Are you one of the estimated 80% of Americans deficient in this vital nutrient needed for over 300 enzymatic functions ranging from neural conduction to proper DNA synthesis?
Magnesium may not sound exciting, but the health benefits of getting this mineral are plenty. Magnesium is essential for nearly every biochemical reaction in your body. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, inflammation, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, anxiety, constipation, blood-glucose regulation issues, insomnia, low energy levels and/or trouble losing weight, chances are it’s time to get magnesium into your life.
But don’t rush out just yet to buy a magnesium supplement. On top of improper magnesium supplementation causing severe osmotic diarrhea, it can interact with your medications or cause some major health problems.
Go the delicious route with dietary magnesium and let your health care professional decide if you need a magnesium supplement.
The average dietary intake in the United States falls woefully short of the RDA for magnesium. Recent studies are showing urgency for swapping out toxic, processed foods for nutrient dense foods loaded with magnesium,
- A 2015 study of 8894 subjects found that low magnesium intake was associated with depression individuals under the age of 65[*].
- A study released in April 2018 showed that oral magnesium supplementation improved blood glucose, lipid regulation, insulin stimulation and anti-inflammatory effects in diabetic animals[*].
- Yet another April 2018 study showed that low magnesium intake was associated with insulin resistance in otherwise healthy adults[*].
- A 2016 study showed low serum magnesium levels to be an independent factor in migraine attacks[*].
Your magnesium status is a direct indicator of your overall health and the likelihood for of developing disorders ranging from chronic pain to several types of cancer[*].
Magnesium is the third most abundant mineral in your body with 60% of it being utilized in your bone structure and the other 40% performing hundreds of vital functions. In addition to all of this, magnesium may be your saving grace from the dread keto flu.
More on that later, but first, let’s get to know magnesium, where it’s found, what delicious foods are magnesium rich and how to consistently get the magnesium you need to live your best life.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral — one that the human body needs for just about everything. Used in a slew of enzymatic functions, magnesium is needed for healthy blood glucose regulation, proper neural function, the formation of both DNA and RNA, ATP production, oxidative phosphorylation, muscle contraction and pumping your heart.
It’s been shown for years that Americans do not get the magnesium we need in our diets for a variety of reasons. Pair low dietary intake with lifestyle factors that deplete magnesium and deficiencies in vitamin D needed to both absorb and utilize magnesium and you have a recipe for disaster.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to many health disorders. These include heart diseases, hypertension, chronic pain, headaches, migraines, impaired blood glucose regulation, improper insulin functioning, low energy, impaired cognitive function, mental health issues and more[*].
To spot magnesium rich foods look for ‘baby plants.’ Anything that you could plant into the ground and someday it would grow up to be a big plant — like seeds, nuts and beans — is a good source of magnesium.
That’s because every living organism on Earth needs magnesium to thrive.
If you’re a seed, nut or bean — which are all seeds — you don’t have a mom to give you the magnesium you need to thrive, nor do you have a root to get it out of the soil or leaves to filter it out of the air.
That means you’d have to be jam packed with all the magnesium you’ll need to get you through until you do have a root to get it out of the soil and eventually develop the leaves that will help you filter it out of the air.
This ‘baby plants’ metaphor goes one step further to baby greens. For the most part there is the same amount of magnesium in a baby romaine lettuce leaf as there is a full grown one. That means you can get more magnesium per bite by opting for baby greens over full grown ones.
How Much Magnesium Do You Need Per Day?
The general recommendation for magnesium intake is based off of gender and age. I
t is recommended that men ages 19 years and up get between 400 and 420 mg daily. Recommendations for women 19 and up are between 300 and 320 mg daily, unless pregnant, in which case you need 350 to 360 mg daily.
But keep in mind daily recommended values for any nutrient are based off what a healthy population needs to keep on being healthy.
A reported 53% of Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. That number skyrockets to an estimated 80% when adjusted for lifestyle and correlating nutrient deficiencies.
That’s because amending a nutrient deficiency is a lot like getting out of debt. That includes the frustration and no overnight solutions. Akin to getting a side gig to get out of debt, you’ll need extra magnesium to get out of a deficiency.
