Nutrition for Life - 2019


Magnesium

By Parul Kharod

Magnesium has been the subject of recent focus as we realize how important this mineral is. Magnesium is an integral component for our body. Our bones contain about 60 percent of magnesium, the rest is in body tissues, and only about 1 percent is in the blood.

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, supports a healthy immune system, keeps the heartbeat steady, and helps bones remain strong. It also helps regulate blood glucose levels and aids in the production of energy and protein. There is ongoing research into the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Magnesium helps your heart, muscles, and immune system function properly. But before you start popping pills, it is important to note that there is a difference between inadequate intake and a true deficiency. Signs of deficiency include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite, and are quite rare. However, people with Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or digestive ailments like Crohn's and celiac disease, as well as those taking medications for heartburn or osteoporosis may have higher needs for magnesium.

It is always better to eat foods that provide the nutrients rather than take supplements, which can be harmful in large amounts. On an average, adult men and women need about 400 mg of magnesium per day.

Studies suggest that nearly half of Americans aren't getting enough magnesium. Magnesium is present in most plant foods. Diets high in animal proteins often do not provide adequate magnesium. It is recommended to eat a variety of plant foods to get adequate magnesium rather than take supplements.

Foods rich in magnesium

Avocado: One medium avocado provides 58 mg of magnesium. Avocados are also high in potassium, B vitamins and vitamin K. In addition, avocados are an excellent source of fiber and a good source of healthy fats.

Beans: Lentils, chick peas and all other beans and peas are a great source of magnesium. One cup of cooked beans provides an average of 100-120 mg of magnesium. Beans are also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Beans are also high in potassium and iron.

Broccoli: One cup cooked broccoli has about 100 mg of magnesium. Additionally, this cruciferous vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamin C, calcium, and cancer fighting antioxidants.

Dark chocolate: An ounce of dark chocolate provides 65-70 mg of magnesium. Dark chocolate is also high in iron, copper and manganese and contains prebiotic fiber that feeds your healthy gut bacteria. It also has many beneficial anti-oxidants that can improve heart health.

Leafy greens: Greens pack a punch! Kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens are all great sources of magnesium. 1-cup serving of cooked spinach has 157 mg of magnesium. Moreover, greens have many other important nutrients including iron, manganese and vitamins A, C and K, and cancer fighting anti-oxidants.

Nuts: Almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts are the best sources of magnesium. Almonds contain about 105 mg of magnesium in ¼ cup. Plus, almonds are also rich in protein and Vitamin E. An ounce of cashews contains about 80 mg of magnesium. Brazil nuts also contain selenium, a very important mineral for immunity and cancer prevention. Most nuts are also a good source of fiber and monounsaturated fat and have been shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.

Seeds: Flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are all a good source of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds contain about 150 mg in 1 ounce. Like nuts, seeds are also good source of fiber, iron, and healthy fats.

Whole grains: Whole grains such as wheat, barley, oatmeal, buckwheat, and quinoa are good sources of magnesium. In addition, whole grains also provide other important nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, B vitamins, other minerals and anti-oxidants.

Summary:

Magnesium is a very important mineral which is lacking in people's diets as they avoid certain foods due to misconceptions about foods and nutrition. So be sure to eat a balanced diet that is sustainable for a long time and does not eliminate food groups for a random reason.

Avoid fad diets. Make simple goals to eat healthy. Avoid all over-processed and junk food. Eat a variety of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds so you can get all important nutrients from food. Cook most of your meals at home. Plan to be active and find ways to move more. Most importantly, learn to remove stress and be happy.

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Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at parulkharod@gmail.com