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The Magic of Magnesium & 5 Magnesium Rich Recipes

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Magnesium has been quite the talk of the town lately! If it's not around your town, I think it should be! Many of my clients and personal friends have been healing fatigue, muscle cramps, sleepless nights, and even stress and anxiety with this magical mineral.

Magnesium is the ninth most abundant element in the universe and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. In the human body, it's the fourth most abundant mineral, following calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.

This mineral is essential for the proper functioning of nearly every organ and system in your body, including your heart, muscles, and kidneys.

Girl picking dark leafy greens from her garden, which are full of magnesium.

The Health Benefits of Magnesium

1. Muscle Magic: Magnesium is a key player in the dance of muscle contraction & relaxation. This process is fundamental for performing physical activities, whether it's something as simple as picking up a pen or as complex as running a marathon.

  • Contraction: When your brain signals your muscles to contract (such as when you're lifting a weight or taking a step), it initiates a chain reaction involving calcium ions. Calcium binds to specific proteins within muscle cells, causing them to contract by generating force.

  • Relaxation: After a muscle has contracted, it must relax to return to its original length. This process is equally important to prevent muscles from remaining in a contracted state. Magnesium acts as a natural calcium antagonist, meaning it competes with calcium for binding sites on proteins within the muscle cells. When magnesium displaces calcium from these binding sites, it facilitates muscle relaxation by reducing the force of contraction.

The Importance of Magnesium for Athletes: Athletes and individuals engaged in regular physical activity have a heightened need for magnesium due to the increased stress placed on their muscles. Adequate magnesium intake can help athletes perform at their best by ensuring their muscles contract and relax optimally, reducing the risk of injuries and muscle-related discomfort.

2. Bone Brilliance: Strong bones are the backbone of a healthy life, and magnesium helps fortify them by enhancing calcium absorption and regulating bone density. Beyond its role in preventing osteoporosis, magnesium supports overall bone integrity. It ensures that bones remain resilient, less susceptible to fractures, and capable of withstanding the everyday stresses they encounter.

  • Calcium Absorption: Magnesium activates an enzyme necessary for converting vitamin D into its active form, calcitriol, which is vital for calcium absorption in the intestines. Without adequate magnesium, calcium absorption can be compromised, regardless of how much calcium you consume in your diet or through supplements.

  • Bone Density Regulation: Magnesium isn't only about getting calcium into your bones; it's also involved in maintaining the proper balance of minerals within your bone tissue. Bones are dynamic structures, constantly undergoing a process called "bone remodeling." This process involves the breakdown of old bone tissue (resorption) and the formation of new bone tissue (ossification). Magnesium helps regulate this balance by influencing the activity of osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation) and osteoclasts (cells responsible for bone resorption). This ensures that bones remain strong and dense.

3. Heart's Best Friend: A hearty shoutout to magnesium for keeping our cardiovascular system in top-notch condition. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure and rhythm while reducing the risk of heart disease. Magnesium's role in maintaining healthy blood vessels, reducing inflammation, and controlling blood pressure contributes to a lower risk of heart disease.

  • Blood Pressure Regulation: Magnesium is often referred to as the "natural calcium channel blocker" due to its ability to relax and dilate blood vessels. When magnesium levels are sufficient, it helps keep blood vessel walls flexible, allowing them to expand and contract smoothly. This relaxation effect helps lower blood pressure, reducing the strain on the heart and the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure).

  • Rhythm Maintenance: The heart's electrical activity, responsible for maintaining a regular heartbeat, relies on the balance of electrolytes, including magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate the flow of potassium and calcium ions across cardiac cell membranes, ensuring proper electrical signals for heartbeat initiation and rhythm maintenance. Adequate magnesium levels can help prevent arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), which can be life-threatening.

4. Energy Enchantment: Magnesium is the wizard behind the curtain in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body, including those responsible for energy production. When magnesium levels are optimal, your body is better equipped to produce the energy needed to carry out daily activities, both physical and mental. As a result, you are less likely to experience fatigue, both physically and mentally. This means you can stay alert and active throughout the day.

