A few years ago, it seemed like magnesium was a bit of an underdog in the mineral world, overshadowed by the dietary big guns like calcium and iron. Thankfully that has changed and now it seems like magnesium is top of mind or a lot of people. And so it should be!
Magnesium has been linked with benefits from helping with insomnia to improving athletic performance to relieving menstrual cramps. It’s incredibly important for bone health, as much of your body’s magnesium supply is deposited in bone. And if magnesium intake is low, our ability to absorb calcium also suffers.
Magnesium plays an important role in proper muscle contraction, and let’s not forget that our hearts are muscles. It also contributes to heart health by counteracting the effect of sodium (salt) on the arteries, which thereby lowers blood pressure. Ever been kept awake at night by restless legs or intense muscle cramps (this happened to me a lot when I was pregnant)? Low magnesium may be to blame.
Magnesium also helps calm both the nervous and muscular systems, and some people find that taking a supplement at bedtime helps them get to sleep more easily. If you’re considering a magnesium supplement, have a chat with your doctor first as it can interfere with some medications–and also note that taking too much supplemental magnesium can lead to loose stools.
How much magnesium do you need? The recommended daily intake for women ranges from 310-320mg, bumping up to 350mg during pregnancy. It’s important to note that while magnesium supplements should not exceed 350mg per day, it’s fine to consume more than the recommended daily intake from food and water.
And it’s really not difficult to reach your magnesium targets with a healthy diet. It’s naturally present in beans, nuts, seeds, fish, and some grains. You’d easily meet your daily needs and get more magnesium in your diet by combining a few of these foods.
Leafy greens: A half cup of cooked spinach contains 83mg of magnesium, and the same amount of cooked chard rings in at 80mg.
Potato: A medium baked potato, with the skin still on, contains roughly 50mg of magnesium. Leaving the skin on is really important here, as the nutrients are concentrated there.
Edamame: Like popping steamed edamame into your mouth? Good news then: a half cup serving contains 52mg of magnesium.
Wheat germ: The oily, nutrient dense portion of the wheat grain is loaded with nutrients. A mere ¼ cup of wheat germ contains a whopping 96mg of magnesium.
Quinoa: Another great source of magnesium, half a cup of cooked quinoa has 62mg of magnesium on offer.
Beans: The magnesium content varies a bit from bean to bean, but you can depend on 60-90mg in a serving of black, navy, kidney, and garbanzo beans.
Tofu and tempeh: Tofu ranges in magnesium content, depending on how it was prepared. If it was made using magnesium chloride, the magnesium content can be from 40mg up to 80mg per 150g serving. The fermentation process that creates tempeh from soybeans unlocks a lot of nutrients not otherwise available; a 150g serving of tempeh serves up 116mg of magnesium.
Nuts and seeds: Nutrient-dense nuts and seeds are magnesium powerhouses! A mere ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds contains a whopping 317mg of magnesium. The same amount of sunflower seeds contain about 115mg, and almonds about 90mg. Just two tablespoons of flax seeds contains 111mg.
Fish: In particular fatty fish such as salmon (92mg per serving) and mackerel (73mg per serving), but even a flaky fish like halibut, contains around 20mg of magnesium per serving.
Dark chocolate: As if we needed another reason to love chocolate. A couple of squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids) contains around 30mg of magnesium.22