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There are few minerals as versatile as magnesium, it being a vital co-factor nutrient for over 300 metabolic processes and physiological functions in the body. Because it’s such an important mineral, we need pretty high amounts just to maintain normal function, and stress and busy lifestyles further increase our requirements. It’s therefore extremely important to ensure that we have all the magnesium we need to live a healthy lifestyle, and incorporating magnesium rich foods can help us do this. Whilst magnesium may be taken in supplement form, it’s important to make sure that we get as much magnesium as possible from the food that we eat, by incorporating as many foods high in magnesium as possible into our daily meals. The NHS recommends we should be aiming for a daily intake of 300mg magnesium a day for men and 270mg a day for women, and magnesium rich foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, green leafy veg and wholegrains should form the cornerstone of a healthy food plan.

Benefits of magnesium rich foods

The minerals in our body work best when in balance with each other, with low or high levels of one mineral having the potential to throw levels of other minerals out. A particularly important role for magnesium is regulating electrolyte balance, along with the minerals calcium, potassium and sodium. The cells in the body need a balanced mineral content and incorporating magnesium rich foods into the diet helps to ensure this balance. Foods high in magnesium support essential electrolyte function, ensuring proper conduction of nerve impulses, heart rhythm and muscle contractions.

What foods are rich in magnesium?

In order to give our bodies the best possible chance of functioning optimally, it’s important to include foods high in magnesium in your daily diet. Examples of magnesium rich foods include spinach, wholegrains, Swiss chard, nuts, seeds, avocado, beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and oily fish, all of which can be easily incorporated into a weekly meal planner. It might even be a good idea to keep a magnesium rich food list pinned to your fridge to help prompt some ideas when planning your weekly shop.

Leafy greens (including spinach and Swiss chard)

Leafy green vegetables are a great source of nutrients and form an important part of a healthy diet. Vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli, kale, watercress and rocket have received a boost in popularity over recent years due to their elevation to superfood status. Known as a powerhouse vegetable, they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants, and are especially rich in magnesium. Spinach for example provides 24mg magnesium per 30g serving, and Swiss chard contains a similar amount with 29mg per 36g serving.

In addition to magnesium, leafy green veg are also rich in vitamins A & C, iron, potassium and calcium and adding a variety of greens to your diet may help boost brain health, heart and circulatory health, and protect against a host of degenerative diseases.

Leafy greens can be easily incorporated into your daily meals, and make a great addition to salads, pasta sauces, curries, omelettes and stir fries, or even served as a dish alongside to give your meals a nutritious boost.

Nuts & Seeds

Despite being tiny in size, nuts and seeds pack a nutritional punch when it comes to vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and fibre. Amongst the most rich in terms of magnesium are Brazil nuts and almonds, with 113mg and 80mg magnesium per 30g respectively. Cashews too are a good source, with 74mg per 30g. Nuts are an excellent source of protein and vitamin E too and can be combined together to make a tasty nut loaf or easily added to a stir fry or curry. Or why not make your own nut butter to spread onto a wholemeal slice or to liven up your breakfast bowl or smoothie first thing in the morning? Of course you can also enjoy nuts simply on their own as a snack, either raw or roasted, salted or unsalted.

Although smaller in size and less likely to be eaten in the same quantity as nuts, seeds also provide nutrients galore, including essential fatty acids, protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin seeds hit the top spot when it comes to magnesium levels, delivering an impressive 178mg per 30g. Trendy chia seeds provide around 111mg per 30g, while sesame and sunflower seeds are also good contenders providing 104mg and 98mg per 30g.

Seeds are easy to incorporate into your diet, with many being freely available as a snack, or sprinkled into salads, soups or cereals. Chia seeds for example are extremely versatile, and can be soaked and added to porridge, made into pudding, used in baked goods, or simply sprinkled on top of salads or yoghurt. Because of their ability to absorb liquid and form a gel, chia seeds can also be used to thicken sauces, or as an egg replacement.

You can of course benefit from the nutritional riches that nuts and seeds have to offer by combining them in a healthy homemade trail mix to help maintain energy and concentration levels between meals, especially during the afternoon slump.

Legumes & Pulses (including beans, lentils and chickpeas)

Legumes, pulses and beans are terms that are often used interchangeably, but you may have wondered what the difference is between them. Well, pulses are part of the legume family (an umbrella term meaning any plant that grows in a pod), but the term “pulse” refers only to the dry edible seed within the pod. Beans, lentils and chickpeas are therefore all types of pulse, which are in turn a type of legume.

Pulses are great for providing protein, starchy carbohydrate and fibre, and have a low Glycemic Index, so are great for keeping your blood sugar balanced and cholesterol levels healthy. They’re also naturally free from gluten and have an impressive list of important vitamins, such as B vitamins and folate, and are an excellent source of key minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. One of the richest sources of magnesium in the bean world is edamame, providing 148mg per cup/serving. Black beans meanwhile provide 120mg magnesium per cup/serving and kidney beans around 80mg.
Pulses are extremely versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Beans for example are perfect for stews or as a filling for burritos and quesadillas, whilst lentils can be easily turned into dahls and curries. Chickpeas, which provide approximately 79mg magnesium per serving, provide a tasty protein base for curries and tagines, or can be added to salads whole, or blended into a tasty houmous to be served on the side. They may also be combined with rice and other ingredients to create a fragrant and protein-rich pilaf.

