An oft-overlooked nutrient that’s crucial for boosting heart health and keeping bones strong, among a host of other benefits, could be hiding in plain sight at the grocery store and in your pantry: magnesium. The last time you thought about magnesium may have been in high school chemistry, but it’s time to get the element back on your radar.
“Magnesium is one of the most underrated nutrients around,” says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods for Anti-Aging: Stay Younger, Live Longer. “This mineral is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in our body and is especially important for regulating heartbeat and blood pressure, building and maintaining strong bones, and helping muscles contract and relax.” Plus, emerging research suggests it may even play a role in helping our bodies use insulin and regulate blood sugar, she says.
And just as magnesium can provide some amazing benefits, not getting enough of it can lead to serious consequences. “Magnesium deficiency has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes,” says Alix Turoff, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., C.P.T. And about half the U.S. population doesn’t meet their daily magnesium needs.
The most recent recommended dietary allowance for magnesium intake ranges from 400 to 420 milligrams per day for men and 310 to 320 milligrams per day for women, according to Turoff. These triple-digit numbers may seem daunting, but it’s not too difficult to get your fill. In fact, the best sources of magnesium are actually some foods that we’re already familiar with.
Popeye was way ahead of the curve. According to Dudash, a half-cup of boiled spinach contains 78 milligrams of magnesium, which is about 25 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 19 percent for men. Spinach also packs vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, and even a little bit of protein, she notes. Plus, it’s very low in calories, so eat up!
Whether you’re at the grocery store, the gas station, or the airport, nuts are pretty easy to find.
“Eating a small handful of nuts (about a quarter-cup) every day is a great way to get more magnesium, along with other beneficial nutrients,” Dudash says. One ounce of dry roasted cashews contains 74 milligrams of magnesium, about 23 percent of the daily value for ladies and 18 percent for the guys, while a quarter-cup of roasted peanuts pack 63 milligrams of the nutrient, for about 20 percent of the daily value for women and 15 percent for men. (Did we mention peanuts also contain protein, fiber, and vitamin A and vitamin E?) You’ll also find magnesium in almonds, she says, topping other nuts with 80 milligrams of magnesium per ounce. (That’s 20 percent of guys’ daily needs and 25 percent of gal’s daily needs.)
Hitting the fish counter can also help you bump up the magnesium in your daily eats. Mackerel is an especially good source, with 82 milligrams of magnesium in three ounces, says Turoff. That’s about 20 percent of guys’ daily magnesium needs and 25 percent of women’s. Not to mention, the fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which support heart, brain, and eye health. Sounds like a great reason to make sure you’re serving this up for dinner more often!
4. Lima Beans
These underrated beans are a quick and easy way to nosh on protein and fiber, and they also contain magnesium, Ansel says. A half-cup of the beans provides 63 milligrams of magnesium, about 20 percent of your daily value if you’re a woman, and 15 percent if you’re a man.
5. Brown Rice
Did ya need another reason to swap white rice for brown? Not only does brown rice provide more fiber, but a cup also packs a whopping 86 milligrams of magnesium, says Ansel. That’s about 20 percent (men) or 27 percent (women) of your daily dose. Good to know for the next time you order takeout!
6. Fortified Cereals
Yes, you can also get some magnesium from your morning meal. Some cereals are fortified with magnesium, among other nutrients. One option, according to Turoff, is All-Bran cereal. A half-cup provides 112 milligrams of magnesium (woah—that’s about a third of women’s daily value and 27 percent of men’s!) plus belly-filling fiber.
*Pin this handy infographic to make sure you’re getting your fill of magnesium: