Micronutrient Magic: Tea and Magnesium
Have you ever embarked on a noble fitness quest— or heck, just tried to walk two blocks to the grocery store— and been met by a dastardly leg cramp to foil your good intentions?
The culprit might be magnesium.
Magnesium is a beautiful mineral that we can get in our diet via dark, leafy greens as well as the rich, earthy family of nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes.
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Pumpkin seeds
- Lima beans
- Black beans
- Brown rice
(And avocados. Just in case you wanted extra toast.)
The darkness and richness for these foods isn’t just aesthetic, or because the author of the article wants to throw around her Creative Writing MFA for extra credit. The darker and richer the item, the greater the chance that the food has a substantial concentration of magnesium, since the mineral itself is dark and has calming effects on the body. This can help with all forms of bodily tension: cramps, digestive issues, anxiety, and even can contribute to a healthy form of detoxing.
It’s so calming, in fact, that anyone who supplements with magnesium is probably familiar with the directions to take it before bed, or risk being sleepy in the middle of the day. (As well as the directions not to take too much of it at once, or risk running to a very different section of the house in the middle of the day— hence the detoxing aspect!)
What does tea have to do with magnesium, though? Wouldn’t this dark, leafy drink be totally conducive to our goals of making sure we get enough of this vital micronutrient?
Well, tea— if we’re talking about the straight stuff from Camellia sinensis, ie: black, green, oolong, white, and pu-erh— is a diuretic, and also contains caffeine. Both these factors mean that there’s a much greater likelihood of water-soluble vitamins and minerals being excreted, especially if you’re going through multiple cups a day.
And how could you not? It’s delicious stuff, full of its own health benefits that aren’t worth stressing over in the name of preserving a single micronutrient in the body.
Remember, you are a wonderful powerhouse of biochemical activity. Your only job is to make sure that all parts of that powerhouse function in a way that makes you happy and keeps you feeling your best.
Which is why I’m here to give you the lowdown on how to account for any magnesium lost through dedicated tea-drinking, as well as other teas that actually contain magnesium to help make up for it! (Camellia sinensis teas do contain tiny amounts of the mineral, but at 5mg per eight-ounce cup, that’s pretty negligible.)
Now, the easiest way to make sure you get adequate magnesium is to supplement. This mineral usually comes in a powder or pill, and is readily available at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Personally, as a nutrition coach I suggest going for the powder version, since pills or capsules are more likely to have extra ingredients thrown in there for no other purpose than to hold the pill together. With all the stress that’s going on in the world, the human body doesn’t need any extra information to digest if you’re trying just to get a simple micronutrient.
If you’re disinclined to take a synthetic substance— nothing wrong with it, by the way, since “synthetic” merely means that it has been synthesized deliberately in a lab, as opposed to getting it from the list above via spinach or Swiss chard, etc— then luckily there are plenty of teas, herbs, and spices that contain substantial magnesium in their own right.
Even more luckily, Adagio has a fantastic selection that incorporates these elements beautifully. My eye is on:
Raja Oolong Chai for its heady clove and cinnamon content. Also just plain decadent.
Foxtrot for that incredible rooibos-chamomile-peppermint trifecta. I could go to sleep easy on that, any day!
Speedy Recovery gets extra love for its ability to perk you up and calm you down at the same time. Green tea might have some of that diuretic action we talked about, but it's well taken care of by the ginger and fennel content. And speaking of ginger…
Double Ginger. What could be better than a double rainbow? Double ginger. (And if you get that nearly decade-old reference, you win extra everything.)
See how easy— and appetizing! — it is to get a little boost of magnesium in your favorite drink.
And we could all use an extra shot of calm, no matter where we are in time and space. (Unless, of course, you’ve already found that double rainbow. Keep on winning.)
NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach, Founder of Work Life Fitness