Whether you just did a hard workout (and may or may not have had enough water) or you were in the middle of peaceful slumber, a gnarly muscle cramp has struck your arm, leg or pretty much any other part of your body. It sucks. Luckily, there are certain foods—like the seven below—that contain vitamins and minerals that could help ease your cramp, so you can get back to whatever you were doing in no time.
7 Foods That Help with Muscle Cramps (Because That 3 a.m. Charley Horse Is No Joke)
First, What Causes Muscle Cramps?
If you’ve ever had a muscle cramp (which, who hasn’t?), you know that sometimes they pop up out of nowhere. In other situations, the cause is clearer. Per the Mayo Clinic, “Overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period can cause a muscle cramp.”
9 Foods That Might Help with Muscle Cramps
1. Sweet Potato
You’ve probably heard that bananas are good for preventing and easing cramps because of their potassium, but a single banana doesn’t actually contain that much potassium (more on that later, because bananas shouldn’t be discounted altogether). Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that your body needs to, among other things, maintain healthy nerve and muscle function. One cup of mashed sweet potato contains 754 mg of potassium, or 16-percent of the daily recommended value.
Our favorite toast topping is another great source of potassium. Half an avocado contains 345 mg of potassium, or 7 percent of the daily recommended value. Our favorite toast topping is also rich in magnesium, another minerals that acts as an electrolyte in the body.
Considering dehydration is one of the main causes of muscle cramps, it makes sense that foods with high water content can help rehydrate the body. Watermelon, for example, contains almost 92 percent water, making it an excellent option for hydration. Besides that, it’s just really delicious, no?
4. Pickles (or Pickle Juice)
Biting into a crunchy pickle isn’t just delicious, it could also help you ease muscle cramps. That’s because pickles are high in sodium, which is an electrolyte. “People use pickle juice as a means of getting electrolytes,” explains Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist. “Think Gatorade without the sweet. It’s great for those individuals who get fatigued from sweet sports drinks.”
Jackfruit is a tropical fruit related to figs, and the texture of its unripe flesh is uncannily similar to pulled pork (the more you know). A one-cup serving contains three grams of protein. It’s also packed with other health benefits, like three grams of fiber and 110 milligrams of heart-healthy potassium, as well as vitamins A and C, magnesium, calcium, iron and riboflavin, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Summer’s most delicious treat has about 1.6 grams of protein per cup (pitted, naturally). They’re a great source of potassium, which can regulate blood pressure and is essential to muscle function, and they have lots of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries are also rich in melatonin, which can help you get a restful night’s sleep. (And when they’re not in season, you can buy them frozen for blending into smoothies.)
In addition to potassium, bananas also contain about 1.6 grams of protein per cup and are a convenient source of fiber, prebiotics, vitamins A, B6 and C and magnesium. And FYI, you should be eating those stringy bits (aka phloem bundles): They’re like the pathway for all the nutrients inside the fruit.