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Magnesium (Mg) is a mineral involved in multiple functions within the human body. From serving as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions that make proteins, control blood glucose, and regulate blood pressure, to playing a role in muscle and nerve function, magnesium touches many important processes that keep our bodies running smoothly. Magnesium also plays a crucial role in the cardiovascular system.
While the body itself has a pretty tight regulation on the serum levels of magnesium present in your body (meaning if your diet is low in this mineral it will naturally reduce the amount excreted in the urine), it’s not a mineral you want to neglect in your diet. NYC-based Registered Dietitian, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, says that “without enough magnesium in the diet, the nerves may experience an influx of calcium, leading to hyper-stimulation of the muscles that can cause spasms or cramps.”
While no one wants to experience muscle pain, athletes specifically need to take note of the crucial role magnesium plays in their performance. Rizzo, an athlete herself, notes that there is even some preliminary research to suggest that supplementing with magnesium may increase athletic performance (a win-win for those plant-based athletes looking to improve their performance.)
While this study is still up for debate, there is no question that in order to build muscle one must start by having adequate magnesium in their diet to ensure a healthy heart! In turn, a well-functioning cardiovascular system will further boost endurance activity and gradually help individuals work towards increasing their muscle mass.
The good news is that there are MANY plant-based sources of foods that contain magnesium that will help you meet your daily needs. For reference, magnesium needs range between 400 to 420 mg for adult males and 310 to 400 mg for adult females.
Bookmark this list to come back to this week when you’re making your grocery list!
Foods That Are Rich In Magnesium (contain 20% or more of the daily reference value for magnesium)
1 ounce = 156 mg Mg
Step aside sunflower seeds! Pumpkin seeds pack a magnesium-rich punch and are great for topping on salads and toasts, and making your own granolas and butters!
Try It: Low-Sugar Pumpkin Pie Granola
1 cup = 156 mg Mg
While raw spinach still has magnesium, the better nutritional bang for your buck with this is to cook it to increase your body’s absorption of magnesium. Toss it into a soup or saute it with your favorite oil and garlic to create a fun, magnesium-rich meal or side.
1.5 ounces = 120 mg Mg
Spoiler alert, almonds are not the only nut that packs magnesium. But, they pack a significant punch in just a one and a half ounce serving. Pair them with other magnesium-containing nuts, like cashews, for a fun do-it-yourself lower sodium trail mix!
Try it: Roasted Mixed Nuts
1 ounce = 111 mg Mg
Besides their omega-3 benefits and fiber, chia seeds also pack magnesium! Add them to your smoothies, bake them into your muffins, or use them as a replacement for pectin in your homemade jams for a nutritional boost.
Try It: Cranberry Chia Jam
Foods that Are a Good Source of Magnesium (contain 10 to 19% of the daily reference value for magnesium)
¼ cup = 63 mg Mg
Both peanut butter and whole roasted peanuts pack magnesium (though in slightly different amounts.) Take your pick of a simple peanut snack mix or slather that peanut butter on an apple for a healthy snack.
Try it: Sweet & Salty Roasted Peanuts
1 cup = 61 mg Mg
Swap your smoothies by using a soy milk in place of your traditional almond or coconut for a plant-based, magnesium-boosting hack.
Try it: Pumpkin Golden Milk Smoothie (made with soymilk)
½ cup = 60 mg Mg
Whether you cook them from scratch or pop open the can, the magnesium value of this convenient protein will not vary! Whether you choose to just toss them on a salad, inside tacos, or make your own burgers, the possibilities are endless with black beans.
Edamame, shelled and cooked
½ cup = 50 mg mg
A super snack on their own, or a great protein boost when tossed into pasta, edamame is a win-win for those on the hunt for some new magnesium sources they may not have tried in a while. Plus, you can also make your own hummus out of this green beauty!
Try It: Summer Garden Paella
Baked Potato, in skin
3.5 ounces = 43 mg Mg
Keep the skin on! Just make sure you use a clean sponge or kitchen brush to scrub away the dirt with cool running water. This will help keep the magnesium levels up as many of the important nutrients are found in the potato skin!
1 cup = 42 mg Mg
Whether you choose Greek or a more traditional texture, yogurt is a great way to add a good source of magnesium to your diet. Plus, it’s super convenient to mix with other produce picks to increase your fiber intake early in the day!
Try It: Sweet Potato Pie Parfaits
*Magnesium reference amounts per food item listed obtained from Food Data Central.