Doctor's Note

Make sure you watch the "prequel" to this video, yesterday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?. Though those eating plant-based diets may average less than half the nutrient deficiencies than meateaters, as seen in Omnivore vs. Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies, that's not saying much given how pitiful the Standard American Diet is to start with. See, for example Nation’s Diet in Crisis and Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score. There are many more videos on greens, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as a thousand other topics—enjoy!

Check out my associated blog posts: Magnesium-Rich Foods to Prevent Sudden Death and Nuts Don’t Cause Expected Weight Gain.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Make sure you watch the “prequel” to this video, yesterday’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day How Do Nuts Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death?. Though those eating plant-based diets may average less than half the nutrient deficiencies than meateaters, as seen in Omnivore vs. Vegan Nutrient Deficiencies, that’s not saying much given how pitiful the Standard American Diet is to start with. See, for example Nation’s Diet in Crisis and Calculate Your Healthy Eating Score. There are many more videos on greens, beans, grains, nuts (http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/nuts/), and seeds, as well as a thousand other topics—enjoy!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Magnificent Magnesium–This is the turning point (Torsade de Pointes).

      Low hypomag and hypokalemia can lead to prolonged QT and possibly TdP and ultimately death.

      Maybe the hospitals should give all patients dark green leafies, beans, nuts and seeds, and oatmeal when the are admitted, ultimately lowering their risk for dying?  At least in the hospital, wouldn’t you think?

      They don’t call it the ‘Crap’ateria for nothing!

      • SJ M.D.

        How many americans (and people of europe) would choose that hospital for their quadruple bypass? They would probably thoose another hospital serving burgers, fries, milkshake, coke (with suger of course), icecream and cheesecake (double cheese!) and recieve their magnesium-pill, statins, ace-inhibitor, clopidogrel, aspirin and then suing the surgeon because they need a stent within 12 months, contributing to the bankruptcy of the healthcaresystem – and just because they didn`t eat their beans and nuts – crazy world !

        • offtoshambala

          my parents fall into this category… they complain about how irresponsible people are & how the government (in the U.S) while people like them are footing the bill via the upper middle class tax burden, but they do little to take care of their personal health & are in a state of denial while they spend a fortune on pharmaceutical products while they snack on potato chips & chocolates & eat very little vegetables, but to their doctors credit, they’ve been told, they just ignore the advice & it’s easier for the doctors to just keep prescribing to people like them, what are they going to do if the patient does not want to take responsibility for their own health?

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Love the pic of the kid gnawing on the chicken bone.  Just precious! ;-}

    • SJ M.D.

      Emphasis on dietary magnesium – in mind the case with beta-carotene (an indicator of high intake of vegetables) and the pill (without the other 100 carotenoids) and increased risk of lung-cancer (if smoking) and the current debate over calcium tablets and cardiovascular events. Food is a package.

  • Victoriavanfleet

    I wonder if the cardio-protective value of cocoa is largely due to its high MG…

  • Pat McNeill

    Congratulations to Dr. Greger for cracking another hard nut!

    My formula with data from the USDA database: ½ cup of oats
    for breakfast (138mg Mg) + 1 tbsp dry Cocoa Powder (unsweetened) at first break
    (141 mg Mg) + 40 Almonds (roasted not blanched) during the day (128 mg Mg) =
    407 mg Mg and success. All those leafy greens at lunch and beans at dinner
    boost it up to around 600 or 700 mg with only 1600 kcal consumed during the day.
    In my humble (unschooled) opinion, achieving this goal every day should be easy
    and tasty and cheap to do. 
    Super thanks to the Doc for making us aware of it! 

  • Billig

    For many vegetarians, being a vegetarian is not about a plant-based diet.  It’s about not harming animals.  French fries and a Coke fits the bill.  Still, I was shocked at the micro-portions of leafy greens reported in the study.

    • http://www.facebook.com/alex.soury.9 Alex Soury

      You’re right about vegetarians, and they are neglecting the most important animal; the human animal!

  • Ghazeltine

    Wow that is surprising. What are the vegetarians eating?

  • Tabitha

    My dr. recommended a magnesium supplement for me. I take Magnesium Glycinate 600 mg capsules – 2 a day. Is this enough? Like most Americans, I probably do not get enough in my diet.

    • Billig

      Tabitha,
      The best strategy is: eat food, whole food that is.  Include all the plant-based food groups (grains, fruit, vegetable, legumes, nuts and seeds).  Include portions from all those groups every day.  And over the course of a week, eat a variety of foods within each food group.  That will give you all the magnesium you need, plus most of everything else.  Isolated nutrients in supplements may be useful in certain therapeutic situations, but that’s not the way to live.  Eat food!

