A Magnesium Primer – Part 2
Posted on March 15, 2013 by Morley Robbins
EATING HEALTHY IS IMPORTANT, BUT NOT ENOUGH!
Last time (therootcauseprotocol.com/a-magnesium-primer-part-1/) I introduced you to Magnesium, which I consider to be the most important nutrient for health, and one that is being completely ignored by mainstream media and conventional medicine. I also discussed some of the many important roles it plays in the body and shared some of its significant health benefits. (There are many more, and I’ll be sharing others in future articles).
Now let’s discuss the importance of diet when it comes to obtaining adequate levels of Magnesium—each and every day. Just as importantly, I want to show you why diet alone, no matter how healthily you eat, is simply not enough to meet all of your body’s Magnesium needs.
This is a crucial point to understand, so let me repeat it:
In today’s world, a healthy diet is not enough for you to achieve and maintain optimal health!
But a healthy diet of real, nutrient-dense food still remains a critical baseline.
Healthy Eating Guidelines for Obtaining Magnesium
One of the primary cornerstones to good health is a healthy diet. Everybody knows this, but in our society today very few people truly take it to heart, or even know where to begin. In fact, recent research has shown that “nearly the entire U.S. population” fails to meet the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for our body’s nutritional needs. (1) And the RDAs themselves are wholly inadequate to rely upon for optimal health, since they only measure the minimum amount of each nutrient needed to prevent disease, not the amounts that are necessary to create and maintain optimal health!
Obviously, to obtain Magnesium from our diet, we need to eat foods that contain it, especially those foods in which Magnesium is most concentrated. As I mentioned last time, Magnesium is a key component of chlorophyll, the equivalent in plants to blood in humans. Therefore, chlorophyll-rich, green foods are also good sources of Magnesium, especially foods like Swiss chard, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, kale, parsley, spinach asparagus, and broccoli.
Not all Magnesium-rich foods are green foods, of course. Here’s a list of other foods that are also high in magnesium:
- Almond butter
- Black beans
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brazil nuts
- Beets and beet greens
- Brown rice
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Navy beans
- Pinto beans
- Rice bran
Various seeds, such as flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, are also very rich in Magnesium, as are certain spices, including coriander, cumin, fennel, and parsley. Seaweed is among the best sources of Magnesium on the Planet. The Magnesium content of these foods and spices actually exceeds that of many of the green foods listed above.
It’s Not What You Eat That Counts, It’s What Your Body Is Able To Use (Absorb)
You might think that simply adding more of the above foods to your diet and eating them more regularly would be sufficient to ensure you are getting enough Magnesium. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
For one thing, research shows that most people suffer from some level of impaired digestion due to various factors ranging from digestive enzyme deficiencies, lack of sufficient stomach acid, insufficient diversity of gut flora, food allergies, and other gastrointestinal conditions. That means that your body is most likely unable to completely absorb and utilize the Magnesium (as well as other nutrients) it obtains from the foods you eat.
In fact, many people only absorb 25% or less of the nutrients that their diet supplies, and on average the absorption rate is not much better, ranging only from 40-60%. The remaining percentage of Magnesium and other nutrients that isn’t absorbed properly cannot be used by the body. Instead, the nutrients are eliminated each time that you go to the bathroom.
Other dietary factors can also significantly reduce how much Magnesium you obtain from your diet, even when you make it a point to eat well.
One of the most common is overcooking. Even a few minutes of lightly steaming vegetables can reduce the Magnesium content of vegetables, while other cooking methods, such as boiling and roasting, can destroy Magnesium content altogether. That’s why it is always a good idea to eat at least a portion of your vegetables uncooked.
Then there is the problem of various chemical substances that are also found in various Magnesium-rich foods. Two of the most troublesome are the classes of compounds known as phytates and oxalates. Both of these types of compounds are naturally-occurring in many vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes (beans). But not everything found within nature is good for you.
That is certainly true of these two chemical groups. Both phytates, which are found in grains and legumes, and oxalates, which are found in certain types of fruits and vegetables, bind up with Magnesium and other mineral nutrients, and, in the case of phytates, form toxic substances. This not only prevents Magnesium from being absorbed, but can also cause health problems and deplete your body’s energy levels as it is forced to divert some of its energy resources to eliminate the toxins these compounds form.
And, remember, as I also explained last time, without enough Magnesium, your body cannot produce enough Mg-ATP to fuel mitochondria, the energy factories to run all 100 trillion cells of our body. Fortunately, soaking grains and legumes overnight can minimize the harmful effects phytates can cause, but few people take the time to do that before they cook.
