Magnesium & Diet (Master Page)

Eating for healthy magnesium levels is not as simple as eating all magnesium-rich foods:

Modern soil depletion, anti-nutrients, environmental toxins, calcium & iron fortification, stress levels and gut health are all important variables.

++ Page Overview

Humans can’t make magnesium. However getting enough from our diet is no longer so simple. This master page covers:

  1. Why our modern food now falls short of daily magnesium requirements. (including VIDEO)
  2. Which magnesium-rich foods have new environmental toxins, anti-nutrients, GMOs etc.
  3. Which magnesium-rich foods are safe and bioavailable sources of magnesium.
  4. A full chart of all magnesium-rich foods.

Using this page as a guide can have positive long-term health benefits. The chart of magnesium rich foods at the bottom is best understood after reading the information carefully.

++ Helpful tip

This page has a lot of powerful info to help you resolve your problems. 

If you’re busy or want to understand things better, please read each section’s quick summary.

1. Why our food no longer gives enough magnesium:

1. Magnesium depletion in soil and water

Humans and animals can only get magnesium from mineral water and plants, and both have depleted levels of magnesium. Our tap and bottled water is deficient in magnesium, and in the World Health Organization’s report this has been linked with heart disease.[1] Furthermore when we cook foods in this mineral-deficient water, it drains them of their magnesium content as well. [2]

As for our primary source of magnesium – whole foods – they get it from the soil they are grown in.  However in our modern world the industrialization of farming – including the prevalence of pesticide use and genetic crop modification – not only reduces our soil’s magnesium, but also reduces our plants’ and their roots’ ability to absorb magnesium from the soil. [3] This explains why over a decade ago meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products were all shown to have substantially less magnesium than in the 1940’s [4].

The farming practices that cause this mineral depletion continue to rise at alarming rates. As magnesium expert and author of The Magnesium Miracle Dr. Carolyn Dean explains[5]:

”A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams. People do need to supplement with magnesium.”

The trend is to increase nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil, without replenishing nutrients like magnesium. This poses several problems, one of them being that high phosphorous consumption can impair the gut’s magnesium absorption.[6-9]

It is also deceiving because as crops loose nutrients, they grow bigger and look fuller due to their increased carbohydrate and water content.[3] This poses another problem:

because the human body must use micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to process macro-nutrients (carbs, proteins and fats), these macro-rich yet micro-deficient foods are causing even greater mineral and magnesium depletion inside our bodies.

2. Organic is better – to an extent

While it has been shown that plants raised in organic soil are more nutrient-rich[3], there are still factors that make an organic diet fall short in providing enough magnesium.

One factor is crop density per surface area of soil. Each plant needs a specific amount of nutrient-rich soil in order to absorb a healthy amount of minerals. However organic certification regulations don’t include how densely crops are planted and thus how much soil each plant gets. [10] Rather they focus on crop rotation – which is still beneficial – however the guidelines for crop rotation are vague[11] and this raises another issue:

The requirements are that farms be checked once per year, which means that most of the year they are not actually being regulated. There is thus the notable concern of whether or not organic certifications are achieved honestly. While the best option is to buy your produce fresh from local farms, even then one can rarely be sure of exactly what farming practices are used.

Eating organic is the safer bet, however it’s not enough.

3. Calcium fortification depletes magnesium

Calcium is known to have an antagonistic relationship with magnesium in our bodies.[12,13] In fact, we need magnesium to put calcium into our bones and keep it out of our soft organs.

This means the more calcium we consume, the more magnesium we lose to calcium regulation and skeletal absorption.

This is important because recent reports show that our modern food supply is over-fortified with calcium[14], further compounding the problem of low magnesium levels in our body.

