Nutty nutrition: The importance of magnesium

Vitamins and minerals are essential to one’s health, but navigating which ones provide what benefits can be difficult to do. Statistics show that magnesium is a necessary vitamin for cardiovascular health and especially helps to keep the occurrence of a stroke at bay. If you are concerned with taking care of your ticker, consider eating more nuts and nut butters to get your daily dose of protein and magnesium.

A recent Globe and Mail article by registered dietitian Leslie Beck reports on a review of seven international studies that state that people who eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods such as peanuts, are significantly less likely to suffer a stroke. This study also reports that Canadians do not get enough magnesium and that when tested, those who consumed the recommended amount reduced their chances of having a stroke by eight per cent. (In Canada and the United States, men and women over 30 need 420 and 320 milligrams of magnesium respectively each day).

Simply including peanuts and peanut butter into one’s diet can contribute to the recommended amount of magnesium intake. As outlined in another Globe and Mail article by Leslie Beck, the monounsaturated fat, fibre and magnesium in peanut butter help the body use insulin. Eating peanut butter on a regular basis might also help reduce the risk of diabetes. A 2002 study of 84,000 American women found that those who included peanut butter in their diet at least five times a week were 21 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

The analysis, found in the February 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, outlines numerous health benefits associated with magnesium intake:

  • • Magnesium guards against unhealthy risk factors and helps maintain healthy blood pressure. A 2006 review of 12 randomized trials showed that magnesium lowered elevated blood pressure.
  • • Magnesium helps regulate blood sugar. A 2010 study reported that among 4,500 adults, those who consumed the most magnesium – 400 milligrams for every 2,000 calories – were 47 per cent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over the 20 year follow-up, compared with those whose diets provided only half as much.
  • • Higher magnesium intakes have been linked with lower levels of inflammation, a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • • A higher magnesium diet is also associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, particularly in men. Magnesium may work to ward off colon cancer by minimizing free radical damage, reducing the proliferation of colon cells and improving how the body uses insulin.

Need creative ways to add peanuts or peanut butter to your daily diet? Try these tips:

  • • Top your bananas and apples with peanut butter.
  • • Add some peanuts to your morning yogurt.
  • • Include peanut butter in your post-workout shake.
  • • Toss a handful of peanuts into your green salad.
  • • Spice your peanuts with your favourite flavours and enjoy a handful as a snack.

Source: Globe and Mail, January 17, 2012 and Globe and Mail, February 21, 2012