Are you getting enough magnesium? Stock up on these ingredients for more of this crucial mineral.
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Foods high in magnesium: Avocado, salmon, pumpkin seeds
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Magnesium may not be at the top of your list when thinking about your health. After all, even in the world of minerals, calcium and iron often take center stage, while magnesium gets relegated to the back burner. But it's time to recognize that magnesium is essential to staying healthy, balanced, and well-rested. 

"Magnesium plays a critical role in supporting and sustaining health and life," explains Kelly LeVeque, certified holistic nutritionist and best-selling author of Body Love and Body Love Everyday. "It's involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions, including energy production (ATP) protein synthesis, blood glucose management, blood pressure regulation, and nerve function." 

The body doesn't make magnesium on its own, so we need to ingest from outside sources. And according to LeVeque, despite magnesium's critical role in our overall health, many Americans are deficient in the mineral—about half of the U.S. population doesn't get enough. When it comes to how to actually up your magnesium, you may be aware of magnesium in supplement form (more on that later). But did you know it can be found naturally in a number of healthy, affordable, and accessible foods? Here are some of the best foods that are high in magnesium, the important role magnesium plays in overall health, and some delicious recipes to try for a magnesium boost.

Magnesium Health Benefits

One of the most well-known benefits of magnesium is the impact it can have on our stress levels and sleep quality. This is due to its ability to regulate GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the mind (hence magnesium's reputation as the "chill-out mineral"). "Magnesium acts on a similar pathway in your brain as antianxiety drugs, so it helps your body wind down and get into sleep mode," explains Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of Sugar Shock. Studies have tied higher magnesium intake to better and longer sleep, as well as shown links between low magnesium intake and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

"It's even more important to understand that magnesium is critical for maintaining vitamin D levels," LeVeque says. Research has found that magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, which means that you need adequate levels of magnesium to get vitamin D benefits, which include supporting a healthy immune system and maintaining healthy bones, among others.

Finally, as LeVeque mentioned earlier, magnesium is involved in myriad health functions as it's responsible for the functioning of over 300 enzymes in the human body and of the utmost importance in our cellular health. Magnesium is involved in everything from preventing cardiovascular disease to managing nerve pain and headaches.  

Should You Take a Supplement?

Since magnesium can't be produced by the body, you have to obtain the crucial mineral from external sources. And, according to LeVeque, magnesium levels are depleted in the body by everyday stress, making it extra important to replenish daily. So does that mean that you need to start swallowing magnesium supplements? Not necessarily. 

If you consult with your doctor and determine that you are deficient in magnesium, they may suggest supplementation to get your body back to its optimal state. If you do choose to supplement, it's important to know the difference between the various forms of magnesium on the market, LeVeque explains:

Magnesium citrate is the most bioavailable of the magnesium options (90 percent), so it supports raising blood serum magnesium levels the best. In higher doses, it can also treat constipation. 

Magnesium oxide isn't readily absorbed, so it's the fastest and most effective at treating constipation. 

Magnesium glycinate (or bisglycinate) is 80 percent bioavailable, elevating magnesium levels internally and supporting anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

For most others, however, simply making sure that your diet includes enough foods that are high in magnesium is enough. Starting with nutrition is always a good idea, especially since so many of the foods that are naturally full of magnesium are also packed with other fabulous macronutrients and micronutrients across the board. One excellent way to guarantee that the foods you're eating are meeting your magnesium quotas is to turn toward whole, plant-based foods. 

"Magnesium is found in numerous plant foods, like nuts, seeds, pulses, whole grains, dark chocolate, and leafy green veggies," Cassetty says. To get even more specific, here are the top eight foods that are high in magnesium. 

Foods That Are High Magnesium 

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A 1-ounce serving of these superstar seeds contains 168 milligrams of magnesium, getting you well on your way to your daily dose. Pumpkin seeds help with stress, sleep, and mood not only due to magnesium, but also tryptophan. Try sprinkling them on top of salads, smoothies, or blending into a seed butter.

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A 1-ounce serving of almonds provides 80 milligrams of magnesium, along with 6 grams of satiating protein. Opt for raw or dry-roasted nuts to avoid commonly used vegetable oils and excess sodium, which can lead to inflammation (and also cause your nuts to go rancid more quickly).

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Many leafy greens contain magnesium, and spinach tops the list at 78 milligrams per 1/2 cup serving of cooked leaves. You'll also be closer to hitting your daily quota of iron and vitamin A, making spinach one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Sautee spinach with garlic and a high-quality oil for a delectable side, fold them in an omelet, or throw a few handfuls into a smoothie for a barely detectable nutrient boost.

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Another excellent nut choice is the cashew, which boasts 74 milligrams of magnesium per 1-ounce serving. While slightly lower in protein than almonds, cashews also contain good amounts of heart-healthy unsaturated fats and a wide range of nutrients, including manganese and copper. Try using blended cashews in soups and dips for an unexpectedly creamy, dairy-free texture.

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As if you need another reason to love this green fruit, one medium avocado contains 58 milligrams of magnesium in addition to potassium and healthy monounsaturated fats. From grain bowls to desserts, there are endless ways to eat avocado on the regular. For a simple snack, drizzle half an avocado with a hint of olive oil and salt.

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Cacao just got sweeter! A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate offers 50 milligrams of magnesium, making it easy to justify that after-dinner square (or two). Choose chocolate with a minimum of 60 percent cacao to reap all the benefits, which also include high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.

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Not a fan of almond butter? No problem—everyone's first favorite nut butter packs 49 milligrams of magnesium per 2 tablespoons, as well as 8 grams of hunger-squashing protein. Try to avoid products with added oils (ideally, the only ingredient listed on the container should be peanuts).

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What can't this superfood do? A 3-ounce serving of Atlantic salmon has 26 milligrams of magnesium. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

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