Top 10 Ways To Boost Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is an essential mineral. We can’t survive without it and it’s needed for lots of different processes in the body. This means it’s important to prioritise getting foods high in magnesium in your diet.
We actually need to consume fairly high amounts of magnesium, and busy 21st century lifestyles mean we’re likely to need even more. Sadly, typical Western diets are unlikely to provide anywhere near enough. Even superstar magnesium-rich foods such as green leafy veg are not as nutritious as they used to be. One study compared modern-day nutrient content of vegetables with 1950 levels and found declines to be as much as 40%.1,2
This all sounds a bit doom and gloom, but don’t worry there’s better news ahead! Read on to find out how to optimise your intake of magnesium foods.
In this article you’ll find:
• Why magnesium is so important
• Why low magnesium symptoms may be on the rise
• Frank magnesium deficiency vs. sub-clinical magnesium deficiency
• Top 10 tips for increasing magnesium
• List of foods high in magnesium
• A delicious magnesium-rich recipe
Ready to find out more? Let’s get started here:
Why is magnesium so important?
Magnesium is involved in over 600 different processes in the body! It’s often nicknamed ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ because it’s so crucial for the nervous system, especially for sleep and keeping stress in check.
This mighty mineral also supports energy, muscles, heart health, hormone balance and much more. And many people don’t realise that magnesium helps the body to use vitamin D. If you’re taking vitamin D you need to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium too.3
Low magnesium symptoms & why they are on the rise
There’s a near endless list of possible low magnesium symptoms, from muscle cramps, poor sleep, irritability and low energy to constipation, tension, low mood, headaches and many more. Magnesium is often lost during food processing so a typical Western diet is unlikely to provide enough.
It’s also used up in high amounts during stress. And the National Diet and Nutrition Survey published by Public Health England shows a particularly high proportion of girls aged 11-18 and women aged 19-64 have low dietary magnesium intakes.4
What health problems may be associated with low magnesium?
Low magnesium may be involved in many common and chronic health problems; from low mood, anxiety and PMS to PCOS, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and many more.
In one study involving 126 men and women with mild to moderate depression, 6 weeks of daily treatment with magnesium significantly improved depression scores. Symptoms of anxiety, headaches, muscle cramps, constipation and energy levels also improved.5
Frank magnesium deficiency vs subclinical magnesium deficiency
Whilst frank magnesium deficiency is rare, subclinical magnesium deficiency may be much more prevalent. In fact, low magnesium is often referred to as a ‘modern day silent epidemic’ or an ‘invisible deficiency’, because it is so difficult to detect clinically.
How to increase magnesium – Top 10 tips
1. Choose magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium is typically found in whole foods such as nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and leafy green veg, but is lost during food processing. It’s crucial therefore to choose whole unprocessed foods, as close to their natural form as possible. Use our handy checklist of foods high in magnesium to help you include more of these into your diet.
2. Keep alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks to a minimum
Alcohol and caffeine may increase magnesium loss from the body. Fizzy drinks contain phosphoric acid which may deplete magnesium too.6,7 Coconut water is a tasty alternative to plain water - it contains magnesium and additional electrolytes to keep you hydrated.
3. Include some sea vegetables as part of a balanced diet
Sea water is rich in minerals, including magnesium, so vegetables that grow in the sea, such as kelp, actually contain generous amounts of this mighty mineral.
4. Choose dark chocolate
Most milk chocolate bars won’t do anything to help your magnesium, in fact the high sugar content means they’re more likely to deplete magnesium instead. Exceptions are the very dark chocolate bars that boast a cocoa content of at least 85% or above. Unlike milk chocolate bars, you actually can count these as a rich source of magnesium.
5. Support your gut health
This is important for every aspect of health and includes helping to ensure magnesium is well absorbed. Anyone with gut health problems such as Crohn’s disease may be more at risk of low magnesium.8 Support your gut health with a daily serving of fermented food such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut, as well as considering a daily probiotic supplement.
