Do you eat a banana every day? Perhaps you have chosen to do so because this potassium-rich fruit is reported to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. Or perhaps you have heard that a banana will suppress your appetite or control your blood sugar.

Well, here is another reason to eat bananas. It is one of the foods that is beneficial to our brain health because it is high in magnesium.

Why Is Magnesium Important for Our Brain?

Studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s had lower levels of magnesium in their cerebrospinal fluid than those who did not have the disease.

According to a study reported in the journal, Neuron, “Elevating brain magnesium via increasing magnesium intake might be a useful strategy to enhance cognitive abilities and prevent the age-dependent memory decline.”

What Does Magnesium Do for Our Brain Health?

Magnesium’s role in the body is very complex and very important. Vital organs like our heart and brain are intricately dependent on adequate magnesium quantities in our system. Many of the biological and chemical processes in our body require magnesium.

For example, certain enzymes need magnesium for the process of breaking down and preventing the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.

These plaques, commonly associated with dementia, are a sticky substance that builds up in the brain in clumps. These clumps of plaque then disrupt cell-to-cell communication and cause inflammation. Eventually, brain cells are destroyed.

Magnesium is also involved in a couple of other processes in our body that affect our sleep. We all know the lack of sleep has a huge impact on our brain function.

One of the processes with which magnesium is connected is the production of melatonin. This hormone helps control our sleep and wake cycles. The other process that magnesium helps control is muscle tension which also prevents good sleep.

How Can We Get Enough Magnesium?

The best way to get the nutrients our brain and body need is through our food. Magnesium is found naturally in many plant-based foods, especially:

  • Green, leafy vegetables like spinach or swiss chard
  • Seeds, especially pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseeds
  • Nuts, especially brazil nuts, cashews and almonds
  • Legumes like beans, peas, and lentils
  • Whole-grain cereals like brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa

Meat and poultry contain very little magnesium.

How Much Magnesium Do We Need?

The amount of magnesium recommended varies. However, most sources suggest that 320mg per day is required for a woman over 50.

Well, what does that mean?

Here is an example of a meal plan for a day that would meet and exceed that amount:

  • Breakfast – 1 cup of oatmeal with a banana (87mg)
  • Lunch – 1 cup of spinach salad with 1/8 cup of pumpkins seeds on it and half an avocado (200mg)
  • Supper – 4 oz of cooked Salmon, ¼ cup cooked brown rice and ½ cup cooked okra (255mg)
  • Bedtime snack – ½ slice of whole grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter (29mg)

That comes to 571 mg for the day, well over the minimum requirement. And, if you are like me and like to have a little something extra occasionally, a handful of almonds (64mg) or a 1 oz piece of dark chocolate (95mg) will also boost your magnesium levels.

There are many reference sites online that list the magnesium levels of food. Check them out to see how your meals stack up in magnesium.

How Else Can We Get Magnesium?

You don’t need to just eat your magnesium. You can bath in it too. Epsom salts are a naturally occurring mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate.

Put a cup of Epsom salts in your bath and allow your body to soak in the benefits of the magnesium. Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and creates a feeling of calm and relaxation. This, in turn, helps us to sleep better and think more clearly.

So, keep eating your banana, or start if you are not already, and add in some leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts to your diet. Then take a relaxing bath and know that you are supporting your brain’s health.

Take this 20 question self-assessment quiz to see if your lifestyle supports brain-healthy habits.

How do you include magnesium naturally in your diet? Do you make an effort to eat high-magnesium foods? Please use the comments below to share which magnesium-rich foods you enjoy the most. 

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