Guest Post by DJ Little
Ever had a severe leg cramp come on suddenly and someone shoved a banana into your mouth saying this will make it go away? I have!!! In high school I was on the swim team and played water polo, and if one of us complained of any type of muscle pain, coach would quickly make us down a banana - then back into the pool, all in a matter of moments.
Ok, so maybe he actually let us rest for a minute or two, but it seemed to me that the rest was just a blink of an eye!
At that point in time, I had no idea why coach would shove bananas down us and wondered why it would actually make the cramp go away. POTASSIUM!!!!! That's the answer...potassium deficiency was the issue, and the banana quickly resolved the issue. So now let's talk about potassium.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is a mineral our body must have to function properly. Potassium functions as an electrolyte, (ever watched bikers or triathletes down bananas?) and works in conjunction with sodium to maintain water balance and muscle and nerve impulses. So the more salt you consume, the more potassium you need!
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Potassium deficiency symptoms include the following:
Loss of appetite
Numbness and tingling
Correcting Potassium Deficiency
Now let's discuss how to correct potassium deficiency, other than shoving a banana into someone's mouth! If you should choose a potassium supplement, aim for between 2,000-3,500mg. I personally don't feel supplementation is necessary very often. There are so many wonderful real whole food sources of potassium. I am just going to name a few for the sake of time:
Bamboo shoots, 1cup (805mg)
Pinto beans, 1 cup (746mg)
Kelp, 1oz. (1500mg)
Swiss chard, 1cup (960mg)
Yogurt, 1cup (525mg)
Scallops, 3oz (475mg)
Hamburger, 3oz (489mg)
Almonds, 1/2cup (328mg)
This is by no means an extensive list but should prove helpful! If you are eating a healthy diet with meat and veggies, you should not have a potassium issue. However, there are diets that make it necessary to ensure you are eating potassium-rich foods. The keto diet is a diet that flushes water out of your system, and can also therefore cause potassium levels to fall. The keto diet is a great diet, and if you are doing it right, avocados should be a part of your diet and are loaded with potassium!! If you are on the ketogenic diet, the banana fix is not a good one for you since bananas are loaded with carbs and sugars. That's where the avocado or pumpkin seeds come in. Meat also contains potassium.
Also, make sure you are consuming plenty of water. You may also take magnesium as it helps to hold potassium in your cells. There are other things in your life which may be robbing potassium from your cells. Examples would be diuretic medication, laxatives, corticosteroid drugs, stress, alcohol and sugar.
When You Don’t Have a Banana...
So there are options other than bananas for helping to quickly restore potassium to your cells. Last night about 2:00am, my twelve-year-old son got up and told me his leg was cramping. So instead of shoving a banana into his mouth (only because I don't typically have bananas,) I had him grab a handful of pumpkin seeds (1/2 cup is 295mg) and eat some guacamole we had in the refrigerator. Poor boy, but his cramp went away!
D.J. Little is a Christian wife, homeschool mom, outdoor enthusiast, and Certified Nutritional Counselor and Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. She enjoys simplicity, is passionate about all things health and fitness, is crazy for free weights, and says she has to force herself to do cardio. She can be reached at email@example.com.