such as coffee, tea, watermelon or parsley provide good nutrition and health benefits, watching your fluid and salt intake and discussing diuretic drugs with your doctor may be critical to avoid potential harm to your health.