Cooking Magnesium Rich Foods

Steamed spinach losing magnesium

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There is always the question of whether cooking causes the loss of magnesium in otherwise high magnesium foods. The answer would appear to be, “sometimes.” While many assume that there cannot be any loss as long as the cooking liquid is preserved and consumed (as with soup), and because magnesium is a mineral that cannot be broken downs so easily, there are some exceptions.

Michigan State University has conducted research that suggests the following:

The impact of cooking and processing on magnesium can vary greatly from food to food, since magnesium is found in different forms in different types of food. In some foods, where a greater percent of magnesium is found in water-soluble form, blanching (boiling or steaming for one to four minutes), steaming, or boiling of these foods can result in a substantial loss of magnesium. For example, about one third of the magnesium is lost in spinach after blanching. Similarly, when navy beans are cooked, they lose 65 percent of their magnesium.

In other foods that are rich in magnesium, like almonds or peanuts, there is very little loss of magnesium either from roasting or from processing into almond or peanut butter (as long as the whole almond or peanut is used).

Note that the above includes steaming. When the magnesium is in a water soluble form, it can disappear with the steam. Even with a lid on the pot, steam will escape, though at least some of it can be retained that way. Whether navy beans lose 65% of their magnesium when they are covered or not is something I could not find the answer to. Yet, it seems wise to assume there is some loss.

Spinach is more complicated. Raw spinach contains many phytates and oxalates. While phytates and oxalates are good for you in several ways, they also have the unfortunate effect of inhibiting magnesium absorption. Cooking spinach greatly reduces the phytates and oxalates, but it also reduces the other nutrients, and much magnesium is lost with the water or steam. The million dollar question is whether you lose more magnesium in the cooking than you would from the inhibiting effect of the phytates and oxalates. Such calculations make my head hurt, so I decide by choosing whether I prefer my spinach cooked or raw for each particular meal – and let nature sort it out. It never hurts to have a little variety in your diet.

None of this gives us any strong reason to cook or not cook our foods, but it is good to keep in mind. If you are trying to increase your magnesium levels, try to trap all the steam you can when cooking. If you can’t, just make up for it by eating more magnesium foods elsewhere.

"Please, no! My doctor tells me my magnesium levels are too low as it is!" - Image from



Magnesium and Migraines

Magnesium and migraines supplementsMagnesium and migraines have recently been revealed as closely related, and this may mean that there is a simple, inexpensive and effective home treatment for migraine sufferers. Don’t expect your neighborhood neurologist to tell you this, but those who are more open minded about treatment will.

Numerous studies have been conducted (see a list of a few at the end of this article), and in all they present strong evidence that increased magnesium intake (even with supplements) can be very effective in reducing or curing migraines. Even the USDA has climbed on the bandwagon, and suggested increased daily intake of food high in magnesium or, if needed, magnesium supplements. The USDA reports says:

Epidemiological findings and supplementation trials show that people’s magnesium status is associated with the severity and frequency of migraine headaches… controlled human studies at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center (GFHNRC) and elsewhere are being done to conclusively show that inadequate magnesium intake can result in these maladies.

I added the bolded phrase. Whatever the cause, inadequate magnesium has been correlated with migraines. We already know that migraines cause stress, and that stress can reduce the magnesium levels in the human body, but several studies go beyond this to show that additional magnesium in food or via supplements can be the solution for many migraine sufferers. The same report goes on to say “magnesium supplementation reduces the number and duration of migraines, including menstrual migraines, in some people.” It further suggests that “too little magnesium can worsen the suffering from migraine headaches.”

There is strong evidence that magnesium helps stabilize the blood vessels, preventing capillary and muscle spasms.

One double-blind study revealed regular use of magnesium helps to prevent migraine headaches. The subject group of patients with recurrent migraines were given either 600 mg of magnesium each day or a placebo. The magnesium group’s migraines were reduced by 41.6%, compared to a reduction of 15.8% in the placebo group. Other double-blind studies have shown similar results. One study found no benefit, but has since been criticized on many significant points, including using an excessively strict definition of what constitutes a benefit.

The patients group at relates the following with regards to dosage and types of magnesium to use. Note that magnesium rich water is suggested, and more information is available about those at our magnesium water page.

A Canadian approach suggested that physicians advise migraine patients to consume at least 6 mg magnesium per day for each kilogram of body weight. An even higher intake of 10 mg/day per Kg of body weight may be desirable provided that it does not trigger a laxative effect. Breaking the dosage into three or four parts taken at different times of day helps prevent laxative effect. Magnesium hydroxide is NOT recommended because of poor bioavailability and because they know of no instance of it having any beneficial use other than as a laxative. Other Magnesium compounds appear to be better, including Magnesium oxide, Magnesium sulphate, and Magnesium citrate. Natural magnesium in water (magnesium carbonate dissolved in CO2-rich water) is 30% more bio-available than Magnesium in food or pill, and offers much greater cardio-protection.

As the evidence adds up, we are still left without absolute proof of magnesium’s efficacy with migraines. Yet, magnesium and migraines are strongly linked, and there is plenty to suggest that increased magnesium could not only prevent migraines, but lessen the severity of the migraines that do occur. Couple this with the minimal risk associated with increasing magnesium (unless you have kidney problems) and it would seem a no-brainer to give this a try. But remember to avoid chocolate as a magnesium source, as chocolate may be part of the cause of your migraines.

As additional ways to help prevent migraines, a calcium boost before bedtime, eating more smaller meals rather than a few huge meals, drink plenty of water, and consume a bit of cayenne pepper each day (apparently helps raise your pain threshold).

Again, some of the studies on magnesium and migraines are listed below:

* Pfaffenrath V, Diener H, Fischer M, et al. The efficacy and  safety of Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) in migraine prophylaxis-a  double-blind, multicentre, randomized placebo-controlled dose-response  study.         Cephalalgia. 2002;22:523-532.
* Peikert A, Wilimzig C, Kohne-Volland R. Prophylaxis of migraine  with oral magnesium: results from a prospective, multi-center,  placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study.         Cephalalgia. 1996;16:257-263.
* Taubert K. Magnesium in migraine. Results of a multicenter pilot study [in German; English abstract].         Fortschr Med. 1994;112:328-330.
* Facchinetti F, Sances G, Borella P, et al. Magnesium prophylaxis  of menstrual migraine: effects on intracellular magnesium.         Headache. 1991;31:298-301.
* Pfaffenrath V, Wessely P, Meyer C, et al. Magnesium in the  prophylaxis of migraine—a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.         Cephalalgia. 1996;16:436-440.
* Gaby AR. Research review.         Nutr Healing. March 1997.
* Titus F, Davalos A, Alom J, et al. 5-hydroxytryptophan versus  methysergide in the prophylaxis of migraine: randomized clinical trial.         Eur Neurol. 1986;25:327-329.
* Bono G, Criscuoli M, Martignoni E, et al. Serotonin precursors in migraine prophylaxis.         Adv Neurol. 1982;33:357-363.
* Maissen CP, Ludin HP. Comparison of the effect of  5-hydroxytryptophan and propranolol in the interval treatment of  migraine [translated from German].         Schweiz Med Wochenschr. 1991;121:1585-1590.
* Santucci M, Cortelli P, Rossi PG, et al. L-5-hydroxytryptophan  versus placebo in childhood migraine prophylaxis: a double-blind  crossover study.         Cephalalgia. 1986;6:155-157.
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