6 Plant-Based Foods for Magnesium, Key for Muscle-Building, Sleep, and Energy
Magnesium may be your body's MVP mineral. It helps you build muscle, sleep better, regulate blood sugar, and function at your peak. Scientists have found that magnesium is key to every single cellular function in the body, including your circadian rhythms, which help regulate sleep and waking cycles. So if you're having trouble sleeping, lacking energy, or feeling sluggish, you may not be getting enough magnesium. Yet few of us pay attention to whether we are getting enough magnesium in our diets. Without it, we can suffer low energy and poor blood sugar control, which can lead to trouble losing weight.
"Magnesium is a mineral that your body uses in hundreds of processes, including protein creation, energy production, bone development, nerve signaling, and helping your heartbeat, as well as blood sugar control, and blood pressure regulation," says Megan Ostler, MS, RDN, and Director of iFit Nutrition, maker of plant-based, weight loss, and muscle-building meal replacements. Without magnesium, you simply can’t function at your peak levels, whether you're lacking energy, having trouble building muscle at the gym, or if you just want to support the fundamental processes that your body needs to function at your highest level.
The role of magnesium and your sleep and wake cycle has also been the subject of research, and in one 2018 study, scientists found that magnesium plays a key role in regulating your circadian rhythms. Poor quantity and quality of sleep, which manifests as "sleep disorder symptoms including daytime sleepiness, daytime falling asleep, and snoring at night" were all linked to getting enough magnesium.
"Recently, magnesium has also been found to regulate cellular timekeeping in both animal and plant cells, thus it is beneficial to maintain the normal circadian rhythms and ensure a quality sleep in humans," the study found. Yet another important body of research exists that shows magnesium plays a role in depression, and that one way to treat mild depression, is by supplementing with magnesium. "The association between magnesium intake and depression is well documented," according to the research.
For the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for your age range and gender, consult this chart from the National Institutes of Health. For adult men, the RDA hovers around 400-420 milligrams, and for adult women around 310-320 milligrams. (Pregnant and lactating women need slightly more.)
With plenty of delicious plant-based options to explore, it’s easy to incorporate magnesium-rich foods into your plant-based or plant-forward diet. Below, nutritionists weigh in on their favorite vegan magnesium foods — and what to do with them.
1. Pumpkin seeds
“One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 168 milligrams of magnesium,” says Megan Byrd, RD. “Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber and antioxidants, and can be sprinkled on salads or mixed into pasta.”
If you have a fresh pumpkin, we also love roasting them with savory spices like paprika and cumin or sweeter spices like cinnamon and turmeric for a satisfying snack.
“Spinach is a magnesium powerhouse. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 78 milligrams of magnesium,” states Allison Gregg, RDN, LD/N, a registered dietitian and a nutritional consultant at MomLovesBest.com. “Spinach is also rich in Vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting, and rich in iron which helps create Hemoglobin,” she continues, adding that hemoglobin helps bring oxygen to our tissues.
Try adding frozen spinach to your favorite plant-based lasagna recipe by layering it into the casserole dish or adding it to the vegan cheese mixture, suggests Gregg, who also enjoys tossing plenty of spinach into curry recipes. With the Super Bowl fast approaching, we’re also all about this vegan spinach artichoke dip.
3. Chia Seeds
Ostler shares that these seeds provide 111 milligrams of magnesium per ounce, along with more health-supportive properties like omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.
“These are easy to sprinkle on toast, oatmeal, and smoothies,” she adds. We also love slipping a tablespoon or two into our favorite vinaigrette recipe for an instant nutrition-boost. For more inspiration, check out 5 Genius Ways to Use Chia Seeds, According to Nutritionists.
A good source of magnesium, one avocado provides about 58 milligrams of magnesium, “not to mention they are good sources of fiber, healthy fat, and potassium,” says Leah Silberman, MS, RD, who consults for CORE Foods.
In addition to the ole avocado toast route, try adding a few slices of avocado to your next Buddha bowl or slipping a ½ an avocado into a smoothie recipe to help give the shake a rich, silky texture.
“One ounce of almonds contains about 80 milligrams of magnesium. Almonds are also really high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber,” offers Byrd. “Slivered almonds are great sprinkled on salads as well, and make a great substitute for pine nuts in basil pesto.”
We’re also big fans of this oil-free kale pesto made with kale, skinless almonds, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and salt.
6. Black Beans
“A half-cup of black beans will give you 60 milligrams of magnesium in addition to fiber and protein,” comments Ostler. “This complex carbohydrate is incredibly versatile and can be used as an additional protein source in salads, burritos, soups, chili, and tacos; or can be mashed and used as an egg substitute in baked goods.”
We’re sensing a taco night...tonight.