Several UK dietary surveys indicate that many of us Brits are not consuming enough magnesium – a mineral that’s required by every cell in our body and necessary for over 300 biochemical reactions. A lack of magnesium appears to effect more women than men, with some experts suggesting that as many as seven in ten now suffer from such a deficiency. Yet it’s not only women who are at risk. Indeed, those taking diuretics, antibiotics and other long-term medications, as well as all those consuming high quantities of starchy foods and alcohol, are also in danger of a magnesium deficiency, which can lead to serious health consequences further down the line.
Fortunately there are a number of powerful superfoods naturally high in magnesium, which can dramatically boost your magnesium intake when enjoyed on a regular basis.
But before exploring the top seven magnesium rich superfoods, let’s take a closer look at magnesium and why this essential macro mineral is quite so important.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential macro mineral, which is stored in our skeletal system, muscles, soft tissue and bodily fluids. Often overlooked, magnesium none the less performs several crucial functions, including:
- Transforming the food that we eat into energy.
- Ensuring the healthy function of our parathyroid glands (endocrine glands that manufacture hormones needed for bone health).
- Activating our muscles and nerves.
- Serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis.
Magnesium health benefits
When enjoyed in sufficient quantities, magnesium can offer a number of additional benefits for our health. In fact, magnesium helps to:
- Improve our bone health – magnesium increases bone density and has proven effective in lowering the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
- Promote heart health – magnesium can help to improve lipid profiles and thus reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and hypertension and, when administered post heart attack, can even lower the risk of death.
- Reduce the risk of diabetes – studies also indicate that magnesium can help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels and improving insulin sensitivity.
What is the Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of magnesium?
According to the NHS, men require 300 mg of magnesium per day and women 270 mg.
However, due to intensive farming techniques, the magnesium content in some of our favourite magnesium rich vegetables, such as leafy greens, has declined by up to 80 per cent over the last fifty years. And, our modern diet actively depletes magnesium levels within the body (caffeine, alcohol, processed grains and refined sugars all encourage our kidneys to expel magnesium), ensuring that the little magnesium we do obtain from food is quickly exhausted.
This means that many of us are not receiving the recommended daily amount of magnesium and are therefore at genuine risk of a magnesium deficiency.
Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency
A magnesium deficiency can manifest in a number of worrying symptoms, such as:
- Anxiety and depression
- Restless leg syndrome
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Chronic fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)
- Muscle spasms and weakness
Left unchecked, a lack of magnesium may ultimately lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome (a disorder of energy utilisation and storage), coronary heart disease and osteoporosis.
More magnesium please, we’re British!
Although you can choose to boost your magnesium intake by taking an isolated magnesium supplement, it’s arguably preferable to obtain your nutrients from a natural food source, such as nutrient-dense superfoods.
Below are seven magnesium-rich superfoods that will increase your magnesium levels demonstrably when consumed as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Top 7 magnesium rich superfoods
1) Raw cacao beans
Organic cacao beans are a delicious natural superfood that contains generous quantities of fibre, vitamin C, minerals (such as iron, chromium, manganese, zinc and copper) and essential fatty acids. They also happen to be the richest dietary source of magnesium on the planet. Indeed, raw cacao beans boast an impressive 420 mg of magnesium per every 100 grams – a staggering 37 times more than one ounce of broccoli (source: United States Department of Agriculture). Raw cacao beans possess an intense chocolate flavour and can be enjoyed straight from the bag, combined with nuts and dried super fruits in a tasty trail mix, or used as an indulgent ingredient in homemade raw chocolate bars, cakes and desserts.
2) Pumpkin seeds
Organic pumpkin seeds are a superb source of vitamins (including vitamins B6, B9, C, E & K), minerals (such as iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, copper and potassium) and plant-based omega 3 fatty acids. And just one half cup serving of organic pumpkin seeds provides a whopping 369 mg of magnesium – more than 100% of your recommended daily amount! Organic pumpkin seeds are simply irresistible when sprinkled over breakfast granolas and salads, and are a yummy ingredient in rawfood snacks.
3) Sunflower seeds
Organic sunflower seeds are rich in fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and a quarter cup will supply a respectable 128 mg of magnesium. These magnesium rich super seeds are utterly perfect scattered over breakfast granolas, salads and trail mix, and make a delicious additional ingredient in sweet and savoury rawfood snacks.
Organic almonds contain a wealth of beneficial nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fibre and monounsaturated fatty acids. They also boast around 105 mg of magnesium per every quarter cup and thus go a long way towards supplying your recommended daily magnesium intake. A sensible snack between meals, organic almonds are a wonderfully crunchy topping on breakfast granolas and desserts and a tempting ingredient in homemade raw chocolate and energy bars. Organic almonds can also be used to prepare a lovely homemade almond milk that makes a delicious, yet wholesome alternative to cow’s milk.
5) Sesame seeds
Organic sesame seeds are utterly brimming with valuable nutrients, including protein, fibre, polyunsaturated fatty acids, the minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, zinc and of course, magnesium. In fact, just 100 grams contains up to 87% of your recommended daily amount of magnesium. Organic sesame seeds benefit from a lovely nutty flavour and a delicate crunch that makes a delightful addition to breakfast granolas, salads, trail mix and raw snacks.
Bananas are a much neglected superfood that’s literally loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, and a readily digestible source of energy. Known for their high potassium content, bananas are also surprisingly rich in magnesium, containing 32 mg of magnesium per cup. Bananas can be enjoyed fresh, in a sweetened crispy chip form that makes an ideal topping on breakfast granolas and desserts , or as an organic powder that can be stirred liberally into smoothies, shakes and juices or used as a natural superfood sweetener in an infinite selection of rawfood recipes.
7) Dried figs
Organic dried figs are arguably best known for their high fibre content and are often eaten by those wishing to improve their bowel health. However, this deliciously sweet fruit that’s crammed with crunchy seeds also contains plenty of magnesium, with 100 grams providing some 68 mg of this essential mineral. Enjoy organic dried figs as a healthy snack between meals or add small chunks to breakfast granolas, raw chocolate, energy bars and trail mix.