Magnesium is an incredibly important micronutrient.
In my opinion, it’s the single most important mineral.
It affects every facet of our overall health, and if you are going to be deficient in anything, you really don’t want it to be magnesium.
This article will take a look at why magnesium is so important, followed by a list of ten low-carb foods that are high in the mineral.
Why is Magnesium Important?
Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal. The mineral is involved in every cell of the body and is responsible for thousands of biological functions (1).
Magnesium plays a critical role in:
- The cardiovascular system
- The skeletal system
- The central nervous system
- The digestive system
- Detoxification pathways
- Healthy skin, hair, nails, and teeth
Magnesium is so important that if we do not maintain an adequate level, our health will quickly begin to fail.
The problem? Magnesium deficiency is widespread; many American adults do not consume even half the recommended amount of magnesium (8).
10 Low-Carb Foods That Are High in Magnesium
If you want to eat a healthy low-carb diet, it is essential to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium.
Let’s take a look at some low-carb foods that are high in this essential mineral, starting with my favorite.
1Cacao / Dark Chocolate (91.6mg, 23% DV per oz)
Dark chocolate is delicious, right? Is there anyone who doesn’t love it?
What you may not know is that it’s also extremely nutrient-dense.
Just 1oz (28g) of cacao provides 91.6mg magnesium, equivalent to 23% of the recommended daily value (9).
Dark chocolate is also full of healthy fat and essential minerals. Sure, the sweet chocolate bars in the local convenience store are best avoided; dark chocolate, on the other hand, is a great low-carb choice.
Be careful when buying dark chocolate, though. Many commercial bars have a minuscule percentage of cacao, and they contain sugar as their main ingredient.
Check the labels and see just how much cacao is actually in the bar. For better health benefits, generally the more cacao, the better. Aiming for chocolate that is over 85% cacao is the best bet.
(Based on 85% chocolate)
Magnesium: 77.9mg Carbohydrate: 10g Sugar: 4g
2Avocado (58.3mg, 15% per avocado)
Avocados are incredibly versatile and taste great. They are a fruit, not a vegetable like many people mistakenly believe.
You can eat them straight, or you can make guacamole; a hard choice since both are equally delicious.
They are also an excellent source of magnesium. One avocado contains 58.3mg magnesium, which accounts for 15% of the daily value for magnesium (10).
One of my favorite recipes is to make guacamole with salt, lemon, and an avocado. Following this, I like to put pieces of bacon and soft-boiled eggs into the guacamole and mix them in.
Probably won’t win any food photography awards, but it’s simple, healthy and tasty.
Magnesium: 58.3mg Carbohydrate: 11.8g Sugar: 0.4g
3Mackerel (85.1mg, 21% per 4oz fillet)
Mackerel is one of the very best fish for health.
Choose Atlantic Mackerel as it is extremely low in mercury and very high in omega-3 fatty acids (11).
The magnesium content of mackerel is also great; just one 4oz (112g) serving of mackerel contains 85.1mg magnesium, approximately 21% of the recommended daily value (12).
Aside from the health benefits, mackerel is also a great-tasting low-carb staple food.
It plays a big part in my diet due to the omega-3 content, and its excellent overall profile: it’s nutritious, affordable, and delicious.
Two great ways to cook it:
- Steam the mackerel along with a variety of leafy greens. Quick and straightforward!
- Marinate the fillet in tamari, a squeeze of lemon, ginger, garlic and salt, and then bake in the oven.
Magnesium: 85.1mg Carbohydrate: 0g Sugar: 0g
4Almonds (80.1mg, 20% DV per oz)
Almonds are a popular choice on low-carb diets due to their portable nature, making them an ideal healthy snack.
They are one of the most nutrient-dense foods around and contain 80.1mg magnesium, which represents about 20% of the recommended daily value (13).
Almonds are very versatile; you can eat them in their natural state, or they can be used to make almond flour.
Almond flour is also incredibly easy to make; all you have to do is put the required number of almonds in your blender, turn it on, wait 7 or 8 seconds and you’re done.
If you are interested in low-carb baking, then you might want to look at this bunch of great almond flour recipes.
Magnesium: 80.1mg Carbohydrate: 5g Sugar: 1g
5Pollock (75.2mg / 20% DV per 4oz fillet)
Pollock is a fish that has many versatile uses – you can often see it in imitation crab sticks and fish fillets.
