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My mother is 80 years old with a normal to slightly high blood pressure. We have controlled that with medication.The problem is that she is having leg cramps, when she drinks gatorade that helps — but her doctor has said no gatorade because of sodium.The doctor would like for her to control this with diet, but the only solution she has given us is for mother to eat a banana a day.This gets OLD and has not been working for the leg cramps.Do you have a suggestion because we would like to control the leg cramps with diet if possible.Mother thinks she eats enough in a day because she usually eats a larger breakfast — but then nothing until around 4 pm which then it is a baked potato or soup or ….Can you help before we have to go to another medication.We would at least like to try something using food.Thanks,Yvonne (a concerned daughter)

Hello Yvonne,

You seem to have a lot of questions and I will do my best to answer them as completely as possible. As for the leg cramps I am assuming that your doctor told your mother to consume a banana a day to increase her potassium intake. Increasing her potassium intake may relieve some of her leg cramp pain. If this is the concept that your doctor is referring to then there are several foods high in potassium, and adding variety to her diet will be easy!

Some of these foods include beans and lentils (all types, especially lima beans!), apricots, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe and baked potatoes. Since you stated that sodium is a concern, you may want to look for low-sodium varieties of canned vegetables and select frozen vegetables without added sauces.  Both fruits and vegetables are naturally low in sodium but by reading labels on canned or frozen varieties, you’ll be able to tell if sodium has been added.  For a list of more fruits and vegetables that are ‘high’ or ‘good’ sources of potassium, check out our Key Nutrients in Fruits and Vegetables section. 

You should talk to your doctor about what she believes is causing the leg cramps, as she may be better able to assist you with your nutrition concerns.

You also mentioned your mother’s eating habits briefly in your posting. I thought I would briefly touch on eating patterns. I am not sure how large of a breakfast your mother is eating but small frequent meals are important for maintaining blood sugar levels and maintaining a good metabolism. You may want to make a point to inform your mother of this as well since older adults tend to have a slower metabolism and gain weight more easily. 

Thank you for you questions!

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The Expert: Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, is the President and CEO of the Produce for Better Health (PBH) Foundation. At PBH, she guides the Foundation’s efforts to advance the overall effort of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.
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