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Foods to Avoid with Edema - Edema Diet

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Foods to Avoid if You Have Edema: Starches, canned vegetables, dairy products & convenience foods should not be included in an edema diet. Find out why...

Edema is a medical condition, caused by the accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluid in the spaces between the body's cells or in the circulatory system.

This medical condition causes puffiness and swelling in many areas of the body, including legs, arms, feet, hands, lungs, heart, or stomach area.

While several medical conditions or medications may contribute to edema, another risk factor is malnutrition or poor nutrition. Hence, it is important to include dietary changes to reduce edema-related swelling. Following a healthy diet and avoiding certain foods that contain high amounts of sodium may help treat edema.

Foods to Avoid for Edema

Higher consumption of sodium may cause water retention inside your body. Consult with your doctor to determine the right amount of sodium that you should intake daily.

According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy adults should limit their sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day.

Salt and Edema 

Consuming too much salt may result in mild cases of edema. When you eat too much salt, it increases the amount of sodium in your body. 

As unusually high sodium concentrations may be risky, your body will retain more water to dilute this excess sodium. 

This retention of fluid causes small blood vessels or capillaries to leak the excess fluid into the space between your cells, causing edema. 

How Much Sodium Should I Consume? 

Sodium is a vital nutrient. It is also one of the most abundant electrolytes present in the body. It is also found in several body fluids, including intestinal secretions, bile acids, and pancreatic fluids. 

While sodium is a vital nutrient, you only require small amounts to perform the various body functions. Thus, you should limit your daily sodium or salt intake to less than 1,500 mg a day. 

How to Reduce Salt Intake?

You should reduce your sodium intake to reduce water retention. You can start by eliminating salt while preparing your food.

Always read food labels and incorporate more low-sodium food products in your diet. Low-sodium foods usually contain less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

Avoid high sodium foods such as microwave popcorn, instant hot cereals, commercial pancakes and waffles, ready-to-eat bran and oat cereals, salty snack crackers, and pretzels.

Avoid eating canned vegetables as they contain high amounts of sodium. You should carefully read the nutrition facts labels on the can to avoid salty foods.

Canned legumes might also contain high levels of sodium, so prepare your own food using dried beans to limit your sodium consumption.

Convenience foods contain high amounts of sodium and should be avoided by people who are trying to control edema. Furthermore, you should completely avoid fast foods if you have edema and request your food be prepared without salt at restaurants.

Processed Grains

Some high sodium foods to avoid are commercial pancakes and waffles, ready-to-eat bran and oat cereals, instant hot cereals, microwave popcorn, salty snack crackers, and pretzels. These processed grains usually contain a side of sodium that is unhealthy and contribute to swelling and chronic edema.

Canned Vegetables

Some canned vegetables contain high amounts of sodium. You should carefully read the nutrition facts labels on the cans to avoid salty foods. You should also avoid frozen vegetables that contain added sauces. Check the label for all pre-packaged vegetables to make sure no extra sodium is lurking.

Vegetable Juice

Vegetable and tomato juice also have high amounts of sodium and should be avoided entirely if you have edema. Although drinking freshly-squeezed vegetable juice is healthy, most canned and packaged vegetable juices have high levels of added sodium. Never consume a beverage with added sodium if you suffer from edema on a chronic or periodic basis.

Processed Meats

Just like canned vegetables, processed meats also contain significant amounts of sodium. You should avoid consuming luncheon meats, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, ham, and canned tuna.

Canned Beans

Canned legumes might also contain high levels of sodium, so prepare your own stuff using dried beans to limit your sodium consumption. You should also avoid salted nuts and choose unsalted nuts instead.


Processed dairy foods contain significant amounts of sodium, so it should be avoided if you have edema. You should also avoid buttermilk and eat only fresh dairy products. Check the ingredient label on dairy products for sodium. Even yogurt and ice cream can hide surprisingly high levels of sodium. Any form of chemical processing can also contribute to swelling and bloating, so the more processed a dairy product, the more likely it is to cause problems with edema.

Convenience Foods

They contain high amounts of sodium and should be avoided by people who are trying to control edema. You should avoid foods such as frozen meals, soups and rice, and pasta mixes. Furthermore, you should completely avoid fast foods and request your food to be prepared without salt at restaurants.

Seasoning and Condiment Blends

These items can also be a source of sodium in your diet, so avoid seasonings that contain salt. Check the label to see if it has garlic salt or celery salt. You should also keep away from other high sodium condiments such as catsup, prepared salad dressings, and soy sauce.

Carbonated Beverages

Some carbonated beverages contain sodium in addition to carbonation and massive amounts of sugar. At the best of times, carbonated beverages should only be consumed as a rare treat, but if you suffer from edema, you should avoid all beverages containing added-sodium at all times. Carbonation can also contribute to gas and abdominal bloat.


Beer is a carbonated beverage made from fermented carbs. Beer not only leads to bloating and digestive problems, but it can also contain high levels of added sodium and flavoring. Avoid beer and other salty beverages if you suffer from edema symptoms.

