Food Freedom Friday Edition 182 - Dietary Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most critical minerals required for the electrical stability of every cell in the body.  A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient.

Magnesium deficiency is rampant, currently affecting an estimated 80% of individuals in North America.  The average diet consists of 175 mg/day of magnesium, down from an average 500 mg/day representative of diets in the 1900’s. Most people are simply not consuming enough magnesium rich foods.

Magnesium plays a key role in intra-cellular health. It manages the electrical gradient within cells ensuring the nervous system is easily excited. More than 300 enzymes alone require magnesium to perform their biological roles in tissue and organs.

The body relies on optimal magnesium absorption for:

·       Memory function

·       Regulating mood and stress

·       Muscle relaxation and sleep

·       Blood sugar control

·       Healthy bone density

·       Cardiovascular support

·       Detoxification pathways in the liver

·       Normal gut motility

The RDA for magnesium ranges are:

·       Children up to 13 years of age: 80-240 mg/day

·       Females over 14 years of age: 310-360 mg/day

·       Pregnant and nursing women: 310-400 mg/day

·       Males over 14 years of age: 400-420 mg/day

Most natural health experts agree that these levels are considerably lower than they should be and most people are not even reaching this level.  

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Deficiency leads to a variety of health disturbances and diseases. Magnesium deficiency can induce the following symptoms

·       Poor cognitive thought

·       Headaches and chronic migraines

·       Constipation and related disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

·       Fatigue (physical, mental and emotional)

·       Insomnia

·       Muscle spasms

·       Cramping

·       Chronic Pain

·       Heart arrhythmias

·       Numbness and tingling

·       Fibromyalgia

·       Mood disorders such as ADHD, anxiety and depression

A staggering list of widespread diseases are associated with magnesium deficiency. Some of these include Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, hypertension, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic immune disorders. Consuming magnesium rich foods can support making a difference in these conditions.

Women are uniquely susceptible to the effects of magnesium deficiency due to changes in estrogen levels. When estrogen concentrations are elevated, magnesium intake is required in higher amounts to improve the balance of calcium to magnesium in the blood. Increasing dietary magnesium in these women can lower the risk of cardiovascular events like thrombosis.

Magnesium Rich Foods

Consuming magnesium rich foods in your daily diet can help reduce complications associated with metabolic and inflammatory issues.  Blood sugar imbalances and chronic stress are the greatest lifestyle contributors to magnesium deficiency.

If you notice you are under an increased amount of stress or have over-indulged in carbohydrates and refines foods, look to consume more of these magnesium rich foods and consider adding in a good magnesium supplement. Look to make many of these magnesium rich foods staple parts of your daily nutrition plan.

1. Dark Leafy Greens 

Dark leafy greens and are some of the richest sources of dietary magnesium. Green vegetables like Swiss chard offer nutrients like magnesium that buffer the pH of the body from the effects of acidic foods. Increasing dietary magnesium levels is critical to this homeostatic process because it prevents the minerals in bones from being depleted.

Spinach is a fiber rich food loaded with nutrients like folate, potassium and vitamin B6. It is one of the best leafy green sources of magnesium. Adding spinach to your diet easy: use it in salads, add it to smoothies, prepare it in fresh juices and incorporate in almost any dish like omelets. The anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach will encourage muscle relaxation and reduce symptoms of constipation.

2. Avocados

Avocados are a rich source of magnesium, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, K and healthy fatty acids. Consuming avocados regularly can help slow the progression of neurological decline and stimulate serotonin and dopamine pathways in the brain.

Half an avocado provides 20 mg of magnesium and is an excellent way to promote vascular strength and regulate insulin levels.

3. Pumpkin Seeds and Chia Seeds

Total health is dependent on the optimal function of the gastrointestinal tract. Supporting intestinal health is essential for eliminating toxins and impurities that can lead to systemic complications. The magnesium in pumpkin seeds improves gut motility by decreasing the amount of time it takes for waste to leave the colon.

Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant that stimulates movement in the bowels. Relieve symptoms of constipation and replenish your magnesium levels under times of high stress incorporating pumpkin or chia seeds which are excellent magnesium rich foods. Consider adding sprouted pumpkin seeds to salads, omelets and combine into dessert recipes.

4. Pink Salts

Compared to table salt which is toxic and can inhibit the proper absorption of magnesium into the body, pink salts, mined from volcanic sea deposits provide vital trace minerals for health. The trace minerals they contain are reflected in their natural pink hues.

