Low potassium may be causing those leg cramps

Edith Lovett Pulaski County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

When we experience leg cramps we automatically think we are not getting enough potassium in our diet. Ask anyone at to name a food that is high in potassium and they'll likely say, "Bananas". Why is it that bananas get all the credit for this important nutrient? You'll be surprised to know that several other foods contain more potassium than bananas. Other food items that are rich in potassium include: Baked potato with skin 925, 2 cups of milk 700, 1 cup orange juice 470, 1 banana 425, 1 cup cooked beans 400, ½ papaya 390, and 1 pear 200. Right now potassium is a voluntary nutrient on the nutrition facts label, unless a nutrition claim has been made about it on the product's package.

As mentioned above, there are other foods beyond bananas that contain potassium. To get more potassium in your diet include more green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard and mustard greens, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Dark orange and red fruits and vegetables are also good sources of potassium and include sweet potatoes, acorn and butternut squash, cantaloupe, peaches, mango, watermelon, tomatoes and citrus fruit. Kiwi and avocado are also good sources of potassium.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are not labeled, but other foods that require Nutrition Facts labels may contain potassium. Bran cereal, for example, is a source of potassium as are dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes and raisins. Yogurt and lentils also provide a decent dose of this important mineral.

Leg and muscle cramps are common in adults and some young children. Nighttime leg cramps are especially common. Cramps have no clear cause although they may occasionally be related to low levels of calcium or potassium and dehydration. If you take water pills for high blood pressure or heart failure, you may have lower levels of calcium or potassium. Or you may be dehydrated. Either circumstance may contribute to muscle cramps. Often times you need to drink extra fluids during the day to prevent muscle cramps. Cramps are often related to dehydration of the body. Try taking a warm bath before bedtime and keeping your legs warm while sleeping may also help with leg cramps.

If you have continuous leg or calf pain, you might need to discuss it with your doctor. Leg cramps and a weakening of the bones are a natural part of growing older. But if you start healthy habits early in life, you may be able to delay the development of weak bones and leg cramps. Watch your diet and set aside time to walk, jog, climb stairs, dance of other weight bearing exercise daily and weekly. Weight bearing exercise help keep your bones strong. With any exercise, check with your doctor first, and then start out exercising slowing, maybe 10 to 15 minutes 3 time or twice daily. You want to build up to exercise at least 30 minutes each day, 5 days a week, or 150 minutes a week.

Try to exercise daily or every other day. The true factors that you need to consider when planning a fitness routine are frequency, how often are you going to exercise; the duration or how many minutes are you going to exercise; and the intensity or how fast are you going to walk or how hard are you going to do other exercise. Achieving a balance between these 3 factors will give you better results than if you take any one of them to an extreme.

Most Americans consume about 2700 mg of potassium per day, which is well below the Institute of Medicine's recommendation of 4700 mg per day. The addition of potassium on the Nutrition Facts label will make it easier for people to keep up with how much potassium they are getting in their diet. As you age, your kidney's ability to help your body retain water diminishes and your ability to sense thirst decreases. So, as you get older you need to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. One easy way to make sure you are getting enough water is to drink a big glassful when you get up in the morning, and then drink 6 to 8 more glasses (8 ounces each) throughout the day. If you drink other liquids, you can get by with less water, but plain water is great. Milk is another good choice, with the added bonus of a boost of calcium. Drink most of your water in the morning an early afternoon and not late at night. Sources used: http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/19/potassium; https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/ https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-10/


Fresh produce is plentiful right now at your local farmers market. To reduce the risk of foodborne illness from fresh fruits and vegetables you should rinse fresh produce just before you eat or prepare it; never use soap or bleach on your produce, refrigerate all cut, peeled or cooked fresh fruits and vegetables within two hours of preparing.

Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of economics or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status or physical or mental disability.

You will find fresh broccoli, cucumbers and onions at the Farmers Market. For a tasty salad that will last several days, try the following salad.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

1 head of cauliflower

1 head broccoli

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

6 green onions

6 carrots

Tear or cut the broccoli and cauliflower into small pieces, the same size. Slice the green onions in thin slices, including the green tops. Slice the carrots very thin. Combine all ingredients together and place in a plastic container with a lid. Add a small bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing over the mixture, place lid on container, and turnover several times. Refrigerate overnight. Turn container over several times before serving.

Events at the Pulaski County Extension Service

The Pulaski County Extension Homemakers County Council will have a meeting Monday Morning, starting at 11:30 at the Extension Office

Denise Salter will be teaching a card making class Monday, June 24, at 10:00 o'clock at the Home Demonstration House.

The Farmers Market up town, on the old Food Fair Parking Lot, is opened on Wednesday and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or until the produce is gone.

The Farmers Market on highway 27, near the Somerset Mall is opened on Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 to 2:00 or until their items are gone.

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