Although magnesium is in many foods, research suggests that about half of Americans don’t consume enough of it in their diet. In other words, you may be unknowingly magnesium deficient, and that can be problematic since a magnesium deficiency can cause issues with muscle contraction, sleep, brain function, energy production, and may even increase your risk of death by heart disease.
But don’t panic just yet. With a few small diet tweaks, magnesium rich-foods can easily find their way into your meal plan.
Why Do Runners Need Magnesium?
Daily recommendations for magnesium are 320 milligrams for women and 420 milligrams for men. Since magnesium is mostly stored in the bones and tissue, it’s difficult to assess magnesium levels with a simple blood test. The best way to determine your magnesium status is to examine your dietary intake.
Magnesium is involved in energy metabolism and muscle contraction, which is important for runners, according to Chrissy Carroll, M.P.H., R.D.
“Because magnesium helps regulate muscle and nerve function, when runners don’t get sufficient amounts, it could boost excitability of your nerve endings, causing your muscles to twitch, spasm, or cramp,” says Angie Asche, M.S., R.D.
There’s also some speculation that getting enough magnesium into your diet may reduce exercise-induced inflammation, Carroll adds. As a matter of fact, some research suggests that supplementing with magnesium may increase athletic performance. (However, the jury is still out on this finding.)
Lastly, all runners know that a good night’s rest is vital. And research on the elderly suggests that magnesium supplements may increase sleep quality. Once again, more research is needed, but it’s worth adding any of these ten foods to your diet to catch more zzz’s.
10 Foods With Magnesium
To boost your magnesium intake without the use of supplements, add these foods into your go-to meals. All of the numbers below are pulled from USDA nutrient database, and percentages are calculated based on a 420-milligram (mg) RDA (recommended dietary allowance).
1. Pumpkin Seeds (74 mg per ½ cup)
This versatile seed makes a tasty snack, and it also adds crunch to a grain bowl or salad. “Pumpkin seeds have a great balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fats, making them a satisfying snack for taming the training hunger,” Carroll says. To elevate the flavor, toss pumpkin seeds in a tablespoon of oil and your favorite seasoning—such as chili powder and lime juice or cinnamon and sugar—and roast in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
2. Beet Greens (49 mg per ½ cup cooked)
“Runners love beets for their dietary nitrates, but the greens are an important addition to your diet too,” Carroll says. “They’re loaded with good nutrition, like 11 percent of the daily value for magnesium and about 14 percent of your potassium needs—more than a banana,” she adds. If you’ve never used beet greens before, try subbing them in for sautéed spinach or kale in any recipe.
3. Cashew Butter (66 mg per 2 tablespoons)
Switch up your nut butter game with magnesium-rich cashew butter. Just be sure to look for varieties that have just one or two ingredients—cashews and a touch of salt. Avoid any with added oils or sugars. “Dip an apple in it for a filling snack, or try it drizzled over pancakes for your post-long run recovery meal,” Carroll suggests.
4. Dried Prunes (71 mg per 1 cup)
Prunes are making a comeback, and rightfully so since this dried fruit is rich in magnesium and fiber. Plus, research advocates eating just five to six prunes per day to potentially prevent bone loss. Snack on dried prunes to promote regularity or add them to a salad for a hint of sweetness.
5. White Beans (61 mg per ½ cup)
Add a “meatless Monday” to your repertoire with these white beans for a significant serving of magnesium, fiber, and plant-based protein. They have a neutral flavor that can be puréed into a creamy dip or sauce, or they can be added to quesadillas, pasta, or salads.
6. Avocados (39 mg per 1 avocado)
We probably don’t have to twist your arm to top your postrun brunch with guac. By doing so, you’ll reap the magnesium benefits, plus get other nutrients such as healthy fats, Vitamin E, potassium, and antioxidants. “I love adding avocado to my salads, toast, or burrito bowls after a workout,” Asche says.
7. Almonds (77 mg per 1 ounce)
“Just a single serving of almonds contain nearly 20 percent of your daily magnesium,” Asche says. “This is one of my favorite snacks with a piece of fruit,” she adds. Not to mention that almonds pack a big nutritional punch in a small package, since they serve as a good source of unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, Vitamin E, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin.
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8. Chickpeas (35 mg per ½ cup cooked)
Throw a ½ cup of this extremely versatile and affordable protein into your meal. Magnesium-rich chickpeas serve as the base for hummus or falafel, and make a hearty addition to soups, salads, and even baked goods. And roasted, crunchy chickpeas are a delicious and healthy alternative to fried potato chips. “One of my favorite ways to eat chickpeas is in a simple curry with basmati rice,” Asche says.
9. Edamame (60 mg per 1 cup cooked)
This fun-to-eat sushi staple is a good source of magnesium to keep in your freezer. Plus, it boasts an impressive 18 grams of protein in one cup. Pop it in the microwave for one to two minutes to defrost, season with sea salt, and have a date night in.
10. Dark Chocolate (70%, 65 mg per 1 ounce)
Chocolate lovers can rejoice because a mere 1 ounce of dark chocolate has 15 percent of your daily magnesium needs. So go ahead and add a handful of dark chocolate chips to your trail mix—it does a body good.