Picture a fragrant plate of shrimp scampi over rice or a plate of bright green spinach topped with sliced almonds.
Mmm, I’m ready to dive in.
Why are we making you so hungry right now?
Because, according to a new analysis of seven studies, eating foods that are rich in magnesium may save you from having a stroke. That includes the foods mentioned above—and others that you might like even more…
A MIGHTY MINERAL
The researchers found seven published studies over the past 13 years that analyzed the link between magnesium and stroke risk in a total of 241,000 men and women from the US, Europe and Asia. All studies focused on magnesium intake from food. Researchers determined how many milligrams (mg) of magnesium participants consumed from their self-reports of foods they ate each day.
The results: Magnesium was clearly associated with reduced stroke risk. For every 100 mg of magnesium that study participants consumed each day, their risk for an ischemic (blood clot) stroke went down by about 9%. That’s a big drop in risk! And the studies’ risk estimates were adjusted for other factors that might affect stroke incidence—including diabetes, body mass index, physical activity levels, high blood pressure, alcohol consumption, age and smoking—so it really does seem to be the magnesium that does the trick.
How might magnesium contribute to such a significant drop in stroke risk? To help interpret what researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found in their review, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, we spoke with Roger Bonomo, MD, former director of the Stroke Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on stroke prevention.
Dr. Bonomo pointed out that prior research has indicated that magnesium reduces blood pressure and the risk for diabetes—two prominent risk factors for stroke.
What’s interesting is that among Americans studied, the average daily intake of magnesium from food was only 242 mg—that’s less than the 320 mg and 420 mg recommended for women and men, respectively, by the USDA. So even though magnesium appears to be a powerful way to fight off stroke, most Americans aren’t getting enough.
You might be wondering if the subjects in these studies were taking multivitamins that may have contained magnesium. Two of the seven studies adjusted for that, while the others didn’t. In other words, said Dr. Bonomo, taking a multivitamin might provide some magnesium, but it might not be enough. Check the bottle to see how much you’re getting in your multi…but you’ll want to eat magnesium-rich foods as well.
MORE MAGNESIUM, PLEASE!
Let’s recap: Consuming an additional 100 mg of magnesium a day may reduce your risk for stroke by 9%. And magnesium isn’t an expensive drug with side effects—it’s a natural mineral that’s already in many of the foods we eat. So what are you waiting for? Most of us, Dr. Bonomo said—especially those of us at high risk for stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes—would benefit from eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as…
- Pumpkin seeds (191 mg per ¼ cup)
- Almonds (160 mg per 2 oz.)
- Spinach (156 mg per cup)
- Cashews (148 mg per 2 oz.)
- White beans (134 mg per cup)
- Artichokes (97 mg per one large artichoke)
- Brown rice (84 mg per cup)
- Shrimp (39 mg per 4 oz.)
You can also supercharge your cooking with magnesium if you use oat bran (221 mg per cup) and buckwheat flour (301 mg per cup).
We asked Dr. Bonomo whether anyone should be concerned about overdosing on magnesium. “It’s hard to eat too much magnesium,” he said. “If we do, our kidneys excrete the extra through urine, so only those with kidney failure need to make sure they don’t consume too much.”