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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.
You know you need calcium for healthy bone growth. Yet in order for calcium to be properly absorbed into your bones, you must have another key ingredient: magnesium. While hundreds of foods contain traces of this essential mineral, certain ones are naturally much higher in magnesium. Find ways to add them to meals! Include as many magnesium-rich foods in your diet as possible every day.
You crave dark chocolate because it’s the ultimate happiness food. Its cocoa fat and sugar increase serotonin, your “good mood” neurotransmitter; chocolate’s phenylethylamine is a natural “love drug” that releases endorphins similar to when you’re in love, and its caffeine offers a stimulating boost. The cocoa is also good for you: it is super high in magnesium: 80 grams (one-quarter bar) provides 25% of daily magnesium needs. It’s also well known for its polyphenol antioxidants that lower LDL cholesterol and boost heart health.
Halibut is a low-fat fish, so it doesn’t have as much of the heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids as high-fat fish like salmon. However, it is an excellent source of lean, quality protein, and it’s chock-full of vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce filet has 170 mg of magnesium– over half of your daily needs! It is also a source of calcium, iron, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin D, and vitamin A.
Spinach is packed with magnesium, especially when it’s cooked! It provides 157 mg in one cup, which is almost half of what you need in a day. This green superfood is also known for its high iron content. Remember to eat it with food that contains vitamin C to increase absorption of iron, and therefore gain more benefits. Also add healthy oil like extra virgin olive oil to the meal to increase absorption of spinach’s high amounts of vitamins A, E, and K.
Pumpkin seeds are a nutritious snack that helps you sleep! Pumpkin seeds are exceptionally high in magnesium: 2 tablespoons contain 74 mg, 25% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). They also offer 8 grams of protein and 8% of your daily iron needs. And because pumpkin seeds have high levels of the amino acid called tryptophan (that is more easily absorbed than in turkey), eating a handful at night will calm you. They will also increase melatonin levels– a hormone which helps induce sleep.
Like other legumes, black beans are a favorite vegetarian staple because of their high protein and fiber content, and low fat and cholesterol. They’re a rich source of magnesium: 1/2 cup = 60 mg. Black beans help strengthen bones because their magnesium is also combined with high calcium and phosphorus. They help manage diabetes because their fiber has been shown to improve blood sugar levels; and their antioxidants quercetin and saponins are said to be heart-healing. Try cooking them yourself by soaking overnight and then boiling. This reduces salt and increases flavor compared to canned beans.
In addition to being mega-sources of omega 3 fats and vitamin D, fatty fish like mackerel add more magnesium to your menu. They offer up to 1 mg of magnesium for every gram of fish. Therefore, a 3-ounce serving (85 grams) provides 85 mg of magnesium, about ¼ of daily requirements. According to the USDA, mackerel are among the top fish for omega 3; and like tuna, mackerel is also an important source of vitamin B12, the hard-to-get B vitamin often associated with red meat. Don’t disregard canned mackerel— it offers the same amounts of minerals and vitamins as fresh fish.
Have you tried okra? This sometimes overlooked veggie is said to aid your heart and eyesight, and reduce diabetes. It also boasts a long list of vitamins including A, C, K, and most B vitamins. Plus, minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese, and copper. And what about magnesium? One serving (1 cup, lightly steamed) has 94 mg of magnesium, almost 1/3 of your day’s needs. Add it as a side dish for a healthy boost of protein and fiber, too. Toss the pods in oil and seasonings and grill them until slightly charred, or coat with seasoned flour and fry them.
Legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) are excellent sources of magnesium, fiber, and folate. Top picks for magnesium (per ¾ cup) are soybeans, (111 mg), navy beans (72 mg) and pinto beans (64 mg). Don’t forget lentils; they deliver the most folate (which is used to make red blood cells) and are a great source of iron. Eating legumes four times a week helps lower high blood pressure and risks of breast cancer, weight gain, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
A small handful of almonds (1 ounce) contains 20% of your daily requirements for magnesium. If you’re avoiding nuts because you are watching your weight, almonds are among the lowest-calorie nuts (160 calories/ounce), and 10% of an almond’s calories are not absorbed by the body because the fat is too difficult to break down. There’s a lot of calcium in almonds too– in fact, almonds have more calcium than any other nut. Plus, almonds provide lots of protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They also score high in vitamin E and manganese (that same handful of almonds offers over 1/3 of daily requirements for each).
We all know that dark leafy greens are a superfood, and one of the reasons is their magnesium content. Because of their high magnesium and low glycemic index, leafy vegetables are especially good for type 2 diabetics. Eating one serving per day is associated with a 9% lower risk of diabetes. Their high vitamin K is important to make osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health; in studies, the risk of hip fracture in middle-aged women was decreased 45% when greens were eaten daily.