Blog Nutrition List Of Foods That Cause Water Retention

List Of Foods That Cause Water Retention

Athletes and bodybuilders who are set to compete often need to watch their diets carefully to ensure they don’t end up carrying any excess water weight. However, they aren’t the only ones who worry about a sudden increase in weight.

Many people who are trying to lose weight or simply maintain their current weight find that they can’t seem to get rid of that last pound to achieve their goal. Some people have chronic conditions that make them more prone to water retention. While many factors can contribute to this, the foods we eat are often overlooked. 

Some foods may help with water retention by promoting diuresis or the increased production of urine, whereas others can cause the body to hold on to water. If you’re trying to lose water weight, it’s best to avoid foods that are high in sodium.

What Is Water Retention?

Also known as fluid retention, it’s a situation where the body retains or holds on to more water than normal for a variety of reasons.

The human body is made up of approximately 60% water. This fluid helps cushion and protect our organs, joints, and tissues. It also helps with digestion, absorption, and transportation of nutrients. 

Water also regulates body temperature and plays a role in the elimination of waste products. Most of the time, our bodies maintain a healthy balance of water by regulating how much we consume and eliminating excess through urine and sweat. 

However, there are certain conditions that can prevent this from happening and result in our bodies retaining more water than usual, including:

  • Edema: This is the medical term for swelling that is caused by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the tissues. 

Edema can be the result of an underlying medical condition such as congestive heart failure or kidney disease. Corticosteroids can also be a factor (4, 33).

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Many women retain water and experience bloating in the days leading up to their period (5).
  • Obesity: Obesity may cause the body to retain water (28).
  • Hormonal Changes: Water retention can be a side effect of shifts in certain hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone (25).
  • Pregnancy: As the baby grows, extra fluid is required to support its development. This fluid is sometimes retained after birth (9). 
  • Menopause: Changes in hormone levels during menopause can cause some women to retain water (16).
See also
A Conditioning Program For Beginners: Benefits, Potential Exercises, And Cautions

list of foods that cause water retention  

What Foods Make You Retain Water?

In addition to the aforementioned causes of fluid retention, certain foods can contribute to the body retaining water. These foods can promote inflammation or interfere with the body’s natural ability to regulate fluid levels, leading to storage of extra water. 

Foods that can cause the body to hold on to water include:

Highly Processed Foods 

Food processing involves various stages that can change the nutrient content and structure of foods. They often contain additives and preservatives, such as sodium and sugar, which can lead to water retention. 

Highly processed foods that are high in sodium or added sugar that can promote water retention (17) include:

  • Canned soups, stews, and chili
  • Packaged ramen noodles
  • Frozen meals
  • Processed cheese 
  • Cured meats, such as bacon, salami, and ham 
  • Sausages 
  • Hot dogs 
  • Pre-made sauces and dressings 
  • Chips 
  • Crackers 
  • Cookies
  • Cakes 
  • Ice cream 

Lean and toned up body isn’t just a far-fetched fantasy. Check out the BetterMe app and watch it propel your weight loss journey into high gear!


While alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it helps promote the production of urine, it can also cause the body to retain water due to chronic alcohol intake, which can cause damage to the liver.

In addition, alcohol is often combined with sugary mixers that can cause the body to hold on to water, such as:

  • Liquor mixed with sugary soft drinks, such as gin and tonic or rum and cola
  • Sweetened mixed drinks, such as daiquiris and margaritas 

Alcohol can also dehydrate you. Its diuretic effects mean that it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through your renal system at a much faster rate than other liquids.

This is why you find yourself going to the bathroom more often when you drink alcohol. If you don’t drink water in between your alcoholic beverages, you end up dehydrated, which can ultimately cause water retention.

See also
Mint Water Benefits, Risks, And Recipes

Salty Foods

Eating foods that are high in salt can cause the body to hold on to water. This is because too much salt consumption upsets the body’s water-sodium balance and promotes the retention of water in the body (24). 