The purity of pink salts makes them a great dietary source of magnesium for improving electrolyte balance. They also contain nutrients like iodine, manganese, potassium and zinc. Consider adding a pinch of pink salt into your water following an intense workout or extended period of sweating to stabilize your electrolyte imbalance and prevent magnesium deficiency. Doing so will reduce symptoms of dehydration and prevent muscle spasms and fatigue.

5. Sea Vegetables

Known for the deep chlorophyll rich color, sea vegetables are also one of the top magnesium rich foods. The combination of chlorophyll and magnesium prevent the toxic accumulation of carcinogens in the nervous system while boosting nerve and brain function. Sea vegetables up-regulate antioxidant pathways to combat oxidative stress and prevent the depletion of magnesium levels.

Try incorporating seaweeds like dulse, nori and kelp into your diet to boost your magnesium intake and support your immune system.  Kelp is one of the top magnesium rich foods with 121 mg of magnesium in 100 grams of kelp.  

6. Wild-Caught Fish

Wild-caught fish like Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines and halibut offer about 80mg of magnesium in a 2.5 ounce serving which makes them a great source of magnesium. Wild caught fish is also packed with healthy fats, vitamin D and trace minerals.

Consuming wild-caught fish low in toxicity improves neurological and cardiovascular function as well as protects against bone degeneration. Weekly consumption can reduce the occurrence of cognitive decline and alleviate symptoms of dementia.

7. Nuts

Almonds, brazil nuts, pecans and macadamia nuts contain magnesium to help preserve bone density, support cardiovascular health and regulate blood sugar levels. The magnesium in nuts increases testosterone levels aiding in strength, muscle recovery and protein synthesis for metabolism. Nuts can also help offset the magnesium deficits that occur from increased sweat and urination. (18)

Brazil nuts are the highest source of magnesium and the trace mineral selenium.

8. Dark Chocolate

Unsweetened dark cocoa powder is one of the highest sources of magnesium in food. A single ounce of dark chocolate provides 95 mg or about 24% of the recommended daily value of magnesium. Be sure to consume non-processed chocolate that is greater than 70% cacao for its full health benefits.  The highest concentrations are in the raw cacao form but minimally processed dark chocolate is still very beneficial.

A greater need for magnesium can manifest as cravings for chocolate during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Seen again, greater compulsion to eat chocolate occurs when individuals are overwhelmed by emotional stress and seek a feel-good trigger. The magnesium in chocolate provides the stimulus the brain was lacking to improve a person’s mood by balancing hormone levels and brain function.

9. Sprouts

Sprouts offer anti-carcinogenic properties and are packed with magnesium amongst a wide array of vitamins like A, B, C and micronutrients. Magnesium in sprouts provides benefits for the skin, hair and slows the aging process.

Choosing organic broccoli, cauliflower and kale sprouts is the best way to ensure you are receiving the greatest concentration of nutrients. Researchers have found that eating 5 servings of sprouts weekly provides the maximum impact to support a healthy gut, reduce inflammation, and detoxify. Toss over salads, stir fry and add to wraps and slaw.

10. Coffee

It may come as no surprise to learn that coffee provides the number one source of antioxidants for many peoples. Drinking coffee in excess can deplete the body of its magnesium stores but when consumed in normal concentrations, coffee considered a magnesium rich food. Limit your coffee intake to about 1-2 cups as long as you can tolerate that amount.  About 20% of the population are poor caffeine metabolizers and these individuals will have anxiety and irritability when consuming coffee and should avoid it.

The magnesium in coffee is associated with improved metabolic rate and a lower risk of insulin resistance. Researchers have found that coffee intake reduces the risk for type-2 diabetes in both men and women. Magnesium intake has been directly shown to lower fasting insulin levels, especially when combined with the health benefiting polyphenols also active in coffee. Drink organic coffee to avoid chemical residue from fertilizers and pesticides.  

In Conclusion

Magnesium is an important mineral involved in many aspects of health. Low levels have been linked to several conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. There are plenty of magnesium-rich foods to help you meet your daily needs. There is a good amount of dietary magnesium in spinach, Swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds and more. Getting sufficient dietary magnesium from magnesium food sources may come with a host of more health benefits, from alleviating symptoms of PMS to fighting depression and improving sleep quality.

Ideally, try getting as much magnesium as possible from real foods instead of supplements unless you have a severe deficiency. Magnesium-rich foods also supply other important nutrients that can help you optimize your health.

Michal Ofer