Due to magnesium’s central role in all major functions of the heart, and calcium’s damaging effects, it comes as no surprise that this rising dietary calcium-to-magnesium ratio coincides very closely with rising rates of cardiovascular disease.[15]

Simply put, increased levels of magnesium’s primary antagonist – calcium – makes it even more difficult to satisfy daily magnesium requirements from diet alone. A similar situation can be found with iron:

4. Iron overload, disease & magnesium loss

Iron is another mineral that is vital to our health yet very damaging when we consume too much, because it oxidizes and increases free-radical production which literally causes the rusting of our cells and organs.[16]  

This depletes our magnesium because we need magnesium for our body’s free-radical-fighting systems; namely the production of our two main anti-oxidants, glutathione and melatonin.[17-20]

This is a problem because the U.S., Canada and many other countries have made iron enrichment mandatory for flour, bread, pasta, rice and cereals. Even worse is that metal filings are used to achieve this!

These unnaturally high levels of iron in our food are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity[21-23]. These diseases just so happen to be lower in the countries that do not enrich their food with iron [24]. 

While dietary iron enrichment was mandated to help women with iron deficiency caused by menstruation, this entire theory has recently been proven false [25,26], and the consequences of dietary iron overload not only deplete our magnesium, but also lead to the free-radical damage in our bodies that causes major disease.

5. Stress & intestinal magnesium absorption

Iron fortification also impacts dietary magnesium absorption due to its negative effects on the microbiome of our intestine [27-29]the main place where our body absorbs magnesium from our diet.[30,31] It also affects the structure and immunity of the intestine and causes damage via inflammation.[32]

This presents a double-edged sword situation: If we absorb the excess iron, it damages our cells and organs and depletes our magnesium for its anti-inflammatory uses.  If the iron is not absorbed, it instead damages our gut directly and reduces magnesium absorption.

But iron fortification is not our only source of magnesium loss. Stress and inflammation in general go hand in hand with magnesium deficiency:

  1. All forms of stress directly deplete magnesium because the stress-response organs (adrenals) are magnesium dependent.
  2. Stress also directly causes inflammation, which depletes magnesium because the body’s anti-inflammatory systems are magnesium-dependent.
  3. Stress also specifically leads to inflammation and disease of our gut where magnesium is absorbed from diet. [33-36]

When we consider that stress is much more than just psychological, often present in unavoidable forms including Wifi, technology, and air pollution, it becomes clear that this prevalent source of magnesium depletion and magnesium absorption impairment makes it near impossible to get enough magnesium from diet alone.

Combined with the food supply’s nutrient depletion and simultaneous calcium & iron overload, this raises the need of our institutions to increase their recommendations of daily magnesium intake, which is exactly what the experts are saying.

This makes it even more important to know which magnesium-rich foods are actually good for us and which foods contain excess iron, calcium and various anti-nutrients and toxins which prevent magnesium absorption and cause damage to our bodies:

++ Summary

These facts combined make it near impossible to get enough magnesium from food:

Our only two sources of magnesium are food and water, and both are now heavily depleted.

Organic produce is better but still not enough to satisfy daily needs.

Massive calcium & iron fortification in our food deplete magnesium from our body and cause calcification and deterioration of organs.

All stress directly depletes magnesium & hinders its absorption. Environmental stress is at all-time highs.

2. Magnesium-rich foods to limit and avoid:

Wheat, grains & cereals

The most popular magnesium foods are grains, cereals and wheat products, which in today’s western world are heavily processed, fortified with iron, and often raised using genetically modified crops and harmful pesticides.

In fact, due to their harmful additives, eliminating these foods from our diet is one of the biggest steps we can take to achieve optimal health in the western world. 

Experts on Wheat

“The problem with gluten is far more serious than anyone ever imagined. Modern structurally modified, hybridized grains contain gluten that’s less tolerable than the gluten that was found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago.”

— Dr. David Perlmutter [45]

“This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and [acts like] a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more”

— Dr. Mark Hyman [46]

Harmful Processing

Besides harmful additives, they’re also treated with irradiation. In 1975, it was shown that irradiated foods fed to children caused abnormal cell formation and polyphoid lymph, [38]  which lowers immune strength, damages kidneys, and decreases growth and fertility. The study was stopped at 5 weeks to prevent further harm to the children.