When you’re getting out of debt you have to pay your daily expenses like taking the bus to work, pay off your debt and put money in savings so you don’t go back into debt. Same for nutrient deficiency.
You’ve got to use magnesium for immediate vital functions like firing your neurons, pumping your heart and blood glucose regulation. Then you’ve got to replenish magnesium depleted tissues so they can get back to functioning properly. You also have to replenish your depleted stores so that you never find yourself in this major health crisis again.
Meaning all the magnesium you consume is going to go three ways. Amending a mineral deficiency can take up to 90 days, but fortunately you will feel incrementally better as long as you keep at it every day.
That means eating magnesium rich foods daily — every meal and snack.
Magnesium and the Ketogenic Flu
As your body adapts to ketosis, you may experience what is called “the keto flu”. How severe it is and how long it lasts depends on a lot of things, especially your nutrition prior to your keto diet.
The primary means of excreting magnesium is through your urine, followed by feces. When your body purges the excess fluids it’s been retaining on a carb-rich diet the increased urinary output is going to pull some magnesium with it.
Furthermore, magnesium is an electrolyte. Both an increase in loss through urine and diarrhea is going to significantly impact all your electrolytes.
Consuming magnesium rich foods at every meal and snack as you transition from your former way of eating to maintaining ketosis will shorten the duration and intensity of the keto flu. Continuing to eat magnesium rich foods will set you up for a lifetime of health.
10 Keto Approved, Magnesium Rich Foods
As mentioned above, food sources of magnesium typically are ‘baby plants.’ While beans tend to offer up too many carbs, seeds and nuts are a perfect keto go to. Remember to choose baby greens over full grown when possible as they have more magnesium content per bite.
You’ll also find magnesium in heart healthy superstars like salmon and dark chocolate.
#1. Hemp Seeds (1 ounce = 179 mg, 45% DV)
Don’t get it twisted. Hemp seeds are not going to get you high like the plant’s cousin marijuana. What they are going to do is pack a mighty punch of magnesium plus protein, healthy fats, B vitamins, iron, zinc and fiber[*][*].
Sprinkle some hemp seeds on your salad, roasted vegetables or blend up in your next keto smoothie.
#2. Pumpkin Seeds (¼ cup = 162 mg, 41% DV)
If the thought of eating hemp seeds has you worried about employment prospects or leary of eating grass, there is another magnesium powerhouse that comes close: pumpkin seeds. Not just for Halloween, pumpkin seeds can and ought to be eating year round for their incredible flavor and nutrition.
A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds boasts nearly half of the magnesium you need in a day on top of protein, healthy fats, potassium, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and zinc[*].
#3. Spinach, Cooked (1 cup = 151 mg, 39% DV)
Popeye was onto something. Magnesium is not only needed for proper muscle function, it’s needed for muscular repair. That’s why Epsom salt baths are recommended for post workout recovery.
Although raw or cooked spinach contains magnesium, you’re going to get the most magnesium per bite when it’s cooked. That’s because spinach shrinks when you cook it — a lot. 3 cups raw generally cooks down to maybe a cup. That 1 cup cooked spinach is going to have a major dose of magnesium with just about every other nutrient imaginable[*].
Try this Creamy Keto Spinach Artichoke Dip.
#4. Halibut (3 oz. = 91 mg, 23% DV)
Halibut is more than delicious. A single serving packs 23% of the magnesium you need in a day in addition to protein, omega 3 fatty acids, B-vitamins and potassium. What’s more is it pairs well with other magnesium rich foods you see on this list such as spinach and pumpkin seeds[*].
Thoughts on whipping up pan seared, pumpkin seed crusted halibut on a bed of ghee sauteed spinach and almonds?
#5. Cashews (1 oz. = 83 mg, 20% DV)
Raw or oven roasted, cashews are a heart healthy, keto friendly food that always tastes like a delicious indulgence. A single ounce serving of cashews boasts 83 mg of magnesium in addition to healthy fats and a bevy of vitamins and minerals[*].
Cashews are versatile in flavor and texture. Keep some on hand when you’re on the go or stuck at your desk to keep you satiated and keto.
