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Magnesium: Why You Need This Mineral (Or Else!)

Shushana Castle

Co-Executive Producer of What the Health & Eating Our Way to Extinction

Producer, Sharkwater Extinction & Running for Good

Co-Author, Rethink Food & The Meaty Truth


Instagram: @shushana_castle


Imagine your body as a symphony. The musicians are hundreds of biochemical enzyme reactions. And the conductor? Magnesium. Without magnesium, disharmony— all those enzyme reactions would be playing their own tunes. Fortunately, magnesium directs all these enzyme reactions (co-factors with them, really) so they can perform with excellence. Because of magnesium, your body is better able to metabolize food, synthesize fatty acids and proteins, regulate blood sugar, transmit nerve impulses and maintain proper levels of other minerals, such as potassium, calcium and zinc. How much do you need every day? The National Institute of Health recommends 400 mg for men 19–30 and 420 for men over 31. For women 19–30, they recommend 310 mg, and for women over 31, 320 mg.

Front Row Foods: All it takes is eating some of the most delicious foods on the planet to get your daily dose:

Spinach gives you love in salads or cooked. In fact, all dark leafy greens are rich in magnesium. One cup cooked has 145 mg.

Edamame, or whole soy beans, contain 100 mg per one cup of cooked beans. Nutrition has never bean so good.

Dark Chocolate seduces with 64 mg in 1 oz of 70 percent cacao.

Quinoa, the lifeblood food in many South American countries, is tasty, high in protein and mineral content, and has about 130 mg per cooked cup.

Black Beans, like all beans, are packed with fiber and protein. Black beans shine with the highest magnesium per cup ranking: 125 mg per cooked cup.

Other excellent sources are broccoli, bananas, kidney beans, brown rice and whole wheat. Almonds, Cashews and Peanuts are nuts about you. Almonds have about 85 mg/oz. Cashews have about 72 mg/oz and peanuts about 45 mg/oz. Avocados boast 58 mg of magnesium per fruit. That’s 16 percent of your recommended intake for the day! Another bonus is the healthy fat it serves up, awesome for your brain and heart health. Boost your avo-cardio!

How to Improve Magnesium Absorption

To get the maximum magnesium absorption, certain foods need special preparation or need to be eaten in combination with other foods. What to consider: phytic acid. This form of phosphorus, found in seeds, nuts, beans, legumes and grains, binds to magnesium in the gastrointestinal tract, making magnesium less available to our bodies.

Do the following to reduce the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid:

• Soak, sprout and ferment seeds, nuts, beans, legumes and grains.

• Eat foods rich in vitamin C with meals containing phytic acid.

• Use vinegar in salad dressing and cooking to enhance mineral absorption and offset phytic acid.

And Then There’s the Bonus

For a soothing experience, soak your body in a magnesium salt–infused bath. Blend with lavender oil. While you relax, your body can absorb this vital mineral. Symphony music optional.

The Maestro at Work

Here’s how magnesium-rich foods orchestrate healing and help maintain optimal health:

» Osteoporosis

Your strong bones need magnesium. Magnesium helps assimilate calcium for bone formation and plays a role in activating vitamin D in the kidneys. Optimal magnesium is associated with greater bone density, improved bone crystal formation and a lower risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause. Bone up, baby!

» Kidney Stones

Magnesium reduces the risk of kidney stone development. It binds with calcium and oxalate, which creates kidney stones, and helps to pass the calcium out.

» Diabetes

Magnesium helps the body break down sugars and metabolize. People with higher magnesium tend to have lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Several studies have associated a higher intake of magnesium with a lower risk of diabetes.

» Migraine Headaches

Studies have suggested that magnesium therapy may help prevent or relieve headaches. It should only be administered by a health professional.

» Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

An adequate intake of magnesium, especially combined with vitamin B6, can reduce bloating, cramps and breast tenderness.

» Anxiety

Need to calm your brain? Magnesium is a major player in the billions of electrical signals throughout your serene breathing body, especially the nervous system. Reductions in magnesium levels, and even how it is processed, are linked to increased levels of anxiety. This is related to transmissions in the hypothalamic-pituitary- adrenal (HPA) axis. These three active glands control how you respond to stress.

Hardened Heart?

Adequate magnesium can lower the risk of arterial calcification, that is, calcium in the arteries and hardening of arteries. It also helps maintain the health of muscles, which, of course, includes your heart! Adequate magnesium intake has also been associated with a lower risk of fatty buildup on your artery walls and the reduction of high blood pressure. In one of the largest studies ever, the Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest intake of magnesium were found to have a 58 percent lower chance of coronary artery calcification and a 34 percent lower chance of abdominal artery calcification.

Magnesium is sometimes used soon after a heart attack as part of congestive heart failure treatment and to help with abnormal heart rhythm. Now that is a huge responsibility. Beat strong!

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