Although the study was criticized because the subjects were a small group of malnourished children, a later study in 1987 done on healthy Chinese men found DNA damage from eating irradiated food.[39,40] Studies on different animal species including monkeys, rats, and mice also all found various harmful effects.[41-43]

In addition to increasing harmful polyphoid lymph in our bodies, wheat, grains, and cereals fall into a very large category of over 700 foods that lose substantially more than half of their nutrients when processed[44]:

  • Potassium 77%
  • Sodium 78%
  • Chromium 40%
  • Manganese 86%
  • Cobalt 89%
  • Zinc 78%
  • Copper 68%
  • Selenium 16%
  • Molybdenum 48%
  • Thiamine (B1) 77%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 80%
  • Niacin 81%
  • Pyridoxine (B6) 72%
  • Pantothenic acid 50%
  • Vitamin E 86%
  • Calcium 60%
  • Phosphorous 71%
  • Magnesium 84%

Here are the chemicals used in wheat & grain processing – which can be absorbed during the process:

Disulfoton (Di-syston), methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, diamba, andglyphosate, cyocel, chlorpyrifos-methyl, cy-fluthrin, malathion and pyrethrins, methyl bromide and phosphine-producing materials, and organophosphates. These products of wheat and grain farming have been associated with the following health effects[47]:

  • hormonal dysregulation, especially in teenagers
  • linked to hormone-dependant cancers
  • nervous system dysregulators
  • neurotoxins that kill brain cells
  • eye and skin corrosion
  • kidney damage
  • stunted child development
  • respiratory, speech and motor disturbances, and genetic damage
  • acetylcholine buildup causing lung paralysis and death

The more we look at wheat, grain and cereal consumption, the more it becomes clear that they do more harm than good if they are derived from modern industrialized farming practices. The healthiest and most trustworthy way to eat wheat and cereals is to harvest and/or sprout them ourselves, and various helpful guides can be found online.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds may seem healthy but they can be quite damaging in the kinds of quantities needed to satisfy magnesium requirements, due to their phytic acid, lectin, inflammatory omega 6, and mold content.

Phytic acid

Phytic acid is a chemical farmers apply to nuts and seeds to prevent them from sprouting too early. When we consume this phytic acid it binds to minerals like magnesium in our gut and prevents their absorption. Consuming large amounts of phytic acid can have negative health consequences and should be limited.

Lectins

Lectins are another anti-nutrient found in grains, legumes, nuts, dairy and nightshade plants. When lectins bind to carbohydrates, they cause fermentation in our gut. They also bind to our gut’s microvilli whose function is to absorb nutrients into our bloodstream. High lectin consumption can reduce magnesium absorption, and lead to a damaged and inflamed intestine.

Omega 6

Inflammation is at the root of most disease. Our body’s anti-inflammatory processes are magnesium-dependent. Most nuts and seeds contain high amounts of polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acids which are known to be inflammatory. The optimal ratio for human omega 6 to 3 consumption is 1:1, but the modern diet is between  15:1 and 17:1. Eating lots of nuts and seeds increases this imbalance, and depletes our magnesium levels.

Mold

Because nuts and seeds are high in fat, they are vulnerable to absorbing toxic mold from various stages of processing.

Which nuts are ok?

Pumpkin, sesame, flax, and sunflower seeds are all high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids, each with 20-30 grams per 100 grams, and their consumption should be limited.

Chestnuts and macadamia nuts are the lowest in phytic acid and omega 6 fats, while most other nuts have high amounts.

Soaking these nuts in salt water for 24 hours helps reduce the phytic acid, and dehydrating afterwards at low temperatures can prevent more mold growth.

