It’s not just vitamins that our body needs – minerals are also important to our health. Without them our cells can’t perform the chemical reactions they need to to support optimal health. A very important mineral is magnesium.
Magnesium is essential for human health. It plays a role in nerve and muscle functioning, helps build strong bones, has a role in maintaining the rhythm of the heart, and the immune system. It plays a role in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body. Not having enough magnesium can have some serious consequences: it can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety (nervous issues), diabetes, cardiovascular disease, migraines and loss of bone density, also called osteoporosis. Muscle spasms (often quite severe) and low blood levels of magnesium may increase the risk of stroke by 25 per cent. Increasing the intake of magnesium can decrease the risk due to its regulatory effects on blood pressure and diabetes.
To maintain magnesium in the body at a desirable level, the dieticians recommend 400mg day. You can find magnesium in a range of delicious food sources. Here are a few of the best food sources of magnesium.
The husk outside wholegrains, such as oats, rice and wheat, called the “bran”, is a great source of magnesium and other trace elements and vitamins. Refined flours, or breads made with white flour, have little or no bran, as the husks are generally removed before the flour is milled. This is a very unnatural way to consume grains, and can make them harder to digest, without all the companion nutrients in the bran and germ. Always choose wholemeal and multigrain breads, and the darker the better. If you are having muesli or a smoothie for breakfast add some rice or wheat bran, for an extra nutrient boost. Oat bran is also a good source of magnesium.
Herbs that have been dried tend to have a more concentrated nutrient profile; they also add flavour to our meals, making them more enjoyable. Some herbs are higher in magnesium than others. Try to get into the habit of cooking with the following herbs and you’ll be getting a good hit of magnesium as well: coriander, dill, sage, chives, spearmint, and basil.
Seeds and Nuts
Some seeds are higher in magnesium than others. Nuts can also be a good source of minerals, including magnesium. Seeds to look out for in particular, include: pumpkin seeds (pepitas), watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds and squash seeds. Sesame seeds and flax seeds are also a good source of magnesium. You can sprinkle sesame seeds over a salad or add them to a stir-fry, or look for tahini (a sesame seed spread) and use it instead of peanut butter.
Brazil nuts are a great source of magnesium, and make an easy mid-afternoon snack. So are almonds and cashews. Brazil nuts, almonds and cashews also contain partial proteins, and, when combined, provide a whole protein. You can buy this “ABC spread” at health food stores, and, again, it can be used as a substitute for peanut butter. Pine nuts also contain good amounts of magnesium. Toast them to add to salads or pasta and you’ll get a great flavour boost as well.
Cacao (Raw Chocolate)
Great news! Chocolate is good for you! Not the high fat, high sugar, supermarket version, but the raw cocoa our sweet treats are derived from. It’s available in a range of forms, from organic powders to use in cooking or blend into a smoothie, to fudge balls and flat bars. If you decide to add cacao to your diet as a form of magnesium supplementation look for dark chocolate bars with more than 70 percent coco and less sugar and fat. A couple of squares a day, or the odd scoop of the raw powder, will give you a wonderful boost of minerals.
If that all sounds like too much hard work, there are other ways to get extra magnesium into your diet. A magnesium supplement can do the job, or cooking with molasses can also help add some extra magnesium.
[box_light]Katherine West is a health freak and freelance writer who in 2003 studied for a Diploma of Nutrition. She is also into yoga and pilates.[/box_light]
- The Truth About Magnesium (hlge.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 Super Food Seeds to Eat Daily (forwardintothefuture.com)
- Eating magnesium rich foods cuts cardiovascular disease risk (foodconsumer.org)
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