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Magnesium is magnificent! This essential mineral is a veritable workhorse within your body, serving many important functions. If you’re an athlete, you probably know that magnesium helps to increase energy— it aids the production and transport of energy to cells, and it is vital for contracting and relaxing muscles.
Magnesium is involved in making protein and helps many enzymes in the body to function properly. Magnesium is also needed for heart health, to regulate blood pressure, and for the body to produce antioxidants that ward off disease. Magnesium helps to create our DNA; it plays a critical role in transmissions within nerves, and in glucose and insulin metabolism, which is particularly important to prevent diabetes. Calcium is good for healthy bone growth. Yet in order for calcium to be properly absorbed into your bones, you must have another key ingredient: magnesium.
Dehydrated fruit has its water removed, the concentrated version is extremely energy-dense and has increased nutrients compared to fresh fruit. Although some nutrients like vitamin C are lost during drying, magnesium remains high: for example, dates have 32 mg of magnesium per ½ cup. Meanwhile, dates are impressive, with more antioxidants than most fruits, and lots of iron and potassium. Even though they’re sweet, they’re low glycemic (due to high fiber) so they don’t spike blood sugar.
They’re also high in phytoestrogen and are said to help pregnant women dilate during labor. Dried apricots are healthy too, offering 47% of vitamin A needs, while prunes have 13% of iron required per day (per ½ cup). Prunes have also been shown to benefit bone health, too. For more, check out our post on Prunes and Osteoporosis.
Add this treat to your cart when you see it in the supermarket. Plantains are delicious sliced and pan-fried (only eaten cooked). They’re a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries due to their super dense source of starchy energy. In addition to magnesium (half a plantain offers 1/5 daily magnesium requirements), plantains also have iron and more potassium than bananas. Plantains also have more vitamin A than bananas (accounting for 37.5% of daily requirements/100 g). And they’re rich in B vitamins, particularly B6, which not only reduces stress symptoms but heart attack and stroke risks.
Although peanuts have gotten a bad reputation due to their allergenic tendencies, roasted peanuts rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and pomegranate. What’s more, they are richer in antioxidants than carrots and beets! One of those antioxidants is resveratrol, the famous phenol found in red wine. These tasty legumes (yes, they’re considered a legume!) also have lots of magnesium (64 mg/100 gram serving) and are an excellent source of B vitamins, copper, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
This rich, creamy fruit is hard not to love! Add a sliced avocado to your salad or sandwich, and you’ll consume 15% of the magnesium you need in your day. Avocados are famous for their healthy monounsaturated fats, including oleic acid that protects against inflammation, heart disease, and cancer. This super smooth treat is also very high in fiber, which accounts for 79% of the carbs in avocados; half an avocado has 4.5 grams of fiber, which can regulate appetite, feed friendly gut bacteria, and reduce diabetes risk. Avocados are also rich in vitamins B, C, E, and K.
We all know that whole grain cereals are far better than processed ones, not only for their nutritious fiber and protein-rich germ but for their higher mineral content– including magnesium. Eat whole grains in their least-refined form in hot cereal. For example, a typical 7-grain hot cereal offers a wholesome, satisfying blend of milled grains like red wheat, rye, oats, triticale, barley, and flaxseed. Just a 1/4 cup of this cereal offers 25 mg of magnesium, 6 grams of protein, plus over 20% of your day’s fiber and iron needs.
Scallops are a favorite shellfish for good reason— these delicious delicacies are more than 80% protein. A 3-ounce serving provides 20 grams of protein, but just 95 calories. They’re also a good source of magnesium (50 mg/3-ounce serving) and potassium. Scallops offer a generous amount of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that activates enzymes linked to cancer prevention and thyroid function; 3 ounces has 18.5 mcg of selenium, 34% of your daily requirements. Scallops are also packed with vitamin B12. NOTE: Scallops contain a lot of natural salt: 1,134 mg per 6-ounce serving, about half of your daily maximum intake.
Also called Pacific red snapper and black bass, rockfish is a meaty white fish that’s quite rich in omega 3 fats (3 ounces has 1.5 grams fat), which adds to its taste. All types of rockfish are good sources of magnesium (45 mg per 3-ounce serving), and thyroid-boosting selenium; a 3-ounce serving contains 65 mcg of selenium, a full day’s requirements. Rockfish is also high in vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D leads to weak bones because your body can’t absorb and use calcium without it— so even in sunny months eating vitamin D-rich foods is important. You get 156 IU of vitamin D from a 3-ounce serving of rockfish.
Figs are just as well-liked eaten fresh as dried, yet dried figs offer unusual texture and sweet flavor, unlike any other fruit. Similar to the other dried fruits mentioned earlier, dehydrated figs are super-high in fiber, and are a good source of several minerals including magnesium. Four or five Mission figs, which equal one serving, offer 20 mg of magnesium. (Just two of the larger Calimyrna figs make one serving.) Figs also contain manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and vitamins K and B6.
