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What's the Real Story on Magnesium?

By Sandy Schroeder

In the midst of popular "super pill" claims, let's take a closer look at magnesium and see if it really deserves to wear a cape -- or if it's even necessary to get it in a pill. Magnesium is sometimes promoted to boost energy, improve sleep or ease muscle tension, but Harvard Health doctors suggest thinking twice before opting for a magnesium supplement. (It's always best to check with your doctor before starting supplements.)

Healthy Diets Work Well

The doctors say most people get enough magnesium from a healthy diet. They also tell us magnesium is a mineral that involves more than 300 chemical body reactions. Nerves need it to send and receive messages. Muscles need it to contract. The immune system needs it to thrive, and the heart needs it to beat steadily.

Harvard Health says kidney problems, chronic digestive issues, alcoholism or celiac disease may require a magnesium supplement. See your doctor to determine what is needed when dealing with these issues.

Overall, to maintain a healthy magnesium level, Harvard doctors suggest getting this mineral from food, particularly high-fiber dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains and beans. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 420 milligrams (mg) per day. 

A quick look at the foods that are rich in magnesium could help shape your shopping list, and help to insure that this mineral turns up in meals and snacks at your house. Black beans, almonds, spinach, yogurt, peanut butter, and baked potatoes are regulars on my shopping list, along with avocadoes, salmon, chicken breast, carrots, and apples. Pick the ones that suit you and your family.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Magnesium-Rich Foods

  • Almonds, dry roasted, one ounce, 80 milligrams
  • Spinach, boiled, half cup, 78 milligrams
  • Cashews, dry roasted, one ounce, 74 milligrams
  • Peanuts, oil roasted, half cup, 63 milligrams
  • Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits, 61 milligrams
  • Soymilk, 1 cup, 61 milligrams
  • Black beans, half cup cooked, 60 milligrams
  • Edamame, shelled, cooked, half cup, 50 milligrams
  • Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons, 49 milligrams
  • Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices, 46 milligrams
  • Avocado cubed, 1 cup, 44 milligrams
  • Baked potato with skin, 3.5 ounces, 43 milligrams
  • Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 8 ounces, 42 milligrams
  • Rice, brown, cooked, half a cup, 41 milligrams
  • Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet, 36 milligrams
  • Kidney beans, canned, half cup, 35 milligrams
  • Banana, medium, 32 milligrams
  • Milk, 1 cup, 24-27 milligrams
  • Salmon, cooked, 3 ounces, 26 milligrams
  • Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces, 24 milligrams
  • Raisins, half cup, 23 milligrams
  • Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces, 22 milligrams
  • Beef, ground, 90 percent lean, broiled, 3 ounces, 20 milligrams
  • Broccoli, chopped, cooked, half cup, 12 milligrams
  • Rice, white, cooked, half cup, 10 milligrams
  • Apple, 1 medium, 9 milligrams
  • Carrot, 1 medium raw, 7 milligrams

As always, start with a visit to your doctor to determine what your magnesium needs are, and how they should be handled. Ask your doctor for a blood test to check for low magnesium levels.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Downers Grove, Ill.

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