When it comes to magnesium, most people might think of bananas as the go-to source, but there are a few unexpected heroes that blow this yellow fruit out of the water. But first, we’ll be unpacking a few reasons why you’ll want to be dosing up on magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral found in every cell in our bodies, with around 60% of our stores dedicated to our bones, and the remainder intended for muscles, tissues and blood. What this means, essentially, is that we can’t live without the stuff! It plays a vital role in regulating our nervous system, maintaining our DNA, converting food into energy and assisting with muscle health. Even though it plays such a vital role in our health, many of us are missing out on adequate levels of this nutrient, with true deficiency slated at around 2% of the population, though low magnesium levels affect a whopping 75% of us.
Magnesium doesn’t just play a massive role in physical health; it also happens to have critical importance in regulating mood and supporting healthy brain function. Low levels or deficiency in this nutrient have been associated with a higher risk for mood disorders like depression, with research showing these inadequate levels could leave you with a 22% higher risk for developing this debilitating condition. But it’s not just good for preventative measures, it may also reduce the severity of symptoms for the 6% of Aussies already struggling with depression. We’ve also got an arsenal of evidence supporting magnesium’s heart health benefits, with one study finding that it can aid in lowering high blood pressure – a known risk for heart disease. More promising yet, further research proves that a higher intake of magnesium slashes your chances of developing heart disease or stroke. If you’re still not convinced, consider the fact that this powerhouse nutrient has been found to help balance good and bad – HDL and LDL – cholesterol levels – and high LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. One study found that 53% of patients in an intensive cardiac care unit had dangerously low levels of magnesium, indicating that deficiency could be contributing to the increasing rates of heart-related diseases.
With that noted, let’s dive into the 5 unexpected foods that pack more magnesium than a banana.
Graphic by Grace Martin
Brace yourselves, because spinach is here to steal the spotlight when it comes to magnesium. Now, let's talk about bananas for a hot minute. Sure, they're a popular fruit and make for a convenient and tasty snack on the go. But did you know that when it comes to magnesium, bananas are just the tip of the iceberg? That's right, my friends – spinach is the real MVP when it comes to this mighty mineral! This green powerhouse is something of a superhero in the vegetable world – from iron to vitamin K and, of course, magnesium – there’s a reason Popeye practically lived on this stuff! Nutritionally dense would be an understatement – coming in at 160 mg per cup, spinach outmatches a large banana for magnesium by double.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that spinach is beyond versatile– you can toss it in a salad, sauté it with garlic, blend it into a smoothie, or stuff it into pasta shells. It's the ultimate team player, adding that glorious magnesium goodness to any dish with ease.
These humble seeds might not be the first on your list, but they’re surprisingly dense in nutrients for their small size – and not just in magnesium, but in protein, fibre and vitamin E. But back to the nutrient of the hour – sunflower seeds are the ultimate magnesium treasure trove, with a whopping 128 milligrams of magnesium per quarter cup. That's almost four times the amount of magnesium you'd find in a medium-sized banana! You can sprinkle them on salads, toss them in trail mix, blend them into a creamy butter, or just munch on them by the handful.
Move over, bananas, because almonds are here to steal the show! These tiny nuts are like the hidden gems of the nut world – just a quarter cup of almonds contains a whopping 105 milligrams of magnesium, which is more than double the amount you'd find in a medium-sized banana. But wait, there's more! Almonds are not just magnesium powerhouses; they're also loaded with other essential nutrients that make them a superstar in the snack world. They're rich in healthy fats, fibre, protein and antioxidants, meaning they support heart health, bone health, and even help with weight management. This tiny nut that packs a mighty punch!
You probably know that avocados are loaded with healthy fats for satiety, stable blood-sugars and long-lasting energy, but did you know these tasty powerhouses are also loaded with magnesium? Just one medium-sized avocado contains around 58 milligrams of magnesium, while a medium-sized banana only has about 32 milligrams. That's right – avocados have almost double the magnesium power of bananas!
This irresistible treat is something of a guilty pleasure for many – but we’ve got some nutrition facts that will make you feel a lot less guilty about indulging. Dark chocolate is actually a magnesium powerhouse that leaves bananas in the dust! Just 28 grams of dark chocolate with a high cocoa content can contain as much as 64 milligrams of magnesium, while a medium-sized banana only has about 32 milligrams. That means you can get double the magnesium goodness from a little square of dark chocolate compared to a banana. So, the next time you're craving something sweet, why not reach for a square of dark chocolate? Just be sure it’s of a high cacao percentage – we like to go for a minimum of 80%, but the higher you go, the more nutritious it is. It’s worth noting that dark chocolate is also a known mood booster. It's no secret that many people turn to chocolate when they're feeling down or stressed, and there's a scientific reason for it – dark chocolate contains compounds that can stimulate the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones in our brains.
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