We’re not sure why oysters have been used as aphrodisiacs for centuries. Maybe it’s because these mollusks are so rich in several vitamins and minerals that they boost energy for lovemaking. Oysters boast high amounts of protein, iron, magnesium (80 mg/6-ounce serving), omega 3 fats, calcium, zinc and vitamin C. A 6-ounce portion of oysters contains significantly more zinc and selenium than you need in an entire day. (Because of their extremely high zinc content, consume oysters in moderation to prevent an overdose.) Selenium and zinc are important for healthy cell function, and they boost your immunity. Plus, the vitamin B12 in oysters supports nerve function, energy, and might help combat cancer. And there’s a lot of it– one serving provides 10 times your daily requirement of vitamin B12.
Soy milk, as a lactose-free, saturated fat-free alternative to cow’s milk, is rich in protein. It is usually fortified with some of the same nutrients found in cow’s milk like calcium carbonate (traditional, rock-based calcium), vitamins A and D and riboflavin. It doesn’t need to be artificially fortified with magnesium, however, since it is naturally high in the mineral (noted earlier in “Legumes”). Soy milk, simply made by combining water and ground soybeans, is also a source of alpha-linolenic acid, a healthy omega 3 fat. This milk alternative has lost much of its popularity partly due to its estrogen content, which may or may not be linked to female cancers and reduced male fertility. And also, due to changing food trends, with nut milks topping sales today.
The popular Central American grain called quinoa (actually a fruit, not a grain) is an excellent source of magnesium, with 118 mg per cup, cooked. Once just a vegetarian’s staple, quinoa salads, and burgers are now found on menus in mainstream restaurants. A cup of cooked quinoa is fairly high in calories (220), but offers 8 grams of complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids, rare for non-animal protein. It also has 3.5 grams of healthy fat and 5 grams of fiber. Quinoa is slightly higher in fat than brown rice but edges out brown rice in protein, fiber, and iron (one cup = 2.8 mg of iron, or 15% of RDI, compared to brown rice at 5%). However, brown rice also has a wealth of fiber and magnesium.
Tofu is the most versatile and well-known source of vegan protein. It’s also a great way to get minerals including calcium, iron, manganese, selenium, copper, phosphorus, and yes, magnesium. Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in. Add some to a creamy chocolate smoothie; marinade and toss into Thai curry; or pan fry with a crunchy coating as faux chicken strips. Other good reasons to eat it: The latest research shows that consuming tofu daily is associated with improved survival rates and lower recurrence of breast cancer. Its antioxidants also prevent stomach cancer, according to long-term Chinese studies. Fermented types of tofu provide double the free radical-scavenging activity of unfermented tofu– to better ward off disease.
This portable pick-me-up is good for your desk, gym bag or car because it works hard to increase your energy levels and ward off hunger. This is due to its quick-acting carb effect. Bananas are great sources of minerals including potassium and magnesium; in fact, they’re one of the richest sources of potassium on the planet. Potassium acts as an electrolyte and promotes circulation, helping oxygen reach cells. Bananas contain tryptophan, which boosts your mood by helping to make your “happiness chemical” serotonin. One banana gives you: 8% of magnesium needed in a day; 12% potassium; 25% of vitamin B6; 16% of manganese; 14% of vitamin C; and 12% of fiber. Bananas are high in sugar and carbs, though.
It’s been a staple in the Western world for centuries. And for good reason too. In addition to its high iron and protein, one slice of whole wheat bread provides 2 grams of fiber, almost 10% of daily needs. High fiber may reduce heart disease risk, encourage proper bowel function, and help with weight management. Whole wheat bread is also a good source of magnesium (24 mg per slice) and selenium. However, make sure that the ingredients list on bread, crackers or cereal says “whole,” not just “wheat flour,” or “enriched flour” or you won’t be getting whole grain. Processed grains are low in magnesium because the magnesium-rich germ is removed. However, there are some people who should avoid wheat, particularly those who are gluten intolerant or sensitive. Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat and can affect your health and bones. For more, read “How Osteoporosis and Gluten Sensitivity are Linked.”
Broccoli has been called one of the world’s healthiest foods. Its phytochemicals are known for reducing tumors and preventing many forms of cancer including colon and bladder cancer. It is said to have more calcium than cow’s milk and contains more vitamin C than oranges. And for those with joint pain, cruciferous veggies like broccoli are high in carotenoids (a form of vitamin A), which protect cells from inflammatory cytokines that break down collagen in joints. Broccoli is also a very good source of fiber, vitamins B, E and A, omega 3 fatty acids, and minerals including magnesium.
As you can see, many of your favorite foods have magnesium! If you’re wondering how you can easily add the other magnesium-rich foods to your diet, we have put together a free smoothie eBook to show you exactly how.