Tag Archives: potassium

Q&A: Leg Cramps

Q: I’m pregnant and have been waking up every night with horrible leg cramps. My researching online says I maybe need more magnesium. Do you have any suggestions how to work this into my diet?

A: Ouch! That is no fun. I had leg cramps with my second pregnancy, and I can remember how much those hurt.

The hard fact is that no one 100% knows why leg cramps happen, because there are lots of things that can lead up to them. Here are four common nutrients that are suggested or that I have seen be helpful. The good news is that many of these are found in the same foods (another reason it can be hard to identify exactly the cause/solution). Also good news, the same answers apply to pregnancy leg cramps or non-pregnancy related leg cramps.

1) Magnesium. As your researching suggests, magnesium is commonly recommended for leg cramps. In general, good sources are nuts, dark leafy greens (like spinach), and whole grains.

2) Potassium. Potassium rich foods are bananas, citrus fruits/juices, potatoes, tomatoes, yogurt, and dark leafy greens.

3) Calcium. Calcium rich foods are dairy products, dark leafy greens, and broccoli.

All three of these nutrients are part of normal muscle function. If one is depleted, it can cause cramps. Since all three work together, it can be hard to know exactly which one is missing, unless you are on a specific medication that we know depletes that nutrient.

4) Water. Water requirements in pregnancy can be hard to determine. You need a lot. Most say at least 8-10 cups a day, others will say up to 16 cups. I personally found that if I was better hydrated, my leg cramps went away. It’s hard, because we tend to not drink water late in the day so we aren’t up in the night using the bathroom. But I’d rather have to go to the bathroom than be up in pain.

Good luck! Hope this helps!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Nutrition Label Changes

Remember how over 2 years ago I told you how you could tell the FDA what you thought about changes to the food label? Well, I hope you did. If you did, maybe your voice counted.

Recently, the FDA announced what changes they will be making to the nutrition facts labels on your foods. The new labels will have to be in place by July 2018, which is quite awhile. But it is great to see some changes. Here’s the label:

New Nutrition Labels

What’s New (my highlights):

-Updates to the serving size. Not only is the font bigger, but the amounts should be changing. No longer will there be serving sizes on a cookie that are ΒΌ of a cookie. Serving sizes and nutrition facts must reflect amounts people actually eat. Hooray!

-Other items bolded or in larger font for ease of finding key information, like calories.

-Added sugars will now be on the label. I am very excited about this. Now you can know how much sugar is being added to foods that naturally have sugar in them, such as yogurt and fruit products.

-Vitamin D and Potassium will now be on the label rather than vitamin A and C. I am also a big fan of this change. Vitamin D and potassium are key nutrients for heart health, and those with kidney disease need to be acutely aware of their potassium intake. This will help.

This is a great change for food labeling. Hopefully, it helps us make better choices in the grocery stores. For more details on all the changes, visit fda.gov. Let me know your thoughts on the changes in the comments!

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Q&A: Electrolytes

Q: What can I eat to keep my electrolytes balanced properly on a normal diet?

A: Electrolytes are essential for our body to function–they maintain a water balance and allow our muscles to contract, our nerves to send signals to the brain, and our body to convert the calories we eat into energy.

It’s important to maintain the right levels of electrolytes through healthy eating, but our bodies generally do a good job regulating them. It’s pretty unusual for dangerous fluctuations to occur in healthy individuals. People with chronic disease or severe illnesses may need to be more careful.

Here are some of the main electrolytes in our body, and some of the best good food sources for them:

  • Sodium – We all consume most of our sodium from salt. Salt is added to almost all of the foods we eat, including bread, cereals, and canned goods. Most people need to limit their sodium intake, rather than focus on getting enough.
  • Potassium – Fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium. Oranges, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, bananas, kiwis, and apricots are all examples. Milk, yogurt, and meat also provide potassium.
  • Chloride – Combined with sodium to make salt, chloride is abundant in our diets. It is also naturally found in many vegetables, such as seaweed, tomatoes, and lettuce.
  • Magnesium – Foods rich in fiber often are good sources of magnesium. Whole grains, beans, spinach, and nuts are examples.
  • Phosphorus – Meat and milk are the main sources of phosphorus. There is some phosphorus in whole grains as well, although this is not absorbed when we eat it.
  • Calcium – Dairy is the best source of dietary calcium. As I mentioned here, green leafy vegetables besides spinach, calcium-fortified beverages, and some bread products also provide calcium.

Thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition, q&a