Some salty foods include: 

  • Pretzels
  • Potato chips
  • Corn chips
  • Popcorn
  • Salted nuts
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned soups and chili
  • Packaged ramen noodles
  • Processed cheese 
  • Cured meats, such as bacon, salami, and ham
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs  

Sugary Foods

In the same way that too much salt promotes water retention, so does too much sugar (3). 

Sugary foods that may make your body hold on to water include: 

  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Cake 
  • Pie
  • Ice cream 
  • Fruit juice 
  • Sports drinks 
  • Sweetened coffee and tea
  • Sweetened mixed drinks, such as daiquiris and margaritas 

list of foods that cause water retention  

Refined Carbohydrates

Refining carbohydrates removes some of the fiber and other nutrients that are present in whole grains. This can make them more rapidly absorbed by the body, resulting in water retention (3). High insulin levels in response to refined carbohydrate intake may cause your kidneys to reabsorb more sodium and retain fluid.

Your body also stores extra carbohydrates for later use as glycogen. This is helpful, but glycogen is stored with quite a bit of water attached to it, so it can alter the number you see on the scale. 

Refined carbohydrates include: 

  • White bread 
  • Pasta 
  • Cereal
  • White rice 
  • Crackers

Read more: Calories Burned Water Aerobics, or Why Aquafit is Good For Weight Loss

What Is the Biggest Cause of Water Retention?

As demonstrated above, there are multiple causes of water retention. From hormonal changes to weight gain, medication, and even food, many things can cause your body to retain water (13, 8).

However, for the average person, hormonal fluctuations, medical conditions, or medication could lead to water retention, but the most likely culprit is your diet. More specifically, the consumption of sodium, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.

Lifestyle choices could also cause water retention. Standing or sitting for too long can cause fluid to ‘pool’ in the tissues in the legs, which can lead to swelling. This is usually due to gravity and walking should quickly get rid of this issue.

See also
Mushroom Coffee Benefits And Side Effects

What Are the Signs of Water Retention?

When the body retains extra water, the symptoms can show in various ways. Some signs of water retention you should look for include (13, 27):

  1. Unexplained weight fluctuations – If you ever find yourself wondering ‘how did I gain 2 pounds overnight?’ the answer may be fluid retention. Think back to what you ate the previous night and you may find your answer.
  2. Swelling, particularly in the hands, feet and ankles
  3. Aching or tender limbs
  4. Stiff joints
  5. Shiny or puffy skin
  6. Abdominal bloating
  7. Puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips

What Can I Eat to Stop Retaining Water?

If you’re looking for foods that can help reduce water retention, you’re in luck. There are several foods that have diuretic properties, meaning that they help promote urine production and therefore, they may help rid your body of excess water.

The best foods for reducing water retention include:

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that’s essential for many different bodily functions, including keeping your heart healthy and your bones strong (19). It has also been found to help alleviate premenstrual fluid retention (20). It works together with sodium and potassium to help restore your body’s water balance. 

Some good sources of magnesium are:

  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains
  • Leafy greens

list of foods that cause water retention  

Foods Rich in Potassium

Potassium is another essential mineral that’s important for maintaining a healthy heart and keeping your muscles working properly (11). Potassium tends to counter sodium to help maintain fluid balance in the body. 

Good sources of potassium include:

  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Most fresh fruits and vegetables

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry juice is an excellent source of antioxidants and is believed to help reduce water retention. It’s also believed to be a natural diuretic that boosts frequent urination. Cranberries are also thought to work by helping to keep urine diluted, which helps prevent fluid from being reabsorbed into the body.

Dandelion Tea

Dandelion tea is a popular herbal tea that’s often consumed for its diuretic properties. It’s believed to work as it aids in increasing urine production, which helps rid the body of excess fluid (29). If you have an allergy to plants in the asteraceae family, you may want to avoid this option.

See also
13 High-Calorie, Low-Carb Foods for Safe and Effective Weight Gain

A study in 2013 also found that this herb may interact unfavorably with some medications, including certain antibiotics, anticoagulants, and blood sugar drugs (15). Make sure you talk to your doctor before you try any herbal teas or supplements.

Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus tea is another herbal tea that’s believed to have diuretic properties (7). As with dandelion tea, it’s believed to help increase urine production, which can help reduce water retention. 

While hibiscus allergies are rare, they still happen. If you tend to have adverse reactions to the  Malvaceae family of plants, hibiscus may not be the water retention option for you. Too much hibiscus is also believed to trigger stomach upsets, gas, and constipation. Therefore, to be on the safe side, you should talk to your doctor first.

Looking for a way to break the vicious cycle of weight loss and tone up all the jiggly parts? Watch the extra pounds fly off and your muscles firm up with the BetterMe app!

What Else Can I Do to Reduce Water Retention?

Eating diuretic foods can help reduce water retention, but there are some other things you can do to help get rid of water retention overnight, including:


Exercise is one of the most effective short-term treatments for water retention. When you exercise, your body releases fluids through sweating. This helps reduce the amount of water your body is retaining (26).

In addition, exercise can help improve circulation and increase lymphatic drainage. Both of these effects can help reduce the appearance of swollenness and bloating (6).

Get More Sleep

Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, but it can also help reduce water retention (22). When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This can cause the body to hold on to water (10).

So, if you’re looking to reduce water retention, make sure you get enough shut-eye. Most adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.

See also
Radish Recipes: Fun Ways To Enjoy This Root Vegetable

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can contribute to a variety of health problems, including water retention. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol (32). As previously mentioned, cortisol can cause the body to hold on to water (10).

So, if you’re looking to reduce water retention, it’s important to manage stress. There are a variety of different stress-management techniques you can try, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing.

Drink Plenty of Water

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do to reduce water retention is to drink plenty of water. When you’re properly hydrated, your body is less likely to hold on to water (18).

So, if you’re looking to reduce water retention, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Most adults require approximately eight glasses per day.

Elevate Your Legs

If your legs are swollen, try elevating them to help reduce the buildup of fluid. When you elevate your legs, gravity helps pull the fluid away from your lower body and back into circulation (31).

You can elevate your legs by lying down and placing a pillow beneath your feet. You can also try sitting in a chair with your feet elevated on a stool.

Wear Compression Stockings

Compression stockings are specially designed to apply pressure to the legs and feet. This helps promote circulation and can reduce the amount of fluid that’s able to build up in your lower body (23).

If you have swelling in your legs, you may want to try compression stockings. They’re available in a variety of sizes and can be bought at most pharmacies and medical supply stores.

Read more: How Much Water Should I Drink a Day To Lose Weight?

list of foods that cause water retention  


  • Can drinking water reduce water retention?

Yes, it can. Dehydration is one of the causes of water retention. Drinking water keeps you hydrated and restores the fluid sodium balance in the body, which both prevents and reverses water retention.

Make sure you avoid water intoxication in a bid to avoid water retention. While water intoxication is rare, it can still happen, which can cause:

  • Hyponatremia, due to the dilution of electrolytes in the blood
  • Mild symptoms such as headaches, nausea and vomiting
  • Severe symptoms such as drowsiness, muscle weakness or cramping, increased blood pressure, double vision, confusion, inability to identify sensory information, and difficulty breathing
  • Does sleep help water retention?

Yes, it does. As previously mentioned, lack of sufficient sleep leads to the increased production of cortisol, which causes the body to hold on to more water.

Lack of enough sleep also causes you to make unhealthy food choices where you may end up consuming foods that are high in sodium and sugar which can trigger fluid retention.

  • Does sugar cause water retention?

Yes, it does. Sugar is a carbohydrate and the body stores carbs as glycogen together with a little bit of water. Therefore, the more sugar you consume, the more glycogen and water are stored.

Too much sugar also increases insulin levels, which may cause your kidneys to retain water and sodium.

  • How long does water retention usually last?

Water retention can last anything from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the underlying cause of it.

  • How much should I drink each day to lose weight?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. How much water a person needs each day is largely dependent on the individual. To start, make sure you drink the recommended six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. 

