13 Foods Packed With Magnesium, the Nutrient Every Single Organ Requires
A study done by the U.S. government reveals that 68% of Americans consume below the recommended amount of magnesium. In fact, 19% of Americans consume less than half the RDI of magnesium. On top of that, the government’s RDI for magnesium is actually too low for optimal health. Research shows that magnesium cuts metabolic syndrome by 22%. Metabolic syndrome controls abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, so its importance in your daily diet can't really be stressed enough.
"Magnesium is an essential mineral that is required by all of the cells of the human body in order to stay healthy," explains certified holistic health coach and co-founder of Raw Generation, Jessica Rosen. "Magnesium is pertinent to many of the body's everyday biochemical processes from heart function, to energy production, to muscle movement. Thus, a large magnesium intake from food sources is required on a regular basis, and even a slight deficit will negatively impact the body's ability to function properly. If you struggle with something like insomnia, that's a sign you may be magnesium-deficient."
"Magnesium is a part of over 300 enzymes in the body," explains Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and media representative for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "The typical American diet is inadequate in magnesium. The people who are most likely to be deficient in magnesium are men older than 70 years of age and teenage girls. Typical foods that contain magnesium are legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, milk, yogurt and other milk products, Valdez explains, adding, "If you're not on a plant-based diet and drinking your recommended 3 servings of dairy per day, you can bet you're not getting enough magnesium."
Registered dietitian and The Diet Detox author Brooke Alpert recommends a specific supplement on top of foods with magnesium. "Magnesium is an important mineral that's needed for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body," explains Alpert. "It supports everything from your immune system, to your heart, blood sugar control and nerve and muscle functioning. While it's found naturally in foods, it's one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults. I recommend a magnesium supplement, specifically Natural Calm ($40), to almost all my clients."
Looking to add more magnesium to your diet? Us too. Fortunately, the professionals let us in on some good options.
"Spinach is packed with essential nutrients and is one of the absolute best foods for the human body," says Rosen. "Less than three servings of spinach daily will meet your entire day's magnesium needs."
Valdez is a fan of spinach, too. "I love cooked spinach with garlic because of the fiber and iron content, along with the magnesium. Fiber helps with bowel movements—add a splash of lemon to this easy side dish and it will optimize the iron intake. Iron is a nutrient of concern in America because not many are eating enough. Low iron can result in fatigue and poor development in children and doesn't carry oxygen efficiently and effectively in the form of hemoglobin."
Alpert also stresses the importance of incorporating spinach into your diet. "Half a cup of a cooked spinach provides about a quarter of your magnesium needs," she says. "I ask my clients to always have two cups of greens at lunch and dinner to help with satiety and to provide fiber. Spinach is an excellent source of fiber."
Rosen is particularly a fan of cashews. "Cashews help to boost serotonin levels and can improve your mood as a result. They also help to curb overeating," she says.
"When I think of nuts and seeds, I think of heart health with unsaturated oils and omega-3 fatty acids," explains Valdez. "With their healthy oils, they're a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which is the number one diet in America, based on evidence-based science. Nuts and seeds also contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant in the body, plant sterols, which may lower bad cholesterol in the body, and L-arginine protein, which help with artery walls preventing clots, which can block blood flow."
Alpert suggests almonds as well. "I love almonds for their magnesium content but also because they are the macronutrient trifecta containing protein, fiber, and fat," she explains. "This is excellent for weight loss and maintenance, blood sugar control, and total well-being."
"Avocados are rich in healthy fats that promote brain health and youthful skin," says Rosen. "They're also anti-inflammatory."
"Dark chocolate is extremely antioxidant-rich for protection against free radical damage to the body's cells. It also promotes heart health," explains Rosen.
"One ounce of dark chocolate has about 16% of your recommended daily [magnesium] intake," explains Alpert. "And it's chocolate—no reasons needed to eat it. Just opt for high-quality dark chocolate."
"Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease," explains Rosen.
"Quinoa is a protein-rich, gluten-free grain that is an excellent choice for maintaining a healthy weight," explains Rosen. "It decreases your risk of heart disease."
"Lentils are an excellent vegetarian source of protein, iron-rich, and fiber-rich," explains Rosen.
"I aim to eat salmon three times per week," says Valdez. "Not only to get the magnesium content, but because it's high lean in protein, which also includes omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help manage inflammation in the body."
"I like yogurt because it has probiotics, which help with gut health," says Valdez. "More research is suggesting that having a healthy gut is linked to decreasing inflammation and bad bacteria that may promote obesity. Although the research is young, it is worth it to have a healthy gut anyway so you don't get sick. It also has essential nutrients such as calcium; potassium; phosphorus; protein; vitamins A, D and B12; riboflavin; and niacin."
"Black-eyed peas are perfect for your Taco Tuesdays and as a lean protein! Beans are high in fiber to help prevent constipation. But they also have antioxidants, along with a high profile of protein, and contains some iron to prevent iron deficiency that may lead to fatigue as mentioned earlier," says Valdez. "Other nutrients that these peas have are folate and vitamin A."
"Black beans in particular are high in fiber and protein, which will help with blood sugar levels and heart health," explains Alpert.
"Pumpkin seeds, flax, and chia seeds are all great sources of magnesium and great sources of fiber and fat," says Alpert.
"I'm all about Asian food, which is why tofu and soybeans are my favorite staples," says Valdez. "Not only is it a lean protein with healthy fats and high protein, it's also fermented with probiotics, similar to yogurt to help promote healthy gut. Tofu also has iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and vitamin B1. Perfect in various dishes like miso soup and stir-fries."
"Swiss chard has a similar magnesium content to spinach and is a great heart-healthy green that's perfect to cook with," explains Alpert. "High in fiber and also has plenty of vitamins and nutrients along with magnesium."
Now that your grocery list is full of foods with magnesium, go live your best healthy life.
Ed. note: Always consult with a doctor before making major adjustments to your diet or supplement routine.