Eating to support healthy magnesium levels is not as simple as eating all magnesium-rich foods because:
- Some magnesium-rich foods have other anti-nutrients that harm us.
- Some magnesium-rich foods are heavily fortified with industrial iron filings!
- Some magnesium-rich foods are heavily fortified with calcium which depletes magnesium levels!
In this post we look at all these factors, followed by which magnesium foods are the safest to indulge in.
1. Anti-nutrient foods
Nuts and seeds have high amounts of magnesium. However they also have high amounts of inflammatory omega 6 (polyunsaturated) fatty acids. Furthermore they contain high amounts of phytic acid and lectins, two types of anti-nutrients that bind to minerals like magnesium in our intestine. This hinders our ability to absorb the nut’s magnesium. Lastly, because of their high fat content and processing procedures, nuts are very vulnerable to attracting mold. Mold has been linked to major diseases such as cancer. The safest nuts to eat are organic chestnuts and macadamia nuts because they have the lowest phytic acid and omega 6 content. Soaking them in water for 24 hours also helps reduce the phytic acid content further. Nevertheless, trying to satisfy magnesium levels with nuts alone is not only near impossible, but dangerous and inflammatory!
Beans, just like nuts have high lectin and phytic acid content which again prevents the absorption of beneficial minerals. Apart from mineral absorption, beans can also hinder our absorption of protein and vitamins B12 and D due to their trypsin inhibitors. Lastly, beans – especially soy – are known for their phytoestrogenic compounds which have been linked to infertility, menstrual problems, breast cancer, thyroid problems and hormonal imbalances. High bean consumption is not recommended. Sprouting, fermenting and cooking them helps to remove the phytic acid and lectin content.
2. Iron-fortified foods
Wheat, grains and cereals are by mandate, all fortified with iron in North America. There are two unsettling things about this:
First, the iron is in the form of industrial metal filings. Youtube is full of videos showing how to easily extract these iron filings from your child’s breakfast cereal. The problem is that this iron fortification is mandated in North America for all breads, cereals and grains.
Second, most humans actually suffer from some degree of iron overload, which is implicated in most major diseases, and is a major source of magnesium depletion. The reason why some people’s blood tests show low iron, is because their body is storing iron in their cells instead of keeping it moving in their blood: yet the blood is where the iron is measured. This disguised iron overload is a topic for another day. The point is that iron is already abundant in food and adding more is harmful because:
- ALL pathogens and bacteria feed on iron to survive and,
- Inside our cells (where blood tests cannot detect it) iron directly leads to cell damage, lipid peroxidation, and DNA mutagenisis.
This means that most name-brand breakfast cereals, breads, quinoas and all other grains and wheat products are heavily fortified with metal iron filings. Again, these foods contribute to iron overload in the body which is disguised due to the iron being stored in cells where blood tests cannot measure. This is the case for NorthAmerica. iron fortification differs in other parts of the world.
3. Calcium-fortified foods
Calcium fortification of foods can be quite dangerous as well, especially when it comes to lowering our magnesium levels. As the experts in this video explain, calcium is an antagonist to magnesium in our body. It lowers our magnesium:
Calcium fortification of foods is so high that the modern western diet has 300% more calcium than it does magnesium. This is a problem because as Dr Danel and Dean both explain, the calcium:magnesium ratio is critical to health and intake should be closer to 1:1.
Furthermore, calcium in excess is inflammatory in our body, and it can lead to the hardening and calcification of soft organs and tissues like our arteries and heart. This is why calcium supplementation has acutally been shown to increase risk of cardiovascular disease [1,2] and vascular events like heart attacks! [3,4]
The prevalence of calcium fortification is also another reason why the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium have concluded that it is now impossible to maintiain healthy magnesium levels without supplementation.
While calcium in safe amounts is healthy, it is recommended to avoid calcium-fortified foods, which includes most dairy products and brand-name, processed fruit juices. The healthiest dairy products to consume are those that come from organic grass-fed pasture raised cows. Fruit juices are best consumed when they are freshly squeezed.
4. Healthy magnesium-Rich Foods
So we know that most nuts, beans, breads, pastas, grains, cereals, low quality dairy and fruit juices should be avoided. This is due to their respective high levels of inflammatory fats, anti-nutrients, iron and calcium. What are the healthiest magnesium-rich foods that we can feel free to indulge in?
Fruits and vegetables Spinach and Swiss Chard (avoid curly kale due to its high oxalate content) are healthy sources of magnesium, provided they are organic. One cooked cup (125 ml) of either provides up to 83 mg of magnesium. Organic okra served cooked contains 50 mg of magnesium for every 125 ml serving. The prickly pear has more magnesium than any fruit at 88 mg per pear, and a medium cooked potato with skin has between 47-52 mg of magnesium.
Organic dark chocolate (raw cacao powder) Raw cacao powder is the single most magnesium-rich and anti-oxidant-rich food in the world. It is also the most expensive. 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder has 27 mg of magnesium, and satisfying the institution’s low RDA of magnesium with raw cacao powder would cost 10-15$ per day.
Organic Turmeric Although turmeric root is hard to find, you can find it in health food stores specializing in organic produce. While most people find the taste overwhelming, research shows that turmeric is one of the healthiest foods we can eat! Perhaps one of the reasons is that it is the second most magnesium-rich food on the planet: a mere 100 grams of raw turmeric root contains 193 mg of magnesium!
Wild-caught seafood The best magnesium sources from sea food are those with low levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids: Cooked halibut (80mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), cooked Atlantic mackerel (73mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), cooked Atlantic pollock (64mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), and cooked Atlantic crab (47mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving).
Organic Ginger At 43 mg of magnesium for every 100 gram serving, ginger isn’t as rich as turmeric or cacao but it has the added benefit of aiding our digestion. Ginger has a powerful protein-digesting enzyme called xingybain making it a phenomenal addition at the end of any protein-laden meal. Its ability to increase our stomach acid during a meal is also a powerful aid in preventing bacterial overgrowth which otherwise prevents magnesium absorption.
Magnesium is by far a human being’s most vital substance. (Our Magnesium Basics series explains this in detail.) Due to the state of our modern food supply, and record levels of magnesium-draining environmental stress, magnesium supplementation is simply a necessity to maintain healthy magnesium levels.
Nevertheless it is critical to eat a magnesium-smart diet. The best way to do this is to:
Avoid: most nuts, beans, breads, pastas, grains, cereals, low quality dairy & fruit juices.
Consume: dark leafy greens, various potatoes, organic raw cacao powder, organic turmeric root, wild-caught seafood and organic ginger root.
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- Does widespread calcium supplementation pose cardiovascular risk? Yes: the potential risk is a concern. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23418770
- Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21505219
- Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22626900
- Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomised controlled trial. www.bmj.com/content/336/7638/262
Anything not referenced/cited here can be found on iMag Library (magnesiumhealth.org). This is our sister website that we created for you with all the scientific literature about magnesium and the human body.
(We assume no responsibility and/or credit for any of the graphics used in this post. All credit goes to the various and individual creators of graphic and visual content.)