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Are There Foods That Are Muscle Relaxants?

By Jill Corleone, RDN, LD

Whether from stress, overuse or injury, muscle pain and tension can be debilitating. While food isn't a cure for your aching muscles, including foods rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin D may help normalize muscle contraction and relaxation and offer some relief. Consult your doctor to help you manage your muscle pain.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

While magnesium may not directly help your muscles relax, not getting enough of this essential mineral in your diet may lead to muscle contractions and cramps, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium also plays an important role in the transport of potassium and calcium across cell membranes, which is essential for proper nerve and muscle function, including contraction and relaxation. Almonds, spinach, cashews and black beans are magnesium-rich foods that can help you meet your needs for proper muscle function and relaxation.

Calcium-Rich Foods

While 99 percent of the calcium in your body is found in your bones, the 1 percent that's in your blood is necessary for proper muscle function. Like magnesium, low blood levels of calcium can affect muscle function and cause cramps. While your blood is able to draw upon the calcium from your bones to help maintain levels, it's still important to get adequate amounts of this nutrient in your diet to help keep your bones healthy and strong. Good food sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, tofu, calcium-fortified plant milks, almonds and turnip greens.

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Potassium-Rich Foods

You may have felt the effects of low potassium if you've experienced the pain of a charley horse, which is a sharp muscle spasm that usually occurs in the leg. You need an adequate intake of potassium -- 4700 milligrams daily for adults -- to help maintain proper muscle function. Potassium is also important for aiding in fluid balance, which is also important in preventing muscle cramps. Fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, bananas, potatoes and tomatoes, as well as milk, are all good sources of this essential mineral.

Vitamin-D Rich Foods

Vitamin D is also necessary for proper neuromuscular function, which might help promote muscle relaxation. It also helps your body absorb calcium. In addition to fortified milk, eggs, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and fortified breakfast cereals are all good sources of vitamin D. While your body is able to make its own vitamin D through sun exposure, the Office of Dietary Supplements recommends you limit your time in the sun to reduce risk of skin cancer.

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