6. Reduce refined sugar
Not only is refined sugar not a good source of magnesium, it may actually deplete your magnesium stores. This is because magnesium is needed to process sugar in the body. Reducing your sugar is a great way to optimise magnesium.
7. Add magnesium flakes to your bath
Regular Epsom salt baths may help to increase magnesium as the mineral may be absorbed through your skin. Furthermore, a hot bath before bed is a great way to support a restful state ready for sleep. A hot bath imitates the rise and fall in body temperature we experience during sleep.
8. Watch out for aluminium
Aluminium is now widespread in our modern world (eg. cookware, deodorants, common medications, baking powder) and yet may impact magnesium absorption.9,10 Whilst there may be sources you can’t avoid, it’s important to reduce exposure where you can, such as by choosing your cookware and personal care products carefully.
9. Add an extra magnesium supplement
You may need to supplement with extra magnesium in tablet or powder form if your levels have dipped low. Magnesium glycinate is a particularly helpful type of magnesium; not only is this form well absorbed but well tolerated at higher doses too.
10. Consider a daily multivitamin
Declining levels of nutrients even in fresh, wholefoods means that a multivitamin & mineral supplement can be a useful back-up to ensure optimal daily intake. Vitamins and minerals don’t work in isolation and often need the support of each other as co-factors. Choose a high quality one-a-day formula that contains forms of nutrients that the body is able to recognise and use efficiently.
Which foods are high in magnesium?
Knowledge is power when it comes to increasing magnesium. Use this checklist of magnesium-rich foods and aim to include a range of these in your diet. These 10 foods all contain good levels of magnesium per average serving.
Top magnesium tip! For maximum benefits, leafy greens are best served lightly cooked, nuts / seeds / beans are highly nutritious when soaked / sprouted and wholegrains may be particularly beneficial in forms such as sourdough bread.
10 Foods high in magnesium11
3. Swiss chard
4. Nuts (especially Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
5. Seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds)
7. Beans & lentils
10. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel)
And finally, here’s a delicious magnesium-rich recipe to get you started!
Zesty Lime Black Bean Dip
This zesty dip is delicious served with grilled salmon, steamed spinach and a side serving of quinoa topped with sprouted seeds for a mightily magnesium-rich meal!
You will need:
•2 tins black beans, rinsed and drained
•1 cup grated carrot
•½ cup fresh lime juice (approx. 2 limes)
• ¼ cup chopped spring onions
• ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper to taste
1. Add the beans to a food processor and blend until smooth
2. In a separate bowl, combine together with the remaining ingredients, stirring well until nicely mixed
3. Leave to stand for half an hour
4. Serve this delicious dip topped with sprouted seeds alongside grilled salmon, steamed spinach and quinoa to really boost the magnesium content.
1. Worthington V. Nutritional quality of organic versus conventional fruits, vegetables and grains. J Altern Complement Med 7: 161-173, 2001.
2. Ubom GA. The goitre-soil-water-diet relationship: case study in Plateau State, Nigeria. Sci Total Environ 1991; 107: 1–11.
3. Uwitonze AM, Razzaque MS, et al. Role of magnesium in vitamin D activation and function. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2018 Mar 1; 118(3): 181-189
5. Tarleton EK, Littenberg B, MacLean CD et al. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PLOS One June 27 2017. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180067
6. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’ Keefe JH, et al. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart. 2018; 5(1): e000668. Published online 2018 Jan 13.
7. Kynast-Gales SA, Massey LK. Effect of caffeine on circadian excretion of urinary calcium and magnesium. J Am Coll Nutr Oct; 13(5): 467-72
9. Neathery MW, Crowe NA, et al. Effects of dietary aluminum and phosphorus on magnesium metabolism in dairy calves. J Anim Sci 1990; 68: 1133–8.
10. Stachurska MB, Gumińska M. Magnesium in the blood and urine of the population living in polluted environment of Chorzów. Folia Med Cracov 1991; 32: 89–94.
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