#6. Almonds (1 oz. = 76 mg, 19% DV)
Almonds are known for their heart healthy oil content, but they pack another cardiovascular pal — 19% of the magnesium you need in a day for optimal health[*].
While still keto friendly, almonds are a sweeter nut. Shake up a serving of almonds (23 almonds if you’re wondering) with some dark cocoa powder for a decadent afternoon snack that keeps you keto and satisfies your sweet tooth.
#7. Dark Chocolate, 70-80% Cocoa (1 oz. = 64 mg, 16% DV)
This is not an excess to go buckwild on candy bars, but it is a good reason to include some legit, dark chocolate in your diet. Dark chocolate that is 70-80% cocoa has a lot to offer nutritionally including a heaping load of magnesium in addition to copper and iron.
The key is avoid the sugar, additive laden premade candies and get the real thing. Sprinkle single ingredient cocoa over both sweet and savory dishes to add a pop of flavor and nutrition. Blend it with macadamia nuts or avocado to make a simple, creamy, keto dessert[*].
#8. Macadamia Nuts (¼ cup = 44mg, 11% DV)
Do not let the fat content of macadamia nuts scare you off. You would be foolish and miss out on one of the most nutritious foods known to humankind.
Not only do macadamia nuts pack 11% of the magnesium you need in a day, but they have the healthy fats to help you absorb that magnesium and make the most of it. That’s on top of a slew of other nutrients[*].
Check out this macadamia nut fat bomb for the perfect keto friendly snack.
#9. Salmon, Cooked (3 oz. = 23 mg, 7% DV)
Salmon’s omega 3 fatty acid content already has created an avid fan base, but it also happens to pack 23 mg of magnesium per 3 ounce serving[*]. Your far more likely to eat 4 to 6 ounces of salmon at a sitting, which is going to increase the amount of nutrients provided.
It doesn’t take a lot to serve up salmon. Oven roasted with a squeeze of lemon will do. Serve with a spinach salad topped with avocados and almonds to make a magnesium rich meal
#10. Avocado (½ avocado = 29 mg, 7% DV)
Half an avocado packs 29 mg of magnesium or 7% of the recommended daily value[*]. While that’s not a lot compared to the other foods that we have mentioned, it’s nothing to sneeze at either.
Plus avocados are loaded with healthy fats and a slew of other nutrients that will help you get the most out of your magnesium. This fruit pairs well with most other magnesium rich foods. Blend up an avocado with dark cocoa powder for a dessert or top off your spinach salad with pumpkin seeds and half and avocado.
Magnesium Safety Concerns
Do not take a magnesium supplement unless directed to by your doctor. Magnesium is an electrolyte. What affects your electrolyte balance directly affects your heart rhythm.
Furthermore with hundreds of reactions in the body depending on magnesium, a sudden influx is going to throw a wrench into everything from neurological conduction to bowel movements.
Magnesium citrate is given to patients to ‘clean them out’ prior to a colonoscopy because it works. Magnesium citrate pulls water into the digestive tract softening stool to pass. Large amounts of it cause a lot of stool to pass in a short amount of time.
Additionally, taking magnesium in the wrong form or dosage can cause severe, painful cramps. Inappropriate magnesium supplementation will cause heart palpitations, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, cramping and even blurred vision. Extremely high doses can have severe, possibly fatal side effects.
Magnesium supplements can interact with many medications. Additionally, it is recommended that individuals with diabetes speak to their healthcare providers before supplementing with magnesium or even taking an Epsom salt soak.
Magnesium, The Mineral We All Need More Of
Find time in your schedule to pick up magnesium rich foods next time you’re at the store for both home and the office.
If you eat on the go a lot because of your work or other lifestyle factors, pack magnesium rich seeds and nuts in your bag to eat as a snack or add to restaurant meals.
When eating out choose options that offer magnesium rich foods every chance you get.
Sheila Amir is an experienced health and nutrition writer. After 8 years of practice she hung up her hat as a nutritionist to help a larger audience through writing and presenting. She’s the Sheila of NutritionSheila.com, a long-time yogi, major food enthusiast and outdoor junkie.