Dr. Day is a cardiologist and Medical Director of Heart Rhythm Services at his practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowship in cardiology at Stanford University. He is board certified in Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology.
4 New Reasons Why You Need More Magnesium Foods
Up to 70% of Americans are magnesium deficient. A lack of magnesium may be the cause of your fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, heart problems, and possibly an early death. In this article, I share four new reasons why you need more magnesium foods.
Low Magnesium and Heart Problems: Katie’s Experience
Katie was a hard-charging super mom. By day she worked as an accountant and when she wasn’t at the accounting firm she was home caring for teenagers and aging parents. That is until she developed heart problems…
At first, it was just fatigue and occasional palpitations. If she rested for a minute, the palpitations quickly went away.
Over time, the palpitations stopped going away. Soon she was in to see me for a serious heart condition known as atrial fibrillation.
As part of her routine blood work, I noticed that her serum magnesium was 1.8 mg/dL. While not officially “low,” her magnesium level was certainly at the lower end of “normal.”
Knowing that a low serum magnesium is just the “tip of the iceberg,” as most magnesium is concentrated inside the bones and cells, I advised her to eat more magnesium foods like greens, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Upon hearing this, she said, “I don’t have time to eat healthy. I just grab a protein bar or a sandwich and eat it on the run.”
“Based on your lab tests,” I said, “your heart problems may be related to your diet. You need more magnesium foods if you want to treat your arrhythmia.”
Reluctantly, she agreed. At her next visit, her arrhythmia had improved. Without even trying, she also lost 10 pounds by replacing her bars and sandwiches with magnesium foods.
4 New Reasons Why You Need More Magnesium Foods
Based on a new study involving more than one million people, let me share four new reasons why you need more magnesium foods. As this study pooled together the results of 40 previously published studies on magnesium and health, you can feel pretty confident about the results.
The four main findings of this study are that people who eat a lot of magnesium foods can expect the following:
1. Live 10% longer for every 100 mg of magnesium eaten daily.
2. Heart Disease risk lowered by 22%.
3. Stroke risk down by 7%.
4. Diabetes risk lowered by 19%.
I need to emphasize that this study only looked at dietary magnesium. In other words, you can’t expect these same results from a pill. If you want all the benefits of this study, you must eat more magnesium foods.
What are magnesium foods?
While it is hard to remember which specific foods are high in magnesium when you at the grocery store, if you focus on greens, beans, nuts, and seeds you should be fine. While green vegetables are high in magnesium, spinach is literally “off the charts.” This is why I always eat a huge salad, which includes spinach, every day.
Beans, especially edamame and black beans, are also great magnesium foods. For seeds, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds are best for magnesium. When it comes to nuts, almonds, peanuts, and cashews are all great choices to boost your magnesium level.
What is the minimum amount of magnesium you need?
The recommended dietary allowance, or the bare minimum amount of magnesium you need, is 300 mg each day for women and 35o mg daily for men. For women that are pregnant or lactating, they need 450 mg daily.
How do you get an extra 100 mg and live 10% longer?
A key finding of this study was that for every extra 100 mg of magnesium you eat, you can live 10% longer. How do you get an extra 100 mg of magnesium in your diet? Here are 10 ways to easily get an extra 100 mg of magnesium.
1. Eat 2/3 cup of raw spinach
2. Eat 2/3 cup of Swiss chard
3. Eat 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
4. Eat 2/3 cup of edamame beans
5. Eat 1/5 cup of sesame seeds
6. Eat 3/4 cup of black beans
7. Eat 1/4 cup of cashews
8. Eat 1/4 cup of sesame seeds
9. Eat 1/2 cup of almonds
10. Eat 4 tablespoons of peanut butter (1/2 cup of peanuts)
An often overlooked source of magnesium comes from drinking water. Indeed, up to 10% of your magnesium may come from water.
When it comes to water, the “harder” the better. Hard water is mineral rich with lots of magnesium and calcium.
While hard water is “hard” on your home’s appliances and plumbing, it is great for your heart. Perhaps this explains why studies show that people who drink hard water are much less likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
While these are great ways to get an extra 100 mg of magnesium, my personal favorite is dark chocolate. Indeed, just 2.5 ounces of dark chocolate also packs 100 mg of magnesium! Could a magnesium deficiency be one reason why so many people crave dark chocolate?
Why is magnesium so important?
Magnesium plays a key role in more than 300 chemical reactions in your body. If you are low on magnesium then many of these reactions could go wrong.
Magnesium is also required for DNA and protein repair. Once again, if you are low, the DNA repair process could go awry and lead to future cancers.
In addition to keeping your cells working properly, magnesium also plays an essential role in keeping up your energy levels, preventing anxiety, optimizing muscle function, blood pressure regulation, diabetes prevention, arrhythmia prevention, etc.
What causes magnesium deficiency?
Why are 70% of Americans magnesium deficient? Besides not eating enough magnesium foods, there could be other things going on as well.
For example, people may not be absorbing magnesium. This is common for people taking acid reducing medications, like omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), or Nexium. Also, people with gastrointestinal conditions, significant alcohol consumption, diabetes, or advanced age may also have difficulties absorbing magnesium.
Other Benefits of Magnesium
While this study clearly linked magnesium foods to a longer life, less heart disease, less strokes, and less diabetes, other studies associate magnesium foods to many other health benefits. Here is just a short list of all the things that may get better by eating more magnesium foods.
1. Anxiety may get better.
2. Insomnia may go away.
3. Blood pressure normalizes.
4. Arrhythmias get better.
5. Less headaches.
6. ADHD gets better.
7. May prevent dementia.
8. Asthma is less bothersome.
9. Bones get stronger.
Can you get too much magnesium?
As long as your kidneys are functioning properly, it is incredibly difficult to overdose on magnesium from natural food sources. However, if you are supplementing with magnesium, then toxicity is always a risk.
In my 22-year career as a physician, I have yet to see a case of magnesium toxicity in someone with normally functioning kidneys who ate too many magnesium foods. In general, the person who gets in trouble with magnesium is either in kidney failure or is taking a lot of vitamins, laxatives, or supplements.
Take Home Message
The take away message of this article is that you are probably magnesium deficient. Eating more magnesium foods may help to resolve many health issues you may be facing.
How do you get enough magnesium in your diet? Do you drink hard water?
Please leave your thoughts and questions below. I’ll do my best to answer every question within 24 hours.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.