Most of us aim to eat balanced meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or at least two of the three (on a good day). But we haven't really gone over the actual qualifications for a "balanced meal" since grade school science class, and as a result, some of the essential nutrients don't make it to home plate. One of those key ingredients? Magnesium. As neurosurgeon and pain medicine pioneer Norman Shealy, MD and Ph.D., tells Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, "every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency, and it's the missing cure for many diseases."
So with that in mind, we decided to ask the founder and director of Real Nutrition, Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, to give us a little more information about why we need it and which magnesium-rich foods we should be eating more of. "We need magnesium to activate over 300 enzymes and translate thousands of biochemical reactions that occur every day," she says. We need it to "make energy and [for] the structural development of our bones" since it helps regulate antioxidants, calcium, potassium, sodium, and more. So if we don't get enough of it, a magnesium deficiency can occur. Some of the symptoms include "weakness and twitches, cramps, osteoporosis, fatigue, and high blood pressure."
Since it's so essential to cellular health, eating a magnesium-rich diet can yield a lot of benefits and has "been shown to increase energy while calming nerves and anxiety." It also "helps protect bones and the cardiovascular system, fights diabetes, prevents osteoporosis, and relieves symptoms of a premenstrual syndrome like bloating, insomnia, hormone imbalance, swelling, and weight gain," says Shapiro. Now that we've done a biology refresh, find out the nutritionist-recommended top 10 foods that are high in magnesium and then incorporate them into your diet with corresponding recipes.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Nutritional Value: 100 g of pumpkin seeds contains 592 gm of magnesium, 184% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Brought to us by The First Mess, this vegan-friendly recipe makes zucchini spaghetti with pumpkin seed pesto and peaches. Naturally, it's delicious and just in time for warm-weather festivities and dining.
Nutritional Value: 100 g of almonds contains 274 mg of magnesium, 68% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Snack time just got a lot tastier. Whether you love nuts in every form or you're not that into them, this cinnamon roasted almonds recipe from Sugar Salted will hit the sweet spot and deliver tons of magnesium to your system.
Nutritional Value: 100 g of cashews contains 273 mg of magnesium, 68% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Almonds not your thing? More of a savory snacker? That's okay because here's another magnesium-rich and savory nut for you to munch on. These spiced curry cashews from Minimalist Baker are addictively delicious and enticing, so make sure you make enough to share with friends, family, and co-workers if you plan on bringing them with you.
4. Dark Chocolate
Nutritional Value: 100 g of dark chocolate contains 228 mg of magnesium, 57% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Yes, chocolate is healthy. But we're not saying that a candy bar a day of any kind will keep the doctor away. When it comes to chocolate with nutritional value, opt for dark chocolate or cacao (80% or above). This antioxidant-rich and vegan-friendly warm milkshake from Hello Glow is a great example. Made with dates, a banana, coconut milk, a dash of cinnamon, and either raw cacao powder or dark cocoa, allow it to usher you out of bed in the morning or be your afternoon pick-me-up.
Nutritional Value: 100 g of spinach contains 79 mg of magnesium, 20% daily value (DV).
The Recipe to Try: Make this spinach salad with spiced-walnut salmon and cilantro-mint dressing from Salt and Wind for a delicious weekday lunch or a quick, casual dinner. It only takes about 20 minutes to make. The dark leafy greens, flavorful salmon, and nutty undertones will fill you up and fuel you, plus it's both dairy- and gluten-free.
6. Black Beans
Nutritional Value: 100 g black beans contains 70 mg of magnesium, 18% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Beans, beans, they're good for your heart, apparently in part thanks to magnesium (yes, we're changing the tune). So say hello to this spicy black bean and lentil chili and make the accompanying recipes from Half Baked Harvest—cotija guacamole and chipotle sweet potato fries. Not only is it insanely delicious, but the interesting flavors make it an impressive appetizer to serve dinner guests. Then again, you may want it all for yourself.
Nutritional Value: 100 g of edamame contains 64 mg of magnesium, 16% DV.
The Recipe to Try: If you want to incorporate some edamame into your main dish instead of snacking on the pods on their own as an appetizer, try this sesame soba noodle recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon. The grilled shrimp makes it a delicious and filling dinner dish that you'll want to make again and again.
Nutritional Value: 100 g of quinoa contains 64 mg of magnesium, 16% DV.
The Recipe to Try: These scallion miso quinoa patties from The First Mess are like a miracle in your mouth with the added bonus of being healthy and vegan-friendly. You can prepare and serve them a variety of ways, but this salad looks like an easy and yummy way to enjoy them. What's even better is that it calls for dark leafy greens, which means you'll be getting even more magnesium.
The Recipe to Try: Complete with delicata squash and avocado, this wholesome Salt and Wind salad recipe is a delicious excuse to eat more avocados. It's more satisfying than the average homemade salad and is also a lot more exciting, thanks to ingredients like paprika, feta cheese, toasted black rice, pumpkin seeds (bonus points for magnesium content and the extra crunch), and ground cinnamon.
10. Uncultured Yogurt
Nutritional Value: 100 g of plain uncultured yogurt contains 11 mg of magnesium, 3% DV.
The Recipe to Try: Last and, in this case, least, we bring you uncultured yogurt. If you're bored of granola and yogurt for breakfast or simply want to incorporate it into more meals throughout the day, say hello to this grapefruit and beet salad recipe from Sunday Suppers. It's citrusy, sweet, and nutty for a well-rounded dish. It also happens to be very pretty, making it perfect for a dinner party side.
This post was originally published on March 8, 2018, and has since been updated.