From here, add water according to your needs. For example, drink more water in hotter weather as the body demands, or if you’re working out more, you’ll need to drink more as you lose a lot of water via sweat – this will also prevent dehydration.

The Bottom Line 

Water retention can be caused by a variety of different factors, including hormones, medications, and certain medical conditions.

There are several different ways to reduce water retention, including dietary changes, exercise, and stress management.

If your goal is to reduce water retention, make sure to drink plenty of fluids and limit your sodium intake. 


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Alcohol Misuse and Kidney Injury: Epidemiological Evidence and Potential Mechanisms (2017,
  2. A review of the alleged health hazards of monosodium glutamate (2019,
  3. Carbohydrate exerts a mild influence on fluid retention following exercise-induced dehydration (1985,
  4. Causes and signs of edema (2006,
  5. Characterization of symptoms and edema distribution in premenstrual syndrome (2015,
  6. Concise review on the safety of exercise on symptoms of lymphedema (2015,
  7. Diuretic effect of compounds from Hibiscus sabdariffa by modulation of the aldosterone activity (2012,
  8. Drug-induced peripheral oedema: An aetiology-based review (2021,
  9. Edema in pregnancy (1997,
  10. Effects of psychological stress on plasma interleukins-1 beta and 6, C-reactive protein, tumour necrosis factor alpha, anti-diuretic hormone and serum cortisol (1993,
  11. Electrolytes (2021,
  12. Exploring the Links between Diet and Inflammation: Dairy Foods as Case Studies (2021,
  13. Fluid retention (oedema) (2022,
  14. Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (2012,
  15. Herb–drug interactions: an overview of systematic reviews (2013,
  16. Hormonal Changes During Menopause and the Impact on Fluid Regulation  (2014,
  17. Increased salt consumption induces body water conservation and decreases fluid intake (2017,
  18. Just Add Water (2008,
  19. Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions (2018,
  20. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention (1998,
  21. Mechanisms of Action of trans Fatty Acids (2010,
  22. Metabolic consequences of sleep and sleep loss (2015,
  23. Reduction of Pain and Edema of the Legs by Walking Wearing Elastic Stockings (2015,
  24. Salt and water: not so simple (2017,
  25. Sex Hormone Effects on Body Fluid Regulation (2008,
  26. Skeletal muscle volume following dehydration induced by exercise in heat (2012,
  27. Swollen ankles, feet and legs (oedema) (2022,
  28. Systemic subclinical lymphedema due to obesity as the cause of clinical lymphedema: A new concept (2019,
  29. The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day (2009,
  30. The effectiveness of dried cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in men with lower urinary tract symptoms (2010,
  31. The effects of leg elevation to reduce leg edema resulting from prolonged standing (1989,
  32. The impact of stress on body function: A review (2017,
  33. The swollen leg (2016,
  34. Water and electrolyte shifts with partial fluid replacement during exercise (1999,
150 million people
have chosen BetterMe

I've struggled to maintain programs…

I've struggled to maintain programs before, but somehow I've been able to stick with this. I enjoy the workouts and have made healthy changes to my diet with the challenges. Its nice for something to really have stuck and worked. I did the sugar free challenge and it's really changed how I relate to the signals my body is giving me about the food I'm eating.

Our Journey

This has been an awesome journey for my wife and I. Not only are we losing weight , but we are living a new life style. Our eating habits have been reformed by following the meal plan and our bodies have become stronger by simply doing the ten minute, sometimes twenty minute workouts. It really has been easy and convenient to transition into a healthier routine and has truly re energized our lives moving forward into the future.

It Works! This program is working for me!

lynne R.
This program is working for me! After a little over a month, I have lost 10 pounds. Slow, but steady. Guided exercises are done daily and there is an option to do other routines beside the one chosen for the day. It is very helpful having the recipes for all meals plus a snack. Would like if we could know the ingredients the day before. Makes preparing alot easier. I like the fact that alternative foods are suggested in case you can't eat(or don't like) the recipes listed. This is a very good program. Stick to it and YOU will see results. I have!