© Mindy Chung Wai Meng | Dreamstime.com
Could magnesium be the mineral of the millennia? Magnesium is one of the most important—but, arguably, most neglected—minerals. Make sure your diet includes foods high in magnesium: It plays a key role in nearly every bodily process. In fact, your body wouldn’t be able to function without it.
Most magnesium is stored in your bones, soft tissues, and muscles. The National Institute of Health (NIH) advises that the recommended dietary allowance for magnesium is between 310 mg and 420 mg per day, depending on gender and age.
Despite our accessibility to foods that are rich in magnesium, a data analysis from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that the majority of Americans (all ages) are getting less magnesium from food than their estimated average requirement (EAR). The office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommend that the U.S. population should increase the consumption of magnesium-rich foods, among others.
Is Magnesium a Miracle Mineral?
Magnesium boasts an endless list of magnificent benefits, and here are just a few. Magnesium helps us to regulate over 300 chemical reactions in the body, including those that relate to maintaining energy and achieving relaxation. It is also key to our cardiovascular health and blood sugar balance—it helps to metabolize insulin.
Furthermore, magnesium has been shown to be a key nutrient in treating diabetes, and even in reversing pre-diabetes. Organs such as your heart and kidneys need magnesium to work properly. So do your muscles. It also helps build teeth and bones.
Magnesium takes the role of “team leader” by helping to keep the levels of other minerals—such as calcium and potassium—in check. The NIH touts magnesium for its ability to help us reduce the risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and migraine headaches.
Magnesium is an effective natural remedy, too. When taken as prescribed by a health professional, it can help treat conditions like constipation and chronic pain. It’s even known to be a natural blood thinner. It can interfere with certain medications, so speak to your doctor if you take any.
Which Foods Contain Magnesium?
Magnesium is found abundantly in a variety of plant and animal foods. Foods high in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Whole grains are good sources as well. Processed and refined foods lack this magical mineral, so be sure to choose whole foods.
Even with whole foods, we absorb less than half of the dietary magnesium provided, making supplementation something to ask your health provider about. Fortunately, if you’re healthy, too much magnesium from food should not pose a health risk because your kidneys eliminate excess amounts in through your urine.
However, high doses of magnesium from dietary supplements or medications could potentially pose health risks. Although a partial list, the following wholesome foods high in magnesium provide excellent bang for your buck.
Reach for Magnesium-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are your best bet when it comes to magnesium and you don’t need to count calories. In fact, the USDA recommends you fill half your plate with vegetables at every meal. Half a cup of boiled spinach will give you 78 mg, so load up on Popeye’s foodstuff. Spinach also contains vitamin-K, which is a friend of magnesium—these nutrients work together, making it even better for you. In terms of fruits, one cup of cubed avocado will give you 44 mg, while one medium banana will give you 32 mg. Fresh guacamole, or a sliced banana topped with pure peanut butter make nice magnesium-rich snacks.
- Enjoy legumes for lunch. Don’t underestimate the power of legumes. Beans are a good source of magnesium. Half a cup of cooked black beans will provide you with 60 mg, half a cup of cooked kidney beans with 35 mg, and half a cup of delicious edamame (shelled soybeans) with 50 mg. Top your salads with edamame, and make a delicious legume soup for lunch!
- Get nutty with nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are some of the richest sources of magnesium. One ounce of almonds contains 80 mg. The same serving of cashews contains 74 mg, while an ounce of peanuts weighs in at 63 mg.
Two tablespoons of smooth peanut butter will give you 49 mg—be sure to choose those that are free of added oils, sugars, and other additives. Consume nuts and seeds in moderation (roughly a small handful at most per day) as they are high in calories and saturated fats. Enjoy them in trail mixes and granola bars.
- Consider a dollop of dairy. Some dairy products, like yogurt, are good sources of magnesium. Eight ounces of plain, low-fat yogurt yields 42 mg of magnesium, not to mention over 400 mg of magnesium’s counterpart—calcium. Seek out organic, unsweetened, probiotic varieties for healthier options. Enjoy a delicious yogurt parfait with sliced banana and berries or dollop yogurt on your unsweetened cereal with a touch of honey.