Restaurant Food

Restaurants are notorious for loading their foods with salt. Not only do fast-food restaurants add tons of unnecessary salt, but more expensive restaurants also fill their foods with sodium and added salt. One dish at a restaurant can often contain more sodium than the average adult's needs for an entire day. If you choose to eat out, watch carefully for salt and ask any restaurant to cook their dishes without salt or choose dishes that are naturally low in sodium (you can ask for a nutrition and ingredient breakdown at many popular restaurant chains to see exactly how much salt is in each menu item).

Trans Fats

Trans fats are a type of fat common in processed foods that the body cannot process. Over time, too many trans fats in the diet lead to a build-up of fat that causes serious problems such as chronic inflammation, narrowing blood vessels, and even heart problems and tissue damage. If the tissues in your blood vessels are damaged, this can cause chronic edema and swelling. Eliminate all trans fats (also called hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils) to reduce the chances of seeing edema.

Other Causes of Edema

Edema is not only caused by too much salt in the diet. Edema can be triggered by nutrient deficiencies, medications, allergies, lifestyle, genetics, and an imbalance of electrolytes. Some of the main causes of edema include:

Causes of Edema
  • Allergies
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • High salt intake
  • Chemical food additives
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Kidney problems
  • Inflammation 

Before taking any drastic measures to relieve edema, consult with a health professional to eliminate any atypical causes behind your edema.

Edema Diet: What to Eat Instead

Individuals who are trying to get rid of water retention must consume vegetables that are naturally low in sodium. It is healthier when prepared fresh without any added sauce or salty seasonings. You may also have fresh meat prepared without any additional sauce.

You can have an allergist or other health care provider test you for food allergies or recommend a diet that eliminates certain foods to reduce your edema. In addition to any medically-recommended diet options, the following foods have been shown to improve symptoms of edema for many edema sufferers:

B Vitamins

B vitamins strengthen the blood vessels and prevent fluids from leaking into nearby tissues. B vitamins can be found in whole grains, spinach, kale, sea vegetables, and red meat. Take care not to eat red meat more than two times a week or the beneficial effects of the B-vitamins may be counteracted by the presence of inflammation-promoting compounds in the meat.


Iron helps oxygen reach the cells in your body. Properly moving blood will reduce edema and prevent fluid from pooling in your legs and other extremities. Iron can be found in dark leafy greens, sea vegetables, and other green vegetables.

Diuretic Vegetables

If you are not taking a diuretic medication, you can reduce swelling naturally by adding foods that are natural diuretics to your diet; such as green beans, pumpkin, grapes, beets, parsley, asparagus, pineapple, garlic, and leeks.

Healthy Fats

Unhealthy fats contribute to edema by provoking the inflammatory response. Prevent this from happening by switching to healthy fats. Olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, and even butter and animal fats in moderation will regulate the body and prevent edema from occurring due to an abundance of inflammation in the blood vessels.

Antioxidants and Vitamin C

Antioxidants (of which vitamin C is one), are hugely important for preventing inflammation and promoting healthy blood vessels. Getting enough antioxidants is one of the best long-term solutions for preventing and curing chronic edema and inflammation. Red vegetables and fruit are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants.


Potassium is an essential electrolyte that many individuals with edema are low. Without the proper balance of electrolytes, your body cannot absorb fluids properly, which can lead to swelling. Both drinking too little water and too much water can contribute to an imbalance of electrolytes. You can regulate your potassium by ensuring you eat potassium-rich foods (bananas are high in potassium) or taking a potassium supplement.


Bilberry is a powerful herb and antioxidant. Bilberry naturally thins the blood and boosts circulation, which can prevent swelling and reduce edema. There are no side effects to taking bilberry unless you are taking blood-thinning medication. Consult with your doctor before taking blood thinners along with bilberry.

Grape Seed Extract

The grape seed extract is an antioxidant that supports venous insufficiency. Weak veins cause swelling by allowing blood to pool in the legs. Grape seed extract naturally strengthens the veins and reduces many causes of chronic edema. Grape seed extract may interfere with blood-thinning medication, such as Warfarin. Consult with a doctor if you are on blood thinners and have edema.


Dandelion is a natural diuretic and can relieve some symptoms of edema. Dandelion is a powerful herb that reduces swelling, fights inflammation, and strengthens the veins. However, it can interfere with certain medications, such as lithium and antibiotics. If you are pregnant, consult with your healthcare provider before taking dandelion extract to relieve edema symptoms.

Physical Remedies for Edema

In addition to herbs, supplements, and diet changes, research indicates that a few physical remedies can have a positive effect on reducing edema symptoms. Physical remedies are especially beneficial for edema caused by temporary changes, such as pregnancy or medications. You may find the following physical remedies beneficial for edema:

  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Dry skin brushing
  • Elevation
  • Hydrotherapy (three minutes of something hot applied to the swollen area followed by one minute of something cold)
  • Support stockings

The Edema Diet Makes a Difference

If you suffer from chronic edema not caused by a specific issue, changing what you eat can make a large difference. Providing your body with the nutrients it needs to relieve swelling, prevent inflammation, and balance electrolytes will strengthen your blood vessels and prevent fluid leakage. With just a few simple changes to diet and supplements, you may find that your edema symptoms fade in just a week or two.




Next Article: Edema | How Potassium Effects Fluid Retention