Five Foods to Fight Water Retention

For the past few weeks, we have been spending our summer weekends at local parks. #cheapcomfythrills Last week, while we were wading into the ocean water, my husband complained about a swollen ankle. Occasionally, my husband will retain water in his legs or ankles. He usually wears a compression hose on his leg for a couple of days and that seems to alleviate the symptoms. Fluid retention may accompany many conditions such as sleep apnea (like my hubbie), hypertension, renal disease, pregnancy, and menstruation. In fact, as a teenager, I had plenty of bloating during that visit from Aunt Flo. One of the best ways to deal with water retention is to cut back on salty foods. Several studies have linked high sodium intake to fluid retention. Also, believe it or not, body position can affect that salt/water balance in the body. For example, a 1981 study found that women who sat for prolonged periods of time (about eight hours a day) experienced leg swelling that was reduced with intermittent leg exercise. And a 1997 study showed that exercises like knee-bending, which uses the thigh and calf muscle, may prevent lower leg swelling. In addition, diuretics like fennel have been shown to be useful in reducing fluid retention. Here are some other foods that I munch on to manage water retention:

Arugula

Arugula used to be one of my favorite leaves when it came to salads. It has a crisp but light peppery taste that is not too distracting from salad toppings (e.g. avocado, tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers). But as I expanded my palate to other leaves like kale and spinach, I gradually veered away from this leaf. Every now and then, I like to indulge my arugula cravings. Arugula or rocket salad contains vitamin C and beta-carotene, and minerals such as calcium, potassium, sulfur, and iron. This veggie, like its relatives cauliflower and broccoli, has sulfur-containing anticancer nutrients glucosinolates  and antioxidant flavonoids like kaempferol. What’s more, it has been reported that arugula has shown diuretic activity, which will definitely work with that extra water weight. Additionally, a 2009 study found that arugula may reduce gastric lesions and some research indicates that arugula may improve hyperglycemia, lipid profiles, inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis and inhibit the growth of cancer cells such as colon and lung cancer. I love to toss arugula in salads but I wanted to try something a little different with a breakfast crostini.

Cranberries

Who doesn’t love cranberries?! Seriously, I want to know so I can unfriend that person 😊. I put cranberries on chickpea salads, wild rice, sweet potatoes, and a plethora of other amazing dishes. And so should you. Cranberries have vitamin C and E, fiber, potassium, selenium, and eye-boosting nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin. This fruit is rich in phytonutrients such as anthocyanins that are responsible for its pigment and that are associated with anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Cranberries have shown diuretic activity and some evidence supports its effectiveness in other conditions as well. For instance, some clinical trials have shown that cranberry juice consumption is associated with reduced risk of recurrent urinary tract infections (so the rumors are true ladies). Furthermore, a number of studies suggest that cranberries may lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower blood glucose levels. Since fall is just around the corner, why not start the season with a luscious cranberry sauce?

Leeks

The first time I tried leeks was an unpleasant experience. Why? Leeks are sandy, I repeat leeks are frigging sandy. But once the sand was gone, I loved it. The taste was reminiscent of onions but slightly different. Perfect for that rich pumpkin bisque or hearty pasta dish. Leeks contain nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, B vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and potassium. Leeks are a great source of glucosinolates and antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin that have shown antibacterial and antitumor activity. This relative of the onion family is a diuretic with laxative and anti-arthritic properties. And some research shows that allium vegetables like leeks may reduce the risk of prostate and gastric cancer. Some evidence suggests that the calcium in leeks may have blood-clotting abilities and the polysaccharides in leeks may enhance the immune system. More so, a 2006 study found that leeks decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Creamy pumpkin bisque accented with roasted leeks is right on point for a cool evening meal.

Parsley

Parsley is a true staple in many of my dishes. When I’m making a meal and I want to add something extra to make it pop, I almost always reach for parsley (and garlic but that’s another story). This herb is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, and iron. Parsley is loaded with antioxidants like apigenin that are antibacterial and anticarcinogenic. But parsley is also a powerful diuretic. A 2002 animal study shows that parsley extract significantly increased urine flow rate. Additionally, parsley has been effective in reducing the risk of peptic ulcers, decreasing blood glucose levels, regulating blood pressure levels, and improving testosterone and sperm count levels. Parsley leaves make a great base for a tasty chimichurri.

Dandelion

I’ve been wanting to try dandelion leaves for a while now ever since another blogger recommended them to me regarding cold remedies. Dandelion has a sharp bitter tone that goes well with lemon or smoked vegan cheese. Think arugula but with a more pronounced taste. Please take into account that, like leeks, dandelion leaves are incredibly gritty. I recommend that you let them sit in bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes before dealing with them. But when you do—so good! Dandelion has vitamin C and D, beta-carotene, and B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. This vegetable is an excellent source of potassium and other minerals such as choline, zinc, manganese, iron, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. In fact, it has been reported that the high potassium content may be responsible for dandelion’s diuretic activity. This plant also has antioxidant phenolic compounds such as hydroxycinnamic acids and it is an anti-inflammatory and a choleretic. Dandelion may be effective in treating various other conditions. For instance, a 2005 study found that dandelion may have a protective effect against acute pancreatitis. Further, dandelion consumption may improve gastric ulcers, constipation and diarrhea in chronic colitis patients, hepatitis infections, and immune function. Please note that there have been some reports of contact dermatitis with dandelion, so practice caution if needed (i.e. again, wash the heck out of it). I like to add sauteed dandelion to a pasta dish like this one. Hope you do the same!

