If you’re loving the results that you are getting from your low carb or keto diet, but you’re bothered by leg and foot cramps, then you may be dealing with a nutrient deficiency. In this post, I share 10 foods that contain the minerals you need to quiet low carb leg cramps.
List of Low Carb Foods for Preventing Leg Cramps
- Swiss chard
- Pumpkin seeds
- Bone broth
10 Foods that Fight Low Carb Leg Cramps [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Ten foods that help prevent leg cramps!
- How salt plays a role in avoiding leg cramps.
- Tips for a successful low-carb diet.
Nutrients that Prevent Leg Cramps (RDA values)
Every time you move your arm or take a step, many muscle fibers contract and relax to create that movement. This requires a lot of teamwork between your muscles and your nerves, and how smoothly they work together depends on electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals that can produce an electrical charge. It is these charges that allow cells to communicate with each other. The main ones that make your muscles work properly are magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium or salt. You can get these minerals from the low carb foods in this post.
Avocado is a food that is particularly high in magnesium. You can think of this mineral as “mellow magnesium” because of the calming effect it has on your muscles as well as your mood.
Avocados not only mellow out your muscles with magnesium, they also provide you with a second dose of muscle cramp protection because of their high potassium content. In fact, gram for gram, an avocado contains more potassium than a banana, which is a high-carb fruit that is well known for its high potassium content.
Spinach and Swiss Chard
Spinach is another food that is high in both magnesium and potassium, as is Swish Chard. Both of these leafy greens provide a healthy dose of calcium with about three cups of spinach providing almost 10% of your daily calcium requirement.
Swiss Chard might be a food that you haven’t experimented with yet on your low carb diet. But, I encourage you to do so. Both spinach and Swiss chard cook up quickly on the stove, and all you need is a bit of butter or oil and some seasoning for a great tasting, healthy side dish.
Broccoli makes the list because of the minerals it provides and how easy it is to include in your low carb diet. It goes well with any entrée that you serve from fish to red meat.
When you include it in your daily diet, it can help you reach the RDA for magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
If we look at the nutrients in a 100g serving, which is about one cup of broccoli, we see that it has 21 milligrams of magnesium, 316 milligrams of potassium, and 47 milligrams of calcium, but only 34 calories and around 6 carbs.
Salmon and Meat
Of course, the plant world is not the only place that provides the leg cramp preventing nutrients that we need. If you are looking for something to serve with your side of broccoli, salmon or beef are good choices.
For instance, 100g of wild-caught salmon, which is about a 3.5-ounce serving provides more than 600 milligrams of potassium, and the same serving size of sirloin steak contains more than 380 milligrams.
Additional Low Carb Foods to Fight Muscle Cramps
Up to this point, I’ve been comparing foods using a standard 100-gram serving size. I have four more foods that will help you avoid low carb leg cramps, but we need to step away from that standard because we wouldn’t be inclined to eat them in that portion size. The first one is simply salt.
Table salt is a combination of two minerals: sodium and chloride. Sodium is needed for proper muscle function, but it can be flushed out of your system when you reduced the number of carbohydrates that you eat. A reduced carb intake causes the level of insulin in your blood to stay low, and this can cause your kidneys to flush out more salt in the urine (2).
Therefore, you may find that replenishing the lost sodium by simply salting your food more often is enough to ward off muscle cramps. Of course, there are health exceptions to that rule.
If you have an existing health issue, particularly with your heart, blood pressure, or kidneys, you should talk with your doctor before upping your daily salt intake.
Table Salt vs. Sea Salt
While table salt will provide sodium, it will not provide the additional minerals that you can get from sea salt.
The refining process that gives us the white table salt that we are all familiar with causes minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium to be lost. However, these minerals are retained in the less refined and coarser sea salts that are easy to find in your local grocery store.
Dairy products are what most of us think of when we think about boosting our calcium intake. If you are a low-carb breakfast eater, and you are growing tired of eating eggs in the morning, you may want to consider having yogurt.
You can add some low-carb fruit to the yogurt for a touch of natural sweetness, and I have a blog post on which fruits are the best choices for low carb dieters.
If we look at the nutrient profile for a cup of full-fat, unsweetened yogurt, we see that it provides around 25% of the calcium you need per day as well as a healthy dose of magnesium and potassium.
Raw nuts and seeds are foods that will add to the health value of your diet without overloading your diet with carbs. Of the many nuts and seeds that provide benefit, pumpkin seeds are one of the best choices for those dealing with muscle cramps because they offer such a good mix of magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
Bone broth is another low-carb food that you can add to your diet to get the needed minerals. The nutrients available will differ based on the quality. You want bone broth that has been slow-cooked for many hours, which allows the nutrients to be extracted from the bones.
To give you an idea of the nutrient content, we see that, according to Cronometer, a cup of bone broth provides almost 300 milligrams of potassium with minimal, if any, grams of carbs.
The foods listed in this post provide everything you need to put together a well-formulated, nutrient-rich low carb diet. You can start your day with yogurt, have a salad topped with spinach, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and salmon at lunchtime, have meat at dinner with a side of either cooked broccoli or Swiss chard, and if you’d like a bit of a pick me up in the afternoon, you have bone broth available.
This is an enjoyable and effective way to eat for weight loss. There are some tricks to learn as you get your low-carb diet up to speed. I have many resources available on my website. The best place to start is with my 0,1,2,3 strategy, which is a great foundation for getting your healthy low-carb diet off the ground.
Note: nutritional information provided by Cronometer
(1) Publishing, Harvard Health. “Listing of Vitamins.” Harvard Health, 14 Nov. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/listing_of_vitamins.
(2) Tiwari, Swasti, Shahla Riazi, and Carolyn A. Ecelbarger. “Insulin’s impact on renal sodium transport and blood pressure in health, obesity, and diabetes.” American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology (2007).
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.