Research suggests that a healthy diet loaded with high magnesium foods may reduce the risk of cataracts. This is just one of several health benefits that foods high in magnesium can provide. The mineral can also aid in digestion, sleep, and many other essential functions. Despite this, most adults fail to reach the daily magnesium levels recommended by the National Institutes of Health. This leaves most people at risk of cataracts, especially as they age.
High Magnesium Foods to Prevent Cataracts
In this article:
- How Does Consuming High Magnesium Foods Prevent Cataracts?
- How Much Magnesium Do You Really Need?
- How to Incorporate More Magnesium in Your Diet
- Other Options for Boosting Magnesium Intake
How Does Consuming High Magnesium Foods Prevent Cataracts?
A common condition in adults above the age of 50, cataracts occurs when the eye’s natural lenses cloud over. This condition is the chief source of blindness among middle-aged and older adults. By the time they hit 80 years, over half of the American adults will either have had a cataract or had surgery to correct the problem.
Like many eye conditions, one cause of cataracts is believed to have a nutritional component. A study published in the Journal of Oleo Science explored this concept using a hereditary strain known as the Shumiya cataract rat (SCR). Study subjects were put on either a low, standard, or high-magnesium diet. The low-magnesium approach accelerated the rate at which lenses became opaque. Researchers concluded that magnesium deficiency prompts faster cataract development due to a rise in calcium ion content. The takeaway for the rest of us: achieving that recommended daily intake is critical to maintaining optimal eye health.
How Much Magnesium Do You Really Need?
It is no secret that most people do not get enough magnesium, but it is tricky to determine how much is ideal. Benchmarks vary based on sex, age, and pregnancy. In its magnesium fact sheet, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlights a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of:
- under 6 months: 30 mg
- between 7 and 12 months: 75 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 80 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 130 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 240 mg
- between 14 and 18 years: 410 mg
- 19 to 30 years: 400 mg
- 31 and older: 420 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 360 mg
- 19 and 30 years: 310 mg
- 31 and older: 310 mg
Pregnancy automatically adds an extra 40 mg to a female’s RDA. While lactating, women must continue to consume the amount of magnesium recommended for other females in their age group.
How to Incorporate More Magnesium in Your Diet
Unfortunately, most people know little about foods high in magnesium. This lack of knowledge may be to blame for our failure to get enough magnesium on a daily basis. Do yourself a favor and add the following high magnesium foods and drinks to your diet:
Turns out, Popeye knew what he was talking about. Spinach imparts many health benefits. In particular, it provides plenty of magnesium. This is especially true when cooked. A single cup of cooked spinach boasts 157 mg of magnesium or 39 percent of your daily value. In general, dark leafy greens are great as a magnesium source. You will also find plenty of magnesium in Swiss chard and kale.
There is no need to feel guilty for your chocoholic tendencies. Just make sure you indulge in dark chocolate. This is one of the tastiest and most nutrient-dense sources of magnesium. A single square of dark chocolate contains 95 mg of magnesium. This equates to nearly a quarter of your RDA as an American adult.
Often referred to as a superfood, quinoa is packed with essential nutrients. It is surprisingly quick and easy to prepare. Uniquely versatile, it makes a great base for a variety of meals.
You will have little trouble hitting your recommended magnesium intake if you regularly consume quinoa. It provides a full 30 percent of your RDA. Pair with spinach, avocados, or other magnesium-rich foods, and your dinner can easily hit half of your RDA.
Not a fan of quinoa? Not a problem. Quinoa is far from the only grain-like dinner food to pack a punch in terms of nutrition. Brown rice is a great alternative. Just one cup of cooked, long-grain brown rice will provide over 20 percent of your RDA.
The Millennial avocado craze is real, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Make fun of avocado toast all you want; it is a great source of magnesium. A medium avocado supplies about 15 percent of your daily value. Avocado eaters may not yet be worried about cataracts, but if they continue the craze, it may never be a concern.
Almonds, Pecans, and Cashews
Break out the trail mix — your favorite nuts are chock full of magnesium. A cup of almonds, for example, includes 247 mg of magnesium. Cashews also pack a punch; you’ll find 84 mg in just one ounce. You will even find the nutrient in peanuts; at 245 mg per cup, they are nearly as loaded with the nutrient as almonds. Pecans do not deliver nearly as much — just 34 mg in an ounce or 132 mg in a cup of chopped pecans. Still, they can offer a nice boost if combined with other magnesium-rich nuts.
Although best known as a rich source of potassium, bananas offer plenty of other essential nutrients. Depending on the size, a banana can offer anywhere from 27 to 37 mg of magnesium. This can amount to between 6 and 9 percent of your recommended daily value. No, you can’t rely on bananas alone to take care of magnesium requirements, but the delicious fruit is a great option for a well-rounded breakfast.
While natural sources of magnesium are ideal, there is nothing wrong with boosting your intake with the occasional bowl of fortified cereal. Don’t assume that all cereals contain sufficient magnesium. Check the nutrition facts before purchasing a box. Examine a few boxes and you will quickly find that magnesium levels vary wildly from one brand to the next. One cup of Raisin Bran, for example, provides 18 percent of your recommended daily magnesium. In Cheerios, you’ll only find 8 percent of your daily intake per cup.
Arguably the best cereal for improving magnesium intake? Quaker’s Kretschmer Toasted Wheat Bran. Just a quarter cup of this nutritional powerhouse will provide a whopping 24 percent of your recommended daily value. Pair half a cup with a banana, and you will be off to a great start.
Other Options for Boosting Magnesium Intake
While the healthy foods outlined above lend themselves best to magnesium absorption, you may struggle to obtain a sufficient intake on diet alone. Thankfully, other options exist. Chief among them: taking a daily magnesium supplement.
Some supplements exclusively focus on magnesium, while others combine vitamins and minerals to provide a more well-rounded effect. If you opt for magnesium supplements, follow the directions on the bottle carefully to avoid adverse side effects.
Outside of food and supplements, your drink choice may influence your daily magnesium levels. Select energy drinks provide a few mg of magnesium. Magnesium is also featured in some, but not all electrolyte drinks. This is not enough to rely on, but wise to keep in mind.
On the flip side, certain beverages (such as coffee) may actually deplete magnesium levels. If you rely on several cups throughout the day, you may need to take extra magnesium to counteract the effect.
Want to learn more about consuming high magnesium foods for cataract prevention? Watch this video from 7ReMix Healthy Tips TV about what foods help prevent cataracts.
You don’t need to be an adventurous eater to improve your magnesium intake. You can continue eating many of the foods you already love. From avocados to dark chocolate and even supplements, there are plenty of options for obtaining your daily value. Eat the right foods, and you will enjoy a reduced risk of cataracts, and better overall health.
What high-magnesium foods do you consume to prevent cataracts? Share your tips with us in the comments section below.