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Discover the magic of magnesium

When I first started studying health and nutrition, my mind was completely blown by the amazingness of magnesium. I know you are not supposed to play favourites, but it quickly became mine and I began singing its praises to anyone who would listen.

Magnesium is involved in almost 400 enzymatic reactions in the body, but one of its best talents is its ability to relax your body. Due to its role in muscle relaxation, magnesium can alleviate any condition where there is tightening, cramping, irritability or stiffness.

Cravings for chocolate can often be a cry for magnesium from your body, and who are you to deny it?

We’ve all had that moment where the corner of the eye begins twitching and you feel as though everyone can see it, right? That can be a sign of magnesium deficiency. If you have leg cramping, muscle pain or PMS, magnesium is your friend.

Yet it’s not just a day spa for your muscles; magnesium is involved in nerve conduction, protein and DNA synthesis, immune function, energy production, blood sugar regulation and vascular health. This means that maintaining levels of magnesium in your body can be effective for issues such as migraine, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, vertigo and diabetes — to name a few.

So now you’ve decided you simply must have some magnesium right now, let me tell you all about the fabulous ways you can access this magical nutrient in your diet.

Magnesium in food

Green vegetables

It’s interesting that in colour therapy, green is the colour for relaxation and calm — which is exactly what green vegetables do for the body. In fact, chlorophyll, the compound that gives green vegies their colour, has magnesium as the central molecule. Minimal cooking will give you the most magnesium, so salads, juicing or blending your greens are fabulous choices.

Sea vegetables

Wakame, dulse, arame — these heavyweights of the mineral world pack a punch of magnesium. Add them to soups, salads and stews, or use them in cooking grains as I have done in my kids’ pasta recipe this issue. I love to use dulse flakes as they are so easy and quick to add to cooking. A word of advice: a little goes a long way with these babies.


The humble almond is a fantastic source of magnesium. Providing around 135mg per half cup, almonds are an easy, realistic and delicious way to boost your stores. Soaking your nuts will give you even greater access. Add them to your breakfast and your smoothies, toss them over dinner or eat them as a snack.


Buckwheat has a huge dose of magnesium and is also high in fibre, protein and iron. It can be eaten as dried groats, cooked as a cereal or milled into a flour to provide a distinctive taste to your cooking. I like to mix buckwheat groats in with my quinoa or rice and cook them together as they cook in the same amount of time, boosting the nutritional profile of grains.

Chickpeas (and other legumes)

Easy to incorporate into so many meals, chickpeas give you a wonderful dose of magnesium. Plus they make hummus, which, let’s face it, is one of the greatest culinary delights of our time! Ensure you prepare the legumes properly by first soaking, then cooking to improve the absorption. Add them to salads, soups and curries, or roast them for a delicious snack.

Blackstrap molasses

When I was studying, there were times when I felt that blackstrap molasses and tahini toast kept me alive. And is it any wonder, given the absolute powerhouse of nutrients this luscious black goo exudes. It has quite an intense flavour that pairs beautifully with ginger, so these days I prefer adding it to delicious treats to amp up the goodness.

Raw cacao

Cacao is the delicious powder made from cold-pressed, unroasted cocoa beans. It is particularly high in magnesium and has a fabulous antioxidant profile. It is also, obviously, used to make chocolate and any nutrient that legitimises the need to eat chocolate is a superhero in my book. The catch? It must be good quality. Dark is the only acceptable choice here, and your chocolate should be pure, minimally processed and without unnecessary additions. Cravings for chocolate can often be a cry for magnesium from your body, and who are you to deny it? If you haven’t used raw cacao before it’s so much fun for making treats and drinks, and adding to baking. Use as you would ordinary cocoa but, as with all things, moderation is key.

Magnesium needs

You need good gut health for proper absorption of magnesium. Those with digestive conditions will immediately have a greater need for magnesium because of their impaired absorption.

Prescribed medications such as corticosteroids, the oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics and diuretics all heartlessly rob our magnesium stores, while dietary saboteurs include alcohol in excess, soft drinks and coffee.

Prolonged stress, profuse sweating, pregnancy and lactation also increase the demand and, although these can’t necessarily be avoided, it’s good to be mindful that during these times your may need to focus on preserving your stores.

Finally, although not a food, bathing with Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) is an effective way to dose your body up on the good stuff. What a lovely prescription: a bath, a piece of dark chocolate and off to bed. Yes, please!

Meg Thompson

Meg Thompson

Meg Thompson is a practising naturopath, cook, mother, writer and passionate wholefood enthusiast based in Melbourne. Meg’s interest in health, food and the role of food as medicine has shaped her career and lifestyle. Following an early career in psychology and education, she completed studies in naturopathy, nutrition and herbal medicine and now runs a successful clinical practice. Meg works from a philosophy that food is much more than something to fill our bellies, but a source of nourishment, deliciousness, education, ritual and celebration, best shared with those we love.

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