Getting the right amount of nutrients into our body is important for healthy functioning. One of the most essential of these nutrients is magnesium because it goes towards many different functions within the body.
Therefore without enough magnesium, we can quickly start to feel ill both physically and mentally. Around 80 percent of us have a magnesium deficiency without even realising it – and the problem is that the majority of magnesium is stored in the bones not in the blood, so a deficiency can’t be detected on a normal blood test.
The Importance of Magnesium in Our Diet
Magnesium isn’t something we think about in terms of our health but scientific research 1 has found that there are almost 3751 magnesium ‘binding sites’ within the body meaning our bodies rely on optimal magnesium levels more than previously thought.
Because of this, magnesium is essential for many functions within the body including: blood sugar control, nerve function, the regulation of blood pressure, metabolism, protein synthesis and neurotransmitter release which helps keep strong signals between neurons and other cells in the body. Therefore maintaining an optimal level of magnesium, especially through our diet, is extremely important if we want to stay healthy.
Magnesium deficiencies can be caused by a number of factors and lifestyle choices. These include consumption of antibiotics, excess alcohol, excess sugar in the diet, consuming less than the recommended amount of daily fruit and vegetable servings and any digestion problems where nutrients from foods aren’t absorbed properly.
But if you feel none of these apply to you, then your diet could just be lacking in enough magnesium. There are many foods you can include that will help up your magnesium levels and make a noticeable difference to your health.
Avocados are easy to incorporate into your diet and packed full of magnesium. Although high in fat, they contain monounsaturated fats which help lower bad cholesterol.
1 average avocado: 58 mg of magnesium
As well as potassium, bananas are another great source of magnesium. Getting a banana in to your daily breakfast, snack or post-exercise fuel will add to your magnesium levels.
1 medium banana (118g): 32mg magnesium
Mackerel is an oily fish containing essential omega-3 fatty acids along with protein and B vitamins. It’s also pretty high in magnesium so buying well-sourced, fresh fillets will help your health in a number of ways.
1 (85g) fillet: 82mg magnesium
4. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as swiss chard and kale give a good daily dose of magnesium. However, spinach is especially good because it contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, folate, vitamin E, C, B6, iron, protein and calcium.
180g cooked spinach: 157mg magnesium
5. Nuts and Seeds
Snacking on nuts and seeds is probably the best way to get your full magnesium intake but be aware that more than a handful a day is not recommended due to their high fat content. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium but nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews and pine nuts all contain high levels of magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds (28g): 150mg magnesium
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains are best known for their fibre content but they also contain essential minerals including iron, selenium and, of course, magnesium. Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat are all good sources of whole grains and contain a good amount of magnesium.
195g cooked brown rice: 86mg magnesium
7. Dark Chocolate
This will make any chocolate lover happy – dark chocolate is a pretty good source of magnesium but remember to eat it in moderation!
1 square of dark chocolate (29g): 95mg magnesium
Plain non-fat yoghurt (i.e. not the flavoured yoghurts that are high in sugar) can be an addition to your daily diet in order to get a bit more magnesium. Adding slices of banana and grated dark chocolate can make a great breakfast or dessert.
245g yoghurt: 47mg magnesium
9. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit, especially figs, can contain good amounts of magnesium. Like nuts or seeds you can snack on these during the day. Dried prunes, apricots, dates and raisins are also good.
75g of dried figs: 51mg magnesium
10. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are a good all-round source of vitamins and minerals. On average they contain high amounts of dietary fibre, iron, protein, vitamin B1, zinc and potassium. Soy beans (or edamame beans) are particularly high in magnesium and a great addition to your daily veg intake or a snack.
172g (cooked) soy beans: 148mg magnesium