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Foods That Deplete Magnesium (Sugar, and Worse!)

Foods that deplete magnesium

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Have you heard that there are foods that deplete magnesium? It’s true, and it’s one of the several factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency. 

Many of us are at risk for magnesium deficiency based on a poor diet alone. But there are also several foods and drinks that deplete magnesium.

Some of these foods are so healthy that you should eat them anyway (even though they deplete magnesium). Other foods that deplete magnesium are low in nutritional value and you should avoid them completely if you can.

Healthy Foods That Deplete Magnesium (Keep Eating)

oxalic acid in foods depletes magnesium

1. Dietary Fibre

Dietary fibre isn’t technically a “food” — it’s a plant-based nutrient, and one that most of us should get more of in our diets. 

Despite the pronounced health benefits of fibre, the presence of fibre in food does slightly lower the absorption rate of magnesium. 

Of course, we don’t recommend that you decrease your intake of fibre. High fibre foods are often high in magnesium, so the net effect can be that you increase your magnesium intake even if some is used up in the process of metabolizing these foods.

Phytic acid or phytate may be the reason that high fibre foods deplete magnesium. This compound is “found in the hulls of seeds and the bran of grains, and it forms insoluble compounds with magnesium and other minerals, causing them to be eliminated rather than absorbed.” (Dr. Carolyn Dean, The Magnesium Miracle, p. 34)

Soybeans are very high in phytic acid, but fermented soy products (like tempeh) appear to be better choices. 

2. High Oxalate Foods

Oxalate or oxalic acid is a compound found in some plant foods, and oxalate does appear to lower the absorption of magnesium from food.

Spinach is famously high in oxalic acid, but spinach is also high in magnesium. 

Oxalates are not something you should worry about unless you are at risk of kidney stones. Even then, keep in mind that magnesium reduces the risk of kidney stones, so you must keep up your intake of this key mineral.

If you are at risk of kidney stones, you can lower the content of oxalic acid by lightly steaming vegetables that are high in this compound.

Note that animal foods and refined foods have almost no magnesium content, so don’t turn to those foods instead.

3. Excessive Zinc

High levels of zinc can also interfere with magnesium absorption. However, you would need to consume abnormally high doses of zinc (around 142 mg per day) to deplete magnesium

Most people only get a fraction of that amount of zinc every day. So, unless you’re eating dozens of oysters (a very high source of zinc) on a daily basis, you’re probably not at risk of magnesium depletion from zinc.

Again, zinc is so essential to your health that we’d never suggest you decrease your intake. That said, many foods that are high in zinc are animal protein foods, which are sometimes unhealthy for others reasons, as we’ll discuss below.

4. Excessive Vitamin D

The same is true of high doses of vitamin D. Our body requires magnesium to metabolize vitamin D, and in fact, we can’t absorb (or enjoy the benefits of) vitamin D without magnesium. However, excessive doses of vitamin D can severely deplete magnesium.

Vitamin D supplementation has become a hot trend in recent years because of the link between this nutrient and immunity. Some people over-corrected by taking ultra-high doses.

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, balance is key. Too much of one nutrient without enough of the other can cause health problems.

Common Foods That Deplete Magnesium (Use in Moderation)

calcium in foods depletes magnesium

1. Dairy Foods

Dairy foods deplete magnesium because they contain high calcium levels, out of proportion to the magnesium you’ll get from any dairy product.

Balancing is key because magnesium and calcium act in concert. However, most people in Western cultures eat far more calcium-rich foods, which throws the balance of minerals off and can lead to symptoms of magnesium deficiency.

Whether you choose to consume dairy products or not is a personal choice. Most natural health professionals say to avoid dairy, especially if it’s not organic.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and author of The Magnesium Miracle recommends that you avoid all dairy except organic butter and free-range eggs.

Moderate, healthy amounts of calcium (together with magnesium) can be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables.

2. Excessive Fluoride

First, fluoride isn’t a food, obviously! And whether it should be in our public water supply is an open question. Many natural health advocates say it should not. Dentists often support fluoride in water.

In part, the concern is that fluoride binds to magnesium, making the magnesium unavailable to the body. Haschek and Rousseaux’s Handbook of Toxicologic Pathology (Third Edition), 2013, has this to say about excessive fluoride:

“Fluoride is a cellular poison, avidly binding Ca and Mg in cells and depleting them of these necessary ions.”

However, not everyone has access to spring water or a good quality filter that removes fluoride. Plus, many of us are opposed to buying bottled water. Many people cannot avoid fluoride without avoiding water.

If you can, buy a water filter that removes fluoride. Otherwise, simply make sure you’re getting more magnesium in your diet to counter the effects.

3. Caffeine in Foods & Drinks

Caffeine is usually consumed in coffee and tea, but some performance fuel foods now contain this stimulant, too. You can get caffeine-infused chocolate at your grocery store, and chocolate itself has some caffeine.

Caffeinated foods and drinks can be beneficial to your health when consumed in moderation. Some contain antioxidants and other healthy phytochemicals. Cacao contains magnesium. However, all substances with caffeine do deplete magnesium. 

You may not want to quit drinking green and matcha teas, for example, or organic coffee (especially if you take it without sugar). If you have a tea or coffee habit, simply replace your lost magnesium daily.

4. Excessive Protein

Dietary intake of protein can deplete the magnesium that you get from food. High-protein diets contribute to increased urinary loss of magnesium.

That’s why meat and protein shakes can be considered foods that deplete magnesium.

So, while getting enough protein is essential, please don’t overdo it. High protein diets are hard on your body in more ways than one, but certainly because of the link to magnesium loss.