  • ATP Production: Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is often referred to as the "energy currency" of the body. It's the molecule that provides the energy needed for all cellular functions. Magnesium is a key player in the conversion of food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) into ATP through a process called oxidative phosphorylation.

In essence, magnesium helps unlock the energy stored in the food you eat and makes it available for your cells to use.
  • Muscular Energy: For muscles to contract and move, they require a steady supply of ATP. Muscles under stress, such as those used during exercise or physical activity, have a higher demand for ATP. Magnesium ensures this demand is met by facilitating energy production in muscle cells.

  • Nervous System Energy: Your nervous system, including your brain, also relies on ATP to transmit signals and function correctly. Magnesium supports the nervous system by ensuring an adequate energy supply for various neural processes, including neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve impulse transmission.

Cat sleeping in a white blanket, thanks to magnesium

5. Calm in the Storm: Stress and sleepless nights beware! Magnesium has a soothing effect on the nervous system, making it your ultimate ally for stress management and improved sleep quality.

  • Stress Management: When you're under stress, your body's fight-or-flight response can become overactive, leading to heightened anxiety and tension. Magnesium helps modulate this stress response by regulating the release of stress hormones like cortisol. It promotes a more balanced, calm state of mind.

  • Muscle Relaxation: Stress often manifests physically as muscle tension and stiffness. Magnesium plays a crucial role in muscle relaxation, helping to ease the physical symptoms of stress. It acts as a natural calcium antagonist, counterbalancing the calcium ions responsible for muscle contraction. This relaxation effect can alleviate muscle tightness and discomfort associated with stress.

  • Sleep Quality Improvement: Adequate magnesium levels support healthy sleep patterns by promoting relaxation and reducing sleep disturbances. Magnesium enhances the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the brain. This can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy more restorative sleep.

  • Anxiety Reduction: Anxiety often goes hand in hand with stress. Magnesium's calming influence on the nervous system can reduce feelings of anxiety and restlessness.


Magnesium-Rich Recipes:

Magnesium is found naturally in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and kale), nuts (like almonds and cashews), seeds (like pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds), whole grains (such as brown rice and quinoa), legumes (like black beans and lentils), and some fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel).


Magnificent Magnesium Smoothie (The Raw Blend):

A magnesium rich smoothie, on a wooden table.
  • 1 medium banana (peeled)

  • 1 cup almond milk

  • 1 cup berries of choice (blackberries or raspberries)

  • 2 Tbsp almond butter

  • 2 Tbsp raw cacao powder

  • Pinch salt

  • 1 cup ice

Get the recipe here.


Herbed Quinoa & Chickpea Salad (Cookie and Kate):

bowl of quinoa salad with kale and chickpeas for magnesium

  • 1 cup quinoa

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas

  • 1 ½ cups roughly chopped baby spinach

  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (or additional parsley)

  • ⅓ cup chopped green onion (green parts only)

  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta

  • ⅓ cup toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

Get the recipe here.


Lemon & Avocado Kale Salad (The Toasted Pine Nut):

Bowl of kale salad with pine nuts for magnesium
  • 2 cups kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped

  • 1/2 – 1 lemon, juiced and strained (amount depends on size and juiciness)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 ripe avocados

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Get the recipe here.


Orange Cashew Black Rice Salad (Marisa Moore)

A bowl of black rice with mandarin slices for magnesium

  • 2 cups black rice

  • 2¾ cups mushroom broth

  • 3 navel oranges

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice

  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • ½ cup finely diced red onion

  • ½ cup roasted cashew halves

  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

  • coarse salt and pepper to taste

  • optional garnish: chopped green onions

Get the recipe here.


Tempeh Stir Fry w/ Peanut Ginger Sauce (Jessica in the Kitchen)

a bowl of a tempeh stir fry with rice and broccoli for magnesium

  • 8 ounces tempeh, cut into 1" cubes

  • Pinch sea salt and pepper

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or sesame oil

  • 2 168g heads of broccoli, large stem removed and chopped

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and julienned

Get the recipe here.


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