Wake Up, Philippines!

Foods to crave for less cramps

Posted in Health, Minerals, Nutrition by Erineus on May 12, 2009

WELL-BEING By Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit Updated May 12, 2009 12:00 AM

A reader asked in relation to our last feature on night cramps, “Which foods are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium? I’m always on the go and usually have to eat out?”

Cramps on the legs and feet at night are due to several factors, primary of which is dehydration (easily remedied by drinking eight glasses of pure and clean water daily), followed by deficiency in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Her question led me to a very helpful site — http://www.whfoods.com developed by author George Mateljan of Cooking Without Fat fame.

Voted best in 2004 of the Web’s Greatest Hits, this site has a list of the most wholesome foods that should be eaten every day.  There is also a food advisor facility, as well as quick and easy healthy cooking techniques.

Top Ten Sources

Armed with three lists from the site of the world’s healthiest foods ranking quality sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, we tabulated the results for the 10 top sources for all three nutrients:

• Spinach should not only be Popeye’s favorite source of strength but ours, too. because it tops the list as an excellent source of all three macrominerals — potassium, calcium, and magnesium!  One cup of boiled spinach, which is only 41 calories, provides 839 mg. of potassium, 157 mg. of magnesium, and 245 mg. of calcium.

• Swiss chard is next best, ranked as an excellent source for potassium and magnesium and a very good source for calcium. A cup of boiled Swiss chard is only 35 calories and provides 151 mg. of magnesium, 961 mg. of potassium, and 102 mg. of calcium.

• Cooked green turnips is an excellent source of calcium and a very good source of potassium and magnesium.  One cup, only 29 calories, provides 197 mg. of calcium, 292 mg. of potassium, and 32 mg. of magnesium. A cup of boiled green mustard, only 21 calories, is a source of 104 mg. of calcium, 283 mg. of potassium, and 21 mg. of magnesium.

• Boiled collard greens provide 494 mg. of potassium, 32 mg. of magnesium, and 226 mg. of calcium for a cup (49 calories).  Blackstrap molasses yield 118 mg. of calcium, 29 mg. of magnesium, and 341 mg. of potassium for a serving of two teaspoons (32 calories).

• The more readily available broccoli and basil join the elite list as seventh and eighth best sources, respectively.  A cup of steamed broccoli, only 44 calories, has 505 mg. of potassium, 39 mg. of magnesium, and 75 mg. of calcium.  While a serving of two teaspoons of dried ground basil, only eight calories, provides 63 mg. of calcium, 13 mg. of magnesium, and 103 mg. of potassium.

• Completing the list of 10 are kale and brussel sprouts.  A cup of boiled kale, only 36 calories, is a source for 296 mg. of potassium, 23 mg. of magnesium and 94 mg. of calcium.  While a cup of boiled brussel sprouts, 61 calories, provides 56 mg. of calcium, 31 mg. of magnesium, and 495 mg. of potassium.

To clarify, the question was for a single food source for all three macrominerals.  Incidentally, the 2004 advisory of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences, according to the website, lists the adequate intake for these macrominerals for women 19 to 50 years of age as 4.7 grams of potassium, 1000 mg. of calcium, and 360 mg. of magnesium.

Each Nutrient Up Close

All three nutrients under study — magnesium, potassium, and calcium — are macrominerals, meaning our food must provide us with hundreds of milligrams of these minerals every day.

Magnesium is dubbed a “smoothie” mineral since it has the ability to relax our muscles.  The nerves also depend upon magnesium to avoid becoming overexcited.  Muscle weakness, tremor or spasm, imbalanced blood sugar levels, headaches as well as elevated blood pressure may indicate the need for more high-magnesium foods.

The World’s Healthiest Foods rich in magnesium rated boiled spinach and Swiss chard as best sources as already explained above. Other foods that belong to the top 10 sources include raw pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup at 187 calories provides 45 percent of daily value required) and baked or broiled halibut (four ounces at 159 calories provides 35 percent of the daily value required).  Other great sources are cooked soybeans, chinook salmon, raw sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cooked black beans, and navy beans.

While there is no limit set on magnesium intake through food sources, a limit of 350 mg. has been set for dietary supplements.  Toxicity symptoms for high levels of magnesium intake through supplementation include diarrhea, drowsiness, and a sense of weakness.

Magnesium and calcium act together to help regulate the body’s nerve and muscle tone.  Frequent bone fractures, muscle pain or spasms, tingling or numbness of feet, bone deformities, and growth retardation in children indicate a need for more high-calcium foods.

While spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and blackstrap mollasses have already been included not only as excellent sources of calcium but magnesium and potassium as well, others that made the top 10 sources of calcium are low-fat yogurt (one cup at 155 calories provides 45 percent of the daily requirement) and sesame seeds (1/4 cup at 206 calories provides 35 percent of the daily requirement). Other good sources are goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and mozzarella cheese.

Muscle weakness, confusion, irritability, fatigue, heart problems, chronic diarrhea, regular intense exercise, and the use of diuretics increase the need for high-potassium foods.  The top 10 sources listed by World’s Healthiest Foods do not include potassium-rich banana. Why?  Because the sources are ranked based not only on the percentage value of the daily requirement served but also in terms of calories. One banana, 109 calories, provides only 13 percent of the daily requirement of potassium.  Providing 25 percent or more of the daily requirement are one cup boiled Swiss chard (35 calories), one cup cooked lima beans (216 calories), one cup cooked and diced yam (158 calories), one cup baked and diced winter squash (80 calories), one cup cooked soybeans (298 calories), and one cup avocado slices (235 calories).

Four more almost made the mark, namely boiled spinach, cooked pinto beans, papaya, and cooked lentils.

* * *

Post me a note at mylene@goldsgym.com.ph or mylenedayrit@gmail.com.
View previous articles of this column.

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