Magnesium is one of the most important minerals (some suggest it is the most important and key to good health) and yet is often one that is overlooked. While many worry and stress about getting enough calcium, it is more probable that they ought to be concerned about magnesium instead. Without enough magnesium, too much calcium can be a factor in poor health including heart disease. Without enough magnesium, calcium will tend to get stuck in the blood stream and soft tissues, where it does not belong.
While the RDA for magnesium is presently at 320 mg for women over 30 and 420 mg for men over 30, many medical authorities believe this is far too low. Some mineral experts suggest that a better target for daily magnesium intake should be based on weight, with 5 mg per pound of body weight being the target. Therefore, if you weigh 100 lbs, you should be aiming to have a daily magnesium intake of 500 mg. Some doctors who have studied the importance of magnesium believe that in today’s diet, it is virtually impossible to get enough of this critical mineral without supplementation.
How important is magnesium? It regulates thousands of functions in the body! Everything from muscle contraction and relaxation, blood pressure, blood coagulation, energy production and offers protection against heart disease. One of the problems though is that it is difficult to measure magnesium levels as it is mostly found in soft tissue and bone, rather than in blood. A blood test for magnesium is not a good indicator of levels in the body.
With that in mind, it is important to know what dietary sources are the best for increasing your daily magnesium intake. Getting as much nutrition through dietary sources is the best and optimum way to obtain the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs to be at it’s peak in health, with supplementation being a second choice.
So let’s look at the foods you should consider to ensure your magnesium levels are optimal:
Dark Green Leafy Vegetables.
The old Popeye cartoon character may have been on to something with all his spinach consumption. However, the creator of the Popeye character chose spinach as the food that gave Popeye his super strength because of its Vitamin A content. And while Vitamin A is important, a high intake of magnesium is vital to muscular function, growth, and healing. In fact, every cell in the body requires magnesium in order to remain healthy.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium. Of the three, spinach contains the highest (assuming it was grown in magnesium rich soil), delivering 157 mg in 1 cup when cooked. Swiss chard comes second while kale, with it’s own health benefits in other ways, will provide 19% of the RDA in one cup, cooked.
One of the best ways to obtain the mineral from spinach is to steam it. While eating it raw is also good for you, steaming helps to beak down the oxalic acid that spinach contains. Oxalic acid can interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the vegetable. In addition, steaming is preferred over boiling as it will not degrade other vitamins and nutrients as much as boiling will.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are also high in the co-factors that magnesium requires. These include zinc, vitamin B-6, folate, copper and manganese.
Nuts And Seeds
Eating nuts and seeds regularly can help you obtain your dietary magnesium. A half cup of pumpkin seeds can contain a whopping 606 mg of this mineral, which is more than 150% of the recommended daily allowance suggested by the FDA. Sesame seeds are another excellent source of magnesium with 1/4 cup providing almost 32% of the RDA.
Almonds, Cashews and Brazil nuts are also excellent sources and if grown in optimum soils, may also be able to provide you with enough selenium, another co-factor in the utilization of magnesium. Adding seeds and nuts to your diet can help pack a nutritional punch, providing you with a number of essential minerals and nutrients to help keep you at your best.
Pine nuts, while not as rich a source as others, is also a good consideration to add to your diet.
Another sometimes overlooked source that has an excellent magnesium profile is peanut butter. According to the National Institute of Health, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 49 mg.
Eating beans and lentils will also be helpful in maintaining optimum levels of magnesium in your body. Black beans (sometimes called “Turtle beans”) are especially rich source, with 1/2 cup containing 60 mg while the same amount of kidney beans have 35 mg. Other good sources include lentils, white beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and pinto beans.
Of course, eating beans and lentils have many other nutrients in addition and for most people, are extremely healthy. They are excellent sources of trace minerals such as manganese, copper and molybdenum. They also provide folate, an important B vitamin which is also necessary as a magnesium co-factor.
Fish And Seafood
Some kinds of fish can be high in this important mineral. Caviar is especially high with 1 Tablespoon containing 48 mg. Cod, salmon and mackerel are very good choices when trying to include foods high in magnesium. Typically, a 1 oz serving of cod will have about 37 mg. However, salmon may be a better choice with 187 mg in an average serving size.
Many seafoods also include other vital nutrients, minerals and of course those higher in Omega-3 (such as salmon) are very good for your heart.
When choosing grains, consider that whole grains have a much higher nutritional profile than those that are processed and/or stripped of their germ and bran. Whole grains contain endosperm, germ and bran and much of the nutritional goodness is in the last two parts. Some whole grains can be very good sources of magnesium. A serving (1 cup) of brown rice for example, contains 86 mg or 21% of the RDA.
Other whole grains that are good sources include quinona, millet, bulger and buckwheat. In contrast to brown rice, 1 cup of whole wheat pasta will provide only 9% of the RDA of magnesium.
While it is true that hard water can damage plumbing, laundry machines and dishwashers, it can also be a good source of this important mineral. As home owners and municipalities move towards softening water, it also means that there is less magnesium available. If you are thinking of a water softener, consider ensuring that at least one water faucet in your house is bypassed from the water softener (typically, this would be the kitchen sink cold water). Drinking hard water be a good way to obtain additional magnesium.
What About Magnesium Supplements?
Many medical authorities believe that most of us are not getting enough magnesium in our diets, and that the typical western diet comes no where close to the RDA. Combine that with the fact that there is substantial evidence to suggest that the RDA is too low, supplementing is likely a wise choice. But, you do need to be careful. Many magnesium supplements are poorly absorbed and often will cause loose stools and even diarrhea. In the past, Milk of Magnesia, which is magnesium hydroxide, was commonly used to relieve constipation. It works by “bulking up” with water and helping to soften and push the stool through. Because of this, very little of the magnesium is absorbed by the human body.
The preferred forms of magnesium as a supplement include it’s forms of citrate, bisglycinate, and malate. You may need to experiment to determine which form is best for you. Some find that using different forms is the most helpful.
If you do take a supplement, you will want to remember that there are co-factors that this mineral requires. One of the most important is Vitamin B6. With this in mind, we highly recommend the JigSaw brand of magnesium, as it comes in the malate form and includes Vitamin B6 in addition to other important co-factors. As well, it is time released so that your body will have a much better absorption rate.
Popeye & Spinach – Wikipedia
Magnesium – Health Professional Fact Sheet – National Institute of Health