5. Alcohol

There may be some psychological and health benefits to socializing over a glass of organic wine. However, alcohol rapidly depletes magnesium. 

Clearly, alcohol isn’t exactly a food item, but it is high in calories. If you drink excessive alcohol, you may be displacing healthy foods in your diet to drink your calories instead.

Of course, there are several other risks associated with drinking, so let’s slot alcohol in the category of substances that deplete magnesium to use in moderation. 

Unhealthy Foods That Deplete Magnesium (Avoid These)

unhealthy foods that deplete magnesium

1. Trans Fats

High-fat foods in general may reduce the absorption of magnesium. The quality of fats in your diet appears to make a difference in how much magnesium you retain from the foods you eat, and how much is depleted.

Dr. Dean recommends that you “avoid all foods containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or trans fatty acids” (The Magnesium Miracle, p. 238)

Trans fats have no health benefits, so we can safely include them in our list of unhealthy foods that deplete magnesium.

To avoid the worst fats, a simple rule is to steer clear of deep-fried and heavily processed foods. Chips, fries, doughnuts, and the like are prime examples.

2. Sugary Foods

Any foods that contain sugar must be included in our list of foods that deplete magnesium. IN particular, Dr. Dean says to avoid “all refined and processed sugars, including fructose or corn syrup and diet products such as aspartame” (p. 238) 

Dr. Dean explains that “the body has to tap into its own reserves of minerals and vitamins to ensure sugar’s digestion… Adding sugar to the diet produces an excessively acid condition in the body; to neutralize it the body has to draw upon its stores of the alkaline minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium.” (p. 129)

In short, refined sugar acts as an “anti-nutrient.” Your body requires nutrients (including magnesium) to process of metabolizing sugar.

So, instead of putting nutrients to better use building and maintaining healthy cells, those nutrients are essentially wasted on sugar. Try to avoid sugar as much as possible.

Likewise, the artificial sweetener, aspartame, affects the balance of magnesium in the body. It appears that using aspartame increases the rate of magnesium depletion.

Instead, choose a natural, plant-based sweetener like organic stevia, which is what we use to sweeten Natural Calm.

3. Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid is an additive that will deplete magnesium.

It’s found in soft drinks and other bottled or flavoured drinks, dairy products, and other processed foods, including snack bars and processed meats. 

The mineral, phosphorus, is found naturally in the body and in foods. Phosphorous itself is necessary for health, but when it is chemically processed and converted into phosphoric acid, it becomes harmful.

You can only benefit from limiting or avoiding processed foods, so give foods with phosphoric acid a miss.

Beyond Diet: Lifestyle Factors That Increase Magnesium Needs

Beyond Foods That Deplete Magnesium

Aside from foods that deplete magnesium (and drinks), there are also lifestyle factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency.

According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, the following common factors can deplete the body’s magnesium and/or increase the demand for magnesium:

  • Supplements and drugs containing caffeine
  • Diuretics
  • Certain medications, including proton pump inhibitors, asthma medications, birth control pills, insulin, digitalis, and certain antibiotics
  • Nicotine
  • Stress
  • Sweat and heavy exercise
  • Conditions of the gastrointestinal tract that prevent efficient absorption of magnesium

Can you check off one or a few of the above? If so, make sure you’re replacing depleted magnesium daily.

Not surprisingly, magnesium helps offset the negative effects of these lifestyle factors. For example, getting enough magnesium fuels your body with energy for exercise and helps muscles recover while protecting the heart. It also helps downgrade stress and may even help decrease dependence on drugs like nicotine.

Replace Lost Magnesium With Natural Calm

Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Flavours e1640622857389

Most people don’t get enough magnesium from their diet. You may also use up your stores rapidly depending on your lifestyle, including how much you sweat, how hard you exert your body in exercise, and how much stress you experience.

As we’ve seen here, foods can also deplete your magnesium stores. Luckily, it’s easy to bump up your magnesium levels with a highly absorbable form of magnesium.

Natural Calm is a magnesium citrate supplement that’s delicious, sugar-free, and sweetened with organic stevia (which does not deplete magnesium). You can sip Natural Calm as a hot tea, or let it cool to enjoy as a cold drink. 

Natural Calm is backed by tens of thousands of five-star reviews from customers around the world, and dozens of industry awards.

Find Natural Calm in our online store or from retailers across Canada.


What foods interfere with magnesium absorption?

Please see the complete list above. One of the biggest factors is the presence of calcium in the diet, as high calcium foods can reduce your magnesium absorption (and vice versa). Foods containing sugar and caffeine may have similar effects.

What causes poor absorption of magnesium?

Numerous factors can cause poor magnesium absorption, including your diet, lifestyle, and how efficiently your gut absorbs the magnesium you get from food and supplements. The form of magnesium you are consuming or taking as a supplement makes a significant difference, too, in how much you absorb. Magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are easily absorbed forms. Other forms can be harder for the body to absorb, especially magnesium oxide.

Does coffee deplete magnesium?

We all love a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, coffee is one of the most common things that deplete magnesium stores and absorption in the body, due to the caffeine contained within coffee.

Furthermore, there is also evidence that sugar can deplete magnesium, as can calcium. Of course, both of these are present in a cup of coffee with sugar!

How do I know if I am low on magnesium?

There are numerous symptoms of low magnesium, including loss of appetite, weight loss, and nausea. The earliest symptom you might notice, though, is fatigue and muscle trembling. If you want to accurately diagnose whether you are low in magnesium, you should consider getting a blood test carried out by your physician to get an accurate answer. If you are magnesium deficient, you could consider taking magnesium supplements.

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