Anxiety and stress are seemingly becoming more and more common. Luckily, there could be a simple way to help alleviate this without pumping your body full of prescription meds. That’s not to say that prescription medications aren’t sometimes useful, but they’re very expensive and often have unwanted side effects.
Magnesium is known as the ‘original chill pill’. It plays an important part in biochemical reactions throughout the human body, including those related to anxiety and stress. Dietary surveys of people in the United States consistently show that intakes of magnesium are lower than recommended amounts. Since the end of the Second World War, reported levels of anxiety have risen alarmingly. This corresponds with the low rates of magnesium. You may think that this is a coincidence, but scientists have found a demonstrable link between the two. It is even possible to cause lab animals to display anxiety by depriving them of magnesium. (1, 2, 3, 4)
In 1968, scientists named Wacker and Parisi reported that magnesium deficiency could cause depression, behavioral disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability. They also found that these were all reversible with magnesium repletion. (5)
Magnesium and GABA
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the brain’s main calming neurotransmitter. When you don’t have enough magnesium, your GABA levels will drop, causing your brain to stay in the ‘on’ position. This can cause you to be constantly worried about things and unable to relax, increasing your stress levels. (6, 7)
Studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with anxiety and stress and can effectively lower rates of anxiety related symptoms. (8, 9) You can even get topical magnesium for a fast-acting application that bypasses the digestive system.
Magnesium Rich Foods
If taking a supplement isn’t for you, why not try increasing the amount you get in your diet? In general, foods containing dietary fiber provide magnesium, but some foods, such as certain breakfast cereals, have magnesium and other nutrients specially added to them. Since many people have a magnesium deficiency, it’s worth making a mental note of some magnesium-rich foods.
Nuts & Seeds
Some nuts, like almonds, cashews, and peanuts can give you up to 20% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of magnesium in just 1 ounce of nuts in addition to being full of heart-friendly healthy fatty acids and a highly filling snack. One ounce of pumpkin seeds provides a whopping 37% of the RDI for magnesium. (10)
Spinach is basically a superfood when it comes to almost every nutrient it contains, and for magnesium, it’s no exception. With just half a cup providing you with a massive 20% of your RDI, it’s a very easy way to include more magnesium in your diet. (10)
One single medium banana contains up to 8% of your RDI for magnesium. Apples only contain around 2%, but grab one of each for a decent 10% chunk from an also extremely healthy snack. (10)
Meat & Fish
Not all fish contain magnesium but 3 ounces of halibut or salmon contain up to 7% of your RDI. Chicken breasts and ground lean beef contain 6% and 5% respectively, per 3 ounces. (10)
Have two shredded wheat with a cup of soy milk for breakfast and you’ve hit 30% of your recommended daily magnesium. This can be before the caffeine from your morning coffee has even hit you. At 15% of the RDI each, this breakfast is a fantastic start to the day. Add half a cup of raisins for a tasty treat and top it up to 36%.
Rice and other grains also contain a high level of magnesium. Unfortunately, some types of food processing, such as refining grains in ways that remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran, lower magnesium content substantially. You should always try to choose the less processed version. For example, half a cup of cooked white rice contains 3% of your RDI of magnesium, whereas the brown version contains almost 4 times that amount, coming in at 11% for the same quantity. (10)