So these are some foods I use to wash away that water weight. What are the foods that help you?

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Four Tips to Curb Caffeine

My son’s camp is finishing up and so Mommycamp has begun. That means cramming six weeks of fun-filled activities together for my son with usual work demands. But it is exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting! So I picked now to try to cut down on caffeine ☹. I know, I know, sad day for me. Anywho, I’m a green tea drinker so I always figured that I was okay in the caffeine department. I was averaging around three to four cups a day at one point. After all, green tea is high in antioxidants and lower in caffeine compared to black teas and various coffees, right? But the caffeine content with some teas may vary based on the type of tea and the brewing time.

What the heck is caffeine anyway? Caffeine is an alkaloid found in plants that acts on the central nervous system. It is an ingredient in many foods, beverages, and proprietary drugs (the FDA’s National Center for Drugs and Biologics lists more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs with caffeine as an ingredient—yikes!). Small amounts of this stimulant may alter metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Other effects may include frequent urination (diuretic) and increased blood sugar levels.

Some research indicates that caffeine comes with a mixed bag of results. Moderate amounts of caffeine can decrease fatigue (yeah!), enhance cognitive and physical performance, quicken reaction accuracy, and increase focus.  Too much caffeine may alter your hormone levels and deplete essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. In fact, caffeine intake has been associated with risk of endometriosis, osteoporosis, and anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders. Some other problems that can occur with overconsumption of caffeine include insomnia, headaches, nervousness and nausea. For example, some evidence suggests that consumption of five or more cups of coffee a day is linked with a low risk of Type II diabetes but lower consumption levels are inconclusive. Okay, before we all burn our stashes of coffee and tea, remember the risk comes with caffeine overconsumption. So keep it moderate folks.

In my quest to control my caffeine, there are some foods that I rely on:

Parsley

I confess that I used to be one of those people that would toss the parsley right off my meal at restaurants like what the heck do I need that for?! #don’tknownobetter. In my defense, most restaurants tend to use curly leaf parsley that has no flavor. Flat leaf parsley—yep, much better. But parsley can be just as tasty and healthy as the main meal. This diuretic herb is an antioxidant because it contains the flavonoid apigenin, which also has anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties. In addition, parsley has vitamins C and E, beta carotene, thiamine, folate, iron, and calcium. Calcium levels decrease with high caffeine consumption. Please note: be very careful with high-calcium foods because some of them may contain oxalates. I talk about that here. I do love some flat leaf parsley when I can get it but when I can’t, dried parsley will do just fine on my soups and salads.

Almond Butter

Like many of you, I grew up with peanut butter in my house. When my parents weren’t home and we didn’t want to heat anything up, it was peanut butter to the rescue. I didn’t try almond butter until I was an adult. And, admittedly, at first I friggin’ hated it. It took tweaking the right combination (almond butter and a dash of agave nectar FTW) to really bring out the flavor of this nut butter. Almonds are loaded with vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber. This nut is also rich in magnesium and calcium, both of which are reduced by high caffeine intake. Almond butter has more fiber, calcium, and potassium than other nut butters like peanut butter. What’s more, it has been reported that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol that decreases risk for heart disease) increased with almond butter intake. I like almond butter occasionally on toast or as a snack with whatever fresh veggies or fruit are available in the house.

Black-eyed peas

I used to think black-eyed peas were just something you ate to celebrate the new year. Before I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, I thought black-eyed peas were just “awkward” as my son says about foods he abhors. But then I discovered Texas caviar—DIVINE! The flavor combination of the peas, onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes with just a hint of oil and vinegar. Here’s a nice recipe for it. Just plain lovely. Black-eyed peas or cowpeas are also a nutritional powerhouse because it is a good source of flavonoids like quercetin, protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients such as niacin, thiamine, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Tahini (Sesame seed butter)

Tahini or sesame seed butter is definitely a dressing that I discovered when I became a vegan and I’m glad that I did. It is creamy, filling, and a great compliment to meals like falafel tacos or even pasta—who knew! Sesame seeds are high in protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. And sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols or compounds that resemble cholesterol in humans and ultimately reduce our blood cholesterol levels. Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are ground or milled into a paste. Tahini has B vitamins like niacin and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Special advisory for those with allergy issues: sesame seeds do contain immunoglobulin E, which are mediated food allergens. When it comes to tahini, basic is best. Nothing tops off a night like a spoonful of tahini over a plate of falafels.

Those are some of the foods I like to combat my caffeine craziness. What do you like?