Avocado

Having enjoyed many of the headlines in the nutrition world over recent years, avocados are deserving of their reputation as a nutritional powerhouse, being an excellent source of healthy fats and fibre as well as key nutrients such as magnesium, providing around 67mg magnesium per avocado.

Due to their recently-acquired status as a “superfood”, they’ve become a kitchen staple in many homes around the world and can be enjoyed on their own, in salads and poke bowls, mashed up on toast, as an accompaniment in guacamole, or due to their silky smooth texture, provide a great base for smoothies and shakes.

Wholegrains (including quinoa)

Incorporating whole instead of refined grains into your diet is known to be beneficial for health, providing important nutrients and fibre to help balance blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and keep cholesterol in balance.

Unlike refined grains, which have had the nutritious parts of the grain removed, wholegrains keep their nutritious elements intact and provide a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and antioxidants. Eating wholegrain bread can give you 23mg magnesium per slice compared with 3mg per slice of white bread. Similarly a portion of wholegrain rice provides 43mg of magnesium per 100g portion, compared with 12mg per 100g of white rice.

Although technically a seed rather than a grain, quinoa is often grouped along with other wholegrains and is well-known for being protein rich, but it also serves up a good amount of magnesium per portion, with 64mg magnesium per 100g. Add quinoa to salads and use as an accompaniment to main dishes instead of rice or pasta to get that extra magnesium boost.

Oily fish

Oily fish is exceptionally nutritious and is a great source of magnesium as well as essential fats, zinc and other nutrients, so why not try adding fish such as mackerel, salmon, or tuna to your menu to boost your overall magnesium intake? Mackerel is a good choice, providing 60mg magnesium per serving, while tuna provides around 42mg and salmon, 27mg. Serve whole with vegetables or salads, mince up into fish cakes, or create tasty dishes such as kedgeree, fish pie or fish curry to enjoy with friends or family.

Why you should incorporate magnesium rich foods into your diet

Foods high in magnesium really are easy to incorporate into your diet, you just need to know what to look for. Because of its importance for health, it’s really worth thinking about how you can start adding more magnesium rich foods into your daily meal plans, and although the magnesium rich food list given here is not exhaustive, it’s an excellent place to start. Add these foods into your weekly shop and before long you’ll be well on the way to reaching your optimal daily requirement and improving your heart function, brain health, sleep, energy levels, nervous function, blood sugar balance, and much much more.

Data sources: www.nutritionvalue.org and www.myfooddata.com

Zesty Lime Black Bean Dip

This zesty dip is delicious served with grilled salmon, steamed spinach and a side serving of quinoa topped with sprouted seeds for a mightily magnesium-rich meal!

You will need:

• 2 tins black beans, rinsed and drained
• 1 cup grated carrot
• ½ cup fresh lime juice (approx. 2 limes)
• ¼ cup chopped spring onions
• ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
• 1 teaspoon minced garlic
• Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:
1. Add the beans to a food processor and blend until smooth
2. In a separate bowl, combine together with the remaining ingredients, stirring well until nicely mixed
3. Leave to stand for half an hour
4. Serve this delicious dip topped with sprouted seeds alongside grilled salmon, steamed spinach and quinoa to really boost the magnesium content.

Spinach, Sweet Potato & Lentil Dhal

This nutritious, vegan one-pot is simple, tasty, comforting and filling.

You will need:

• 1 tbsp sesame oil
• 1 red onion, finely chopped
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
• 1 red chilli, finely chopped
• 1½ tsp ground turmeric
• 1½ tsp ground cumin
• 2 sweet potatoes (about 400g/14oz), cut into even chunks
• 250g red split lentils
• 600ml vegetable stock
• 80g bag of spinach
• 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal, to serve
• ½ small pack of Thai basil, leaves torn, to serve

Method:
1. Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a wide-based pan with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Add 1 finely chopped red onion and cook over a low heat for 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until softened.
3. Add 1 crushed garlic clove, a finely chopped thumb-sized piece of ginger and 1 finely chopped red chilli, cook for 1 min, then add 1½ tsp ground turmeric and 1½ tsp ground cumin and cook for 1 min more.
4. Turn up the heat to medium, add 2 sweet potatoes, cut into even chunks, and stir everything together so the potato is coated in the spice mixture.
5. Tip in 250g red split lentils, 600ml vegetable stock and some seasoning.
6. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20 mins until the lentils are tender and the potato is just holding its shape.
7. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then gently stir in the 80g spinach. Once wilted, top with the 4 diagonally sliced spring onions and ½ small pack torn basil leaves to serve.
8. Alternatively, allow to cool completely, then divide between airtight containers and store in the fridge for a healthy lunchbox

Source: www.bbcgoodfood.com

Tuna, Avocado & Quinoa Salad

A healthy meal packed with protein, healthy fats and magnesium perfect for light meals and lunchboxes.

You will need:

• 100g quinoa
• 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• juice 1 lemon
• ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
• 120g can tuna, drained
• 1 avocado, stoned, peeled and cut into chunks
• 200g cherry tomatoes on the vine, halved
• 50g feta, crumbled
• 50g baby spinach
• 2 tbsp mixed seeds, toasted

Method:
1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water. Tip into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins until the grains have swollen but still have some bite. Drain, then transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, in a jug, combine the oil, lemon juice and vinegar with some seasoning.
3. Once the quinoa has cooled, mix with the dressing and all the remaining ingredients and season. Divide between plates or lunchboxes.

Source: www.bbcgoodfood.com

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