Many of us don’t eat enough foods high in magnesium, a mineral that plays a starring role in a number of chemical activities in our bodies. It helps maintain normal nerve and muscle functioning, keeps our blood circulating properly, and ensures strong bones. In addition, a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the risk of metabolic syndrome in women who got at least the recommended amount (320 milligrams (mg) a day; men need 420 mg/day) was at least 38 percent lower than the risk for women who didn't get enough. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes that includes excess abdominal fat and high blood pressure.
The mineral, which also eases PMS, asthma, and kidney stones, helps turn food into energy; without enough magnesium, your body’s cells have to struggle to generate the energy they need to function. And since it also aids in transmitting electrical impulses across nerves and muscles, without magnesium, muscles will cramp. Magnesium’s role in ensuring that the body uses calcium properly makes it vital for sturdy bones and teeth.
That all sounds good, but there's more. Eating foods high in magnesium may also help keep your blood pressure at healthy levels. Studies have found an inverse relationship between dietary magnesium and blood pressure. Also, research has linked magnesium intake to a reduced risk of stroke and preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). Plus, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a study showing that low levels of magnesium may increase your blood levels of C-reactive protein, one of the key markers of heart disease.
Foods high in magnesium aren't hard to come by. Good sources of magnesium (in addition to pumpkin seeds, which are packed with it) include whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, almonds, hazelnuts, navy, black, pinto, and lima beans, spinach, milk, avocados, bananas, broccoli, halibut, haddock, sweet potatoes and yogurt. So there are all sorts of ways to boost your magnesium intake; read on for some yummy Rodale Recipe Finder recipes that make it even easier.