Magnesium and Heart Health with Recipes

First, I am very excited about my new collaboration project with Lindsay, an old friend of mine who is a chef.  Lindsay has a blog over at The Traveling Zipperhead.  We recently reconnected over our shared gluten free-diets, and Lindsay also has an egg allergy just like my son.  Lindsay specializes in cooking gluten-free, allergy friendly meals.  We have decided to collaborate, and take on a specific topic (today magnesium and heart health) and I will explain the nutritional aspects of the subject, and Lindsay will create meals to go along with what we are discussing.  Today as we talk about the importance of magnesium to the heart, Lindsay has created several meals rich in magnesium to help get this important nutrient into our diet.  Lindsay and I hope to collaborate weekly on this project.  We are both very excited about this, and hope if you are excited as well you will share this with your friends and family members who may be interested!

Magnesium intake may be a commonly overlooked factor in developing heart disease and diabetes.  Magnesium is a mineral that is in every cell of our body, functions in many different ways, and is present in many different chemical reactions (2, 3, 4).  Low magnesium blood levels and dietary magnesium intake is thought to be a factor in developing heart disease and in sudden death from heart disease (along with low potassium) (7, 8, 9).  In fact, dietary magnesium appears to be a factor in the development of metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, abdominal fat, high cholesterol levels, and elevated blood sugar levels  (10).   Metabolic syndrome increases your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes in the future (13).  Researchers have recently discovered how magnesium is related to inflammation, and are hopeful that someday magnesium can be used to help regulate inflammation in many diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis, and liver disease (6).  

According to the USDA, only 43% of Americans are getting an adequate amount of magnesium from their diets (1).  Too little magnesium has also been implicated in migraines, stiff or tight muscles, cramps, calcification of joints, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, and asthma (3, 4, 5).  Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include heart arrhythmias, weak muscles, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and dizziness (3, 14).  Researchers at Harvard Medical School in 2003, concluded that a diet rich in magnesium would be beneficial for the general public and would help prevent Type II diabetes.  In this study, they found that magnesium supplements, like many other supplements, do not have the same effect as eating a diet rich in magnesium (12).  

So, which foods are rich in magnesium?  This is a list of some of the highest sources.

  • Greens (especially spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard greens)
  • Nuts (especially cashews and almonds)
  • Seeds (especially pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds)
  • Fish / Shellfish (especially halibut, tuna, scallops and shrimp)
  • Beans (especially soybeans, black beans, and navy beans)
  • Grains (especially brown rice, quinoa, millet, and spelt)
  • Other – Blackstrap molasses, green beans, tempeh, and strawberries

For a more complete list of magnesium rich foods see World’s Healthiest Foods page on magnesium.  

Lindsay’s magnesium rich recipes this week include halibut with Swiss chard, a waffle with flax seeds and blackstrap molasses, and a strawberry and spinach salad.  I just made the halibut with Swiss chard for dinner tonight, and the strawberry kiwi salsa was so yummy and went great with the Swiss chard and fish.   Jeremy (my husband) is not a Swiss chard lover, but he told me this was the best way he’s ever had it.  We will definitely be making this recipe again.  We had the strawberry and spinach salad with it and it too was tasty.  

Halibut with Swiss Chard

FindRecipe on Lindsay’s blog:

Besides being very high in magnesium, this recipe is also high in Vitamins A, C, K, B6, niacin, selenium, and phosphorous.  The fat in this recipe can be reduced by cooking with less oil and eating a smaller portion of fish, and more greens.  

halibut with swiss chard           



Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Recipe on Lindsay’s blog:

For a salad, at 8% this recipe contains a fair amount of magnesium.  (You may think 8% isn’t much but this was only 1 cup of spinach, eating spinach cooked would result in a higher concentration of magnesium because it cooks down so much).  This recipe is also high in  Vitamin A, C, K, and folate.  The fat in this recipe can be reduced by using less olive oil and thinning the dressing with part water instead. 

Spinach salad with strawberries and feta         NutritionLabel - strawberryspinach

 Waffle with Flax Seed and Blackstrap Molasses

Waffle with blackstrap molasses

Find the recipe here:

I am not going to do a full nutritional analysis of the waffle because I do not know what vitamins and minerals are in the waffle mix besides the Vitamin A, iron, Vitamin C, and calcium – the required vitamins and minerals on nutritional labels.   However, by making the waffle with a tablespoon of flaxseed (assuming you eat half of that) and serving it with a tablespoon of molasses, it has at least 16% of your magnesium required for the day, assuming the mix has none.  That is pretty good for breakfast!  

With just these three recipes, you receive 96% of the magnesium you need in one day, even without adding in lunch, snacks, and anything else you might eat with breakfast or dinner.   Getting plenty of magnesium is possible if the right foods are eaten.  

 Please note:  The nutrition information in these recipes are estimates only.  Actual nutrition information will vary depending on exactly how large your filet of fish is, how much oil you use, etc.  

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice, please do not take supplements without first speaking with your physician.  The information here is purely educational.


(1)    “Nutrient Intakes Percent of population 2 years old and over with adequate intakes based on average requirement”Community Nutrition Mapping Project. 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2012-02-11.





(6)    Case Western Reserve University (2012, October 9). Preterm labor powerhouse therapy offers promise for inflammatory diseases.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 19, 2013, from­/releases/2012/10/121009121159.htm










  1. […] am very excited to tell you about a collaboration I am now doing. My friend Stephanie over at 3SquareNutrition and I have decided to team up once a week to bring you tasty food with health benefits you can […]

  2. […] thought I would mention too, our posts on magnesium – the halibut and the salad would also work on the Mediterranean diet! […]

  3. […] Lindsay and I already talked about magnesium a few weeks ago.  Both magnesium and calcium are minerals that are essential in helping the body and muscles relax.  Being low on these minerals can cause sleep problems, including problems like restless leg syndrome.  Having trouble falling asleep initially can be a sign that you are low on calcium, while having trouble staying asleep can be a sign of low magnesium levels (4).  Muscle cramps may be another reason people have trouble sleeping, and again this is often due to low levels of magnesium.  You can find a list of foods containing magnesium in our post on magnesium.  Most people just think of dairy as having calcium, but there are many more foods that do including large amounts in greens: (spinach, kale, collards, turnip greens, arugula, etc.), oranges, fish (sardines, salmon with the bones left in), soy milk ( and tofu and soybeans), oatmeal, seeds (an ounce of sesame seeds has as much calcium as 1 cup of milk, sunflower seeds), almonds, broccoli, and molasses […]

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