Beans

In addition to hindering magnesium absorption with their high phytic acid and lectin content, beans also contain trypsin inhibitors which decrease our digestion of protein, vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Some beans (soy especially) contain phytoestrogens which mimic estrogen in our body, a hormone whose imbalance can increase female characteristics in men. Phytoestrogens are also linked with infertility, menstrual problems, breast cancer, and thyroid problems.

While sprouting, fermenting and cooking helps remove some phytic acid and lectin content, high bean consumption is not optimal and soy consumption should be limited and for some people avoided at all costs.

Salmon & the OMEGA 3 delusion

Salmon has more magnesium than any other fresh water fish and is touted for its health benefits due to its high omega 3 fatty acid content. However the research behind omega 3 being “essential” is not very convincing. A nutrient is “essential” if:

  1. A vital process needed for survival cannot function without the nutrient.
  2. Our body cannot synthesize the nutrient on its own.

No study has identified a vital process that the body cannot perform without omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, several health experts including Biology PhD Dr. Raymond Peat have written extensive and well-cited articles that show how omega 3 fatty acids have been touted as healthy by industry forces, when in reality they are associated with disorders of metabolism and thyroid, immunity, light sensitivity, cancer, and more.[48]

The research also reveals the true nature of the widely touted anti-inflammatory effects these fatty acids are most known for, and how it is a misleading concept.

Now we start to see why eating for healthy magnesium levels is not as simple as consuming magnesium-rich foods, because many of them have damaging substances that also deplete our magnesium. Below are the foods that are rich in magnesium and good for us:

++ Summary

The magnesium-rich foods in north america that have other toxins due to processing are bread, pasta, cereals, and any sources of wheat and grains. These foods should be avoided entirely.

Nuts and seeds have high amounts of inflammatory fats, mold, and anti-nutrients. They should only be eaten in small amounts, and soaking for 24 hours removes some toxins.

Beans contain similar antinutrients and hormone disruptors and should also be eaten sparingly.

3. Magnesium-rich foods to indulge in:

Please keep in mind that the amounts of magnesium (in mg) of the foods below, have not changed to reflect our soil’s/food’s magnesium depletion.

Here are the best sources of dietary magnesium:

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.

++ Summary

The safest magnesium-rich foods to eat are:

  • dark leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard and black dino kale
  • organic raw cacao powder & dark chocolate
  • organic turmeric root
  • wild-caught seafood such as halibut, mackerel, pollock and crab.
  • organic ginger root

The next section has a complete chart of these foods and their Mg amounts.

4. A complete list:

Below is a chart of the most magnesium-rich foods, sourced from Health Canada’s 2010 Canadian Nutrient File [49]. The foods that are italicized are the healthiest ones with the least amount of toxins and anti-nutrients highlighted in this article.

Ginger, turmeric, and cacao are not included as they are root/plant extracts and not conventional whole foods, however they are three of the healthiest and best natural sources of magnesium we recommend, especially given their numerous other health benefits.