Despite its use in processed food, Pollock has an excellent nutrient profile. The magnesium content is around 75.2mg per 4oz fillet, which accounts for a very reasonable 20% of the daily value (14).
Here is a recipe for Lemon Coriander Pollock that is both tasty and healthy:
- 1 pound Alaskan Pollock
- 1 tablespoon tamari sauce
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Handful of coriander
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Combine all ingredients into a baking tray
- Oven bake for approx 30 minutes at 350F
Magnesium: 75.2mg Carbohydrate: 0g Sugar: 0g
6Swiss Chard (80.1mg, 20% DV per 100g)
Swiss chard is a magnesium powerhouse – on a per 100g basis, it provides 80.1mg or 20% of the daily value (15).
This green leafy vegetable goes well with salads. It also makes a tasty combination when mixed with a variety of leafy greens, meat, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Just be sure to put lots of healthy fat into your salads.
Not many people realize this, but many foods are full of fat-soluble vitamins. In other words, you’re missing out on their vitamins if you’re not eating enough fat.
Magnesium: 80.1mg Carbohydrate: 3.7g Sugar: 1.1g
7Brazil Nuts (105mg, 26% DV per oz)
Brazil nuts are a superfood best known for their selenium content.
However, they also provide an impressive amount of magnesium.
Just an ounce of Brazil nuts contains 105mg (26% DV) of magnesium (16).
Popular in low-carb circles, they are a great healthy snack food.
If you are looking for a more exciting way to eat them, then how about making handmade chocolate coated brazil nuts?
Magnesium: 105mg Carbohydrate: 3g Sugar: 1g
8Cashew Nuts (81.8mgm 20% DV per oz)
If you haven’t tried salted cashews, you’re missing out on a tasty treat.
Rather than popcorn full of sugar and oils, if you want to have a snack when going to the movie theater, then cashews make an excellent healthy choice.
The magnesium content is similar to Almonds. A one-ounce serving of cashew nuts provides 81.8mg magnesium, a figure that represents 20% of the daily value.
Magnesium: 81.8mg Carbohydrate: 9g Sugar: 2g
9Spinach (79mg, 20% DV per 100g)
Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on the planet.
It contains massive amounts of vitamin A, C, and K, and it’s rich in minerals too (18).
The magnesium content is high too; spinach contains around 79mg (20% DV) on a per-100g basis (18).
Spinach plays a regular role in my diet due to the impressive amount of nutrients it brings.
Steaming or boiling it only takes a few minutes; all you have to do is add a pat of butter on top and you have a great tasting, healthy food full of fat-soluble vitamins.
Magnesium: 79mg Carbohydrate: 4g Sugar: 0g
10Pine Nuts (70.3mg, 18% DV per oz)
Maybe you’ve heard of them, but maybe you haven’t tried pine nuts yet.
One of the rarest nuts, they have a unique taste, and an interesting, crunchy texture.
Pine nuts are perfect for using as a flavor enhancer. You can add them to any dish, and definitely, they sure do add something to the overall flavor.
You can use them in savory dishes or even in baking; versatility is one of the great traits of this nut!
Regarding magnesium content, they provide 70.3mg per ounce, which works out to about 18% of the daily recommended value (19).
Magnesium: 70.3mg Carbohydrate: 4g Sugar: 1g
Are Magnesium Supplements Necessary?
There are two more points we should consider regarding magnesium on a low-carb diet: grains and supplements.
Grains contain anti-nutrients that act as mineral inhibitors (20).
In plain English, this means that grains can stop us from absorbing some of the minerals in our food.
As most low-carb dieters tend to eschew grain, and generally eat a variety of nutritious food, then magnesium intake should be sufficient.
The Case for Magnesium Supplementation
I don’t like supplements, but I understand they have their place, especially for medical conditions.
But personally, I’d prefer to get my nutrients from the food I eat.
Fish oil? I’d rather eat fish than taking my chances with potentially oxidized oil.
Vitamin C? So unnecessary – we can get massive amounts just from a few leafy greens.
Real food always wins.
However, as magnesium is so essential to our overall health and well-being, supplementation might be the right choice for some people.
If you’re eating enough magnesium-rich foods, then great. But if you have any doubts, it might be worth looking into supplementation.