Most of our diet problems today are issues of excess: we get too many calories, too much fat, sodium, and arguably even too much protein. But when it comes to nutrients, many of us are coming up short.
Magnesium, for example, is dangerously low in modern diets.
Before modern manufacturing, our ancestors ate whole foods grown on farms with plenty of magnesium in the soil. 100 years ago, magnesium deficiency wasn’t an issue. Today…well, here’s an eye-opening fact:
“In 1900, the average daily intake of magnesium was about 450 milligrams a day….Studies show that we now only consume about half the magnesium that we did 100 years ago.” (Kindig, p. 11)
It’s not just that modern farming and acid rain strips the soil of magnesium – it’s also that our diets have completely changed.
Processed foods – a staple in many diets – are extremely low in magnesium. One of the biggest issues is refined grain. Dr. Carolyn Dean explains that “one slice of whole-wheat bread holds up to 24 mg of the mineral, while a slice of white bread has only 6 mg.” (p. 28)
You can imagine that it’s pretty tough to get the conservative RDA of 400 mg of magnesium by eating white bread! You’d need about 66 slices!
You may be wondering, how can I possibly get enough?
The best sources of magnesium are whole, unprocessed or minimally-processed plant foods. Kelp, wheat bran, wheat germ, almonds and cashews top the list.
In The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Dean sets out a “Magnesium Eating Plan” (pp. 234 – 238). Some of the recommendations are, shall we say, advanced. That is, if you’re shifting from a convenience diet of processed foods and animal products, you’ll find some of Dean’s suggestions a bit challenging.
Most of us just don’t eat soaked amaranth, millet, or even buckwheat, let alone kelp or dulse. But we should.
As a starting place, let’s talk about practical first steps. What might a magnesium-rich diet look like when comprised of ordinary grocery-store foods, without a lot of special prep?
Here are some suggestions.
A Magnesium Rich Menu Plan
- Oatmeal (NOT instant – choose the least refined oats you can, especially steel cut oats): ¼ cup dried oats provides about 70 mg of magnesium
- Top with pumpkin or sunflower seeds: 1 ounce (about ½ cup) provides between 70 and 90 mg of magnesium!
- Or try sprinkling wheat germ sprinkled on top of your oats: ¼ cup provides about 65 mg
- Add molasses: just 1 Tbsp delivers a whopping 50 mg
- Or stir in almond butter: 1 tbsp provides about 50 mg
- Banana: one banana yields about 30 mg
- Dried dates or figs: ½ cup provides 100 mg
With a selection of the above, your breakfast should contribute about 150 mg of magnesium to your total daily tally.
- Arugula or similar salad greens: 2 cups raw yield about 20 mg of magnesium
- Chickpeas, lentils or other legumes: 1 cup cooked provides about 80 mg of magnesium
- Bowl of lentil or bean soup: about 80 mg of magnesium
- Salad dressing and other salad toppings of your choice, including fresh and cooked fruit and vegetables
A light lunch like this yields about 100 mg of magnesium.
- Raw cashews or almonds: 1 ounce delivers about 80 mg of magnesium
- Hummus: 2 tbsp provides 20 mg
- Raw broccoli, celery, carrots: 100 grams (about a cup or more) gives you about 20 mg
- Banana with almond butter: together, about 80 mg of magnesium
- A Tbsp almond butter spread on a cup of raw celery and carrots: about 70 mg of magnesium
- Dried coconut meat: 100 gram serving gives about 90 mg
- Add in more fresh fruit or veggies for the full-spectrum of nutrients
A good snack can contribute between 40 and 80 mg of magnesium.
- Brown rice: 1 cup cooked has about 85 mg
- Tofu or tempeh: 100 grams cooked provides about 80 to 100 mg of magnesium (tofu is at the higher end)
- Cooked spinach or collard greens: 1/2 cup provides about 75 mg
- Sprinkle on sesame seeds: 1 Tbsp nets you about 30 mg
- Other fresh or cooked vegetables of your choice – again, to round out your nutrition
With a combination of the above, you can get about 200 mg of magnesium.
ADDING IT ALL UP
A diet devoted to magnesium-rich foods like these can cover the average requirements for an adult. But you need to be consistent.
Note that magnesium needs spike with added stress (physical and emotional), sweat, and when we consume caffeine, fluoridated water, alcohol, sugar, alcohol, calcium, salt and animal protein. Because these are so widespread, most of us need to supplement with a highly absorbable magnesium.
Like Dr. Dean says, “the typical American diet, which is rich in fat, sugar, salt, synthetic vitamin D, phosphates, protein, and supplemented calcium, not only is deficient in magnesium but actually increases the need for magnesium in the body.” (p.23)
Not eating a typical diet is a good starting place!