Food  Serving Size  Magnesium (mg)
Vegetables and Fruits
Prickly pear  1 fruit  88
Spinach, cooked  125 mL (½ cup)  83
Swiss chard, cooked  125 mL (½ cup)  80
Tamarind  125 mL (½ cup)  58
Edamame/baby soy beans, cooked  125 mL (½ cup)  52
Potato, with skin, cooked  1 medium  47-52
Okra, cooked  125 mL (½ cup)  50
Grain Products
Cereals, All Bran  30 g (check product label for serving size)  94-111
Wheat germ cereal, toasted  30 g (¼ cup)  96
Quinoa, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup) 47
Milk and Alternatives
Cheese, soy  50 g (1½ oz)  114
Yogurt, soy  175 g (¾ cup)  70
Meats and Alternatives
Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)
Peas, black-eyed peas/cowpeas, cooked  175 mL (¾ cup)  121
Tempeh/fermented soy product, cooked  150 g (3/4 cup)  116
Soybeans, mature, cooked  175 mL (¾ cup)  109
Soy nuts  60 mL (¼ cup)  99
Beans (black, lima, navy, adzuki, white kidney, pinto, Great Northern, cranberry, chickpeas), cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 60-89
Tofu, prepared with magnesium chloride or calcium sulfate 150 g (¾ cup) 45-80
Baked beans, with pork, canned  175 mL (¾ cup)  64
Lentils, split peas, cooked  175 mL (¾ cup)  52
Nuts and Seeds
Pumpkin or squash seeds, without shell 60 mL (¼ cup)  317
Brazil nuts, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  133
Sunflower seed butter  30 mL (2 Tbsp)  120
Sunflower seeds, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  119
Almonds, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  88-109
Cashews, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  90
Pine nuts, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  70-86
Cashew butter  30 mL (2 Tbsp)  84
Flaxseeds  30 mL (2 Tbsp)  78
Sesame seeds  30 mL (2 Tbsp)  56-68
Peanuts, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  65
Chestnuts, without shell  100 grams  54
Macadamia nuts  100 grams  130
Hazelnuts, without shell  60 mL (¼ cup)  48-52
Fish and Seafood
Salmon, Chinook, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz)  92
Halibut, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz)  80
Mackerel, Atlantic, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz)  73
Pollock, Atlantic, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz)  64
Crab, Atlantic snow, cooked  75 g (2 ½ oz)  47
Meat and Poultry These foods contain very little of this nutrient.
Other
Yeast extract spread (marmite or vegemite) 30 mL (2 Tbsp) 66

Summary:

The nutrient quality of modern food supply

Our modern agricultural landscape is one where our food supply alone can no longer satisfy healthy magnesium levels due to the soils’ mineral depletion, use of hazardous chemicals, processing methods in industrialized farming, and the excessive fortification of calcium and iron into our foods. Eating organic does improve mineral content but not enough, and the concept of organic is not regulated sufficiently to where it can be fully trusted.

Which foods to eat, limit, and avoid:

The most popular magnesium-rich foods – wheat & grains – are the ones with the most toxins, GMOs and anti nutrients that prevent magnesium absorption and cause inflammation and hormone/metabolism dysfunction. The only way to consume these foods safely is to harvest them on your own from organic non-gmo seeds.

Nuts, seeds, beans and salmon, are often touted as healthy while actually doing more harm than good with their high levels of phytic acid, lectins, phytoestrogens, trypsin inhibitors and most importantly inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). The nuts with safer levels of PUFA are chestnuts and macadamia nuts, and even then should be soaked and dehydrated for 24 hours to remove anti-nutrients such as phytic acid.

The healthiest food choices for magnesium are organic dark leafy greens, pears, potatoes, organic dark chocolate or raw cacao powder, organic turmeric and ginger root, and several types of wild-caught non-oily fish including halibut, Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic pollock and Atlantic crab.

Conclusion

While eating a magnesium-smart diet improves our magnesium balance, the amount of magnesium-draining stress in our environments and its effect on our gut’s magnesium absorption means that supplementation is now essential to maintain healthy magnesium levels and resolve magnesium deficiency.

++ References
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  43. Genetic effects of feeding irradiated wheat to mice.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/990994
  44. Losses of vitamins and trace minerals resulting from processing and preservation of foods. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/24/5/562.extract
  45. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers. https://www.amazon.ca/Grain-Brain-Surprising-Sugar-Your-Killers/dp/031623480X
  46. The Blood Sugar Solution. https://www.amazon.ca/Blood-Sugar-Solution-UltraHealthy-Preventing/dp/031612737X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473888453&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+sugar+solution+hyman
  47. The Weston A. Price Foundation; Wheaty Indiscretions: What Happens to Wheat, from Seed to Storage. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/wheaty-indiscretions-what-happens-to-wheat-from-seed-to-storage/
  48. The Great Fish Oil Experiment. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/fishoil.shtml
  49. The Canadian Nutrient File. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php

Video References:

  1. Footage of Dr. Thomas Levy and Dr. Carolyn Dean courtesy of https://www.ihealthtube.com/.

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