In some people, oxalates can build up as deposits in the kidney, causing kidney stones, kidney infection and other problems. Therefore, people who are prone to kidney stones are often advised to avoid or minimize eating foods high in oxalates, which include spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, and collard greens, as well as quinoa, cocoa and dark chocolate. Referring back to the food list above, you see that these foods are also high in magnesium.
Magnesium deficiency, coupled with a lack of Vitamin B6, is a known cause of kidney stone formation. Given that oxalates bind Magnesium and prevent it from being used by our bodies, you can see why regularly consuming foods rich in both Magnesium and oxalates can be a double-edged sword.
Both low- and high-protein diets, both of which are popular in the US today, can also interfere with your body’s ability to utilize Magnesium. Too little protein interferes with Magnesium absorption, while excess protein consumption causes your body’s Magnesium stores to be excreted.
Similarly, primarily consuming foods that are acid-forming, such as meats, poultry, fish, starches, sugars, simple carbs, and processed foods, as well as acidifying beverages like alcohol, soda and coffee, also depletes your body’s
Magnesium stores, since Magnesium, along with calcium and potassium, and the primary minerals your body uses to neutralize excess acid and prevent pH imbalance. The standard American diet is the epitome of a highly acidifying and unhealthy diet.
Other factors that interfere with Magnesium absorption are high salt and high fat intake, both of which are also quite common in the US.
Our Nation’s Food Production Method Is Also A Major Issue
Perhaps the biggest factor that explains why even the most conscientious eaters fail to obtain enough Magnesium, no matter how healthy they try to eat is this:
Thanks to nearly a century of commercial farming methods, the mineral content of our nation’s soil crops has been all but destroyed, and we are also being poisoned by the commercial meat, poultry, fish and dairy industries!
Modern day farming methods have severely depleted our soil’s mineral content, both by abandoning the centuries-old practice of spreading rock dust, crop rotation from growing season to growing season, and most especially by dumping untold tons of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other unnatural substances into the soil to boost production. As if that isn’t enough, by the time fruits and vegetables reach the marketplace, they are usually laced with preservatives and other synthetic additives.
The steady decline of the nutritional value of US farmland has steadily declined since the early 20th century. This fact was confirmed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, who investigated the effects of modern farming methods on the nutritional values of over 40 vegetables, along with melons and strawberries. By examining data of the crops grown in 1950 compared to the same crops grown in 1999, they found that overall the nutritional content of the 1950s foods were as much as 38 percent higher than that of the 1999 crops.
Commenting on the study, lead investigator Dr. Donald Davis wrote, “We conclude that the most likely explanation was changes in cultivated varieties used today compared to fifty years ago…Perhaps more worrisome, would be declines in nutrients we could not study because they were not reported in 1950—magnesium, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and dietary fiber, not to mention phytochemicals [emphasis added].” (2) Overall, the mineral content of today’s US farmland is estimated to be one-sixth of what it was in the 1950s, due almost entirely due to commercial farming methods. (3)
The important point to remember about this is:
Depleted mineral supplies in cropland means reduced levels of all nutrients in the crops that are grown on that land.
Similar problems exist in the commercial meat, poultry, and dairy industries, as well. The foods produced by these industries are derived animals that are given unhealthy injections of growth hormones, as well as antibiotics to counteract the very unsanitary conditions in which the animals are raised. And once the animals are slaughtered, the foods are often irradiated. Antibiotics, along with food dyes, are also used in the harvesting of “farm-raised” fish. All of these practices are extremely unhealthy, despite industry claims to the contrary, and is today being further exacerbated by the growing use of genetically modified “Frankenfoods,” for which no long-term human safety studies have ever been conducted.
Fortunately, there is a growing trend towards organic farming and healthier methods for producing meats, poultry, fish and dairy foods.
Remember, we are what we eat, eats!
But as a nation we still have a long way to go before we can expect to have foods available to us that are as nutrient-rich as the foods are ancestors ate.
All of the above facts should make clear to you why, important though it most certainly is, a healthy diet alone is not enough to ensure that your body is getting enough Magnesium each and every day. And, believe it or not, there are a number of other common factors that deplete Magnesium and which most certainly affect you on a regular basis, including another biggie—stress! Check back soon as I talk about that and tell you what you can do about it.
In the meantime, be sure to supplement your diet with Magnesium supplements each and every day! I’ll share more about how to use them soon, as well.
To your health!
- Krebs-Smith. SM. Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations. J of Nutr., Vol. 140, 2010 Oct (140):1832. doi:10.3945/jn.110.124826
- Davis DR, et al. Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. J Amer Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec; 23(6): 669-682.
- Trivieri, Larry Jr. The American Holistic Medical Association Guide to Holistic Health. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999; p.43.