  • April Tchiguka

    You mentioned eating whole grains in the video. Was just wondering what you thought of the book Wheat Belly. Apparently, the wheat of today has been modified so much that it is causing many of our health problems and the USDA is telling us to eat more and more of it, thus creating a vicious cycle of health problems. It was an interesting book, but it’s so difficult to know what/who to believe anymore when it comes to the type of food we should be eating. Marion Nestle doesn’t even mention it, to my knowledge, in her books or blog.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000567304110 Robin Corbin

       “whole grains” should be limited and should be “whole” grain.  Eat wheat berries, bulgur wheat, brown rice (not instant), amarynth…. These are whole grains.  You shouldn’t get your whole grains from pasta and bread!  Those are highly processed!

      • Paulc

         Don’t forget rolled or steel cut oats, millet, and barley. They’re all cheap and nutritious and easy to fix. For example, you can put steel cut (Irish) oats in a pan at night, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover with a tightly fitting lid and then let it sit until morning.They should be done by then and ready for a quick reheating or final quick cooking in the microwave. It’s great with raisins and cinnamon. Barley is great in vegetable soup along with a handful of lentils.Barley and millet are a welcome break from rice. The orioles, finches and  jays that visit my home also love millet, although unlike them, I seldom eat it raw..

        • April Tchiguka

          Paulc-Oats are high in sulfuric acid, higher than wheat and that is very bad for bone health, not to mention the overall health of an alkaline body. Plus, they cause blood sugar to skyrocket-no matter what kind or how they’re cooked.

          Robin-some of the grains you mentioned all share a genetic heritage with wheat and have some of the potential effects that wheat does on the body. And the rest still take a toll on your metabolic health because they are rich in carbs.

          There’s just so much to learn about the food we eat and how it will effect our bodies. It’s overwhelming at times. Just when I think I’ve cut out all the bad (ok, most of the bad stuff-I still have some vices) foods, I read something new. UGH!

          • R Ian Flett

            Most of this is false. The sulphuric acid is irrelevant if your other bone health items are adequate.
            There is a huge difference in GI response to rolled oats versus ‘instant’ oats and cooking method does matter.
            Recent studies from Scandinavia showed that rye was more beneficial than oats. Modern wheat has been bred to increase the size of the endosperm where the gluten resides, so even if you are not ‘gluten intolerant’ you still get too much from wheat products.
            To say that carbs take a toll on your metabolic health is nonsense as all vegies are carbs. If so, vegetarians would be the sickest group around. What matters is whether your carbs are complex (low GI) versus simple (hi GI) as in much processed food..

          • Paulc

             Hi April, thanks for the advice. I was aware of the acid-forming content of grains- probably due to sulfur-bearing amino acids and so, I’ve cut back to 3-4 servings a day- below the gov’t’s recommended levels. Didn’t know about the H2SO4 content of grains, though. I reason that if it were high we’d have a burning sensation in our mouths when we eat them. Could it be that you’re actually referring to the sulfur-bearing amino acids? It would be hard to imagine life without grains. For thousands of years people have been getting the majority of their calories from grains. I recently read about the riots in Rome during Augustus’ reign when wheat from North Africa was cut off by Lepidus. Of course this is the gist of the debate between Plant-strong physicians Macdougall and Furhman: shall we go with what has worked for thousands of years or with what may potentially be the best diet? As I understand it, even Dr. Furhman doesn’t completely rule out grains. Also, I freely admit that I’ve fallen victim to the addictive exophins in grains. Seems that my “appetite” just isn’t easily satisfied unless I have some. Perhaps the real debate is between Dr. Macdougall’s addiction and Dr. Fuhrman having broken his. Perhaps I should also do the same and cut off grains completely in favor of vegetables, fruits, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, tea and spices. But then, legumes tend to also be acid-forming. Oy! Perhaps enough veggies will compensate.

  • Valnaples

    This topic is of great interest to me not due to heart problems but I was border-line osteopenic last year…so magnesium is very important for BONE health too! And I have been eating raw organic pumpkin seeds for a snack just about every other day (alternating with our dear and wonderful walnuts)…and I’ve switched to unsweetened almond milk instead of 1% dairy milk…also increasing my Vit D3 intake to 5,000 IU’s each day…AND increasing my weight bearing exercise though I’ve always been a walker..if it is alright to do so, I will attach a link to the highest magnesium foods:http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=75  Great video, Doc!

  • AlexanderBerenyi

    Important notes to make:
    In foods where most of the magnesium is found in water-soluble form, blanching,
    steaming, or boiling of these foods can result in a substantial loss of magnesium. For example, about one third of the magnesium in spinach is lost after blanching. Similarly, when beans are cooked, they can lose up to 65% of their magnesium. 

    Because magnesium can be attached to certain building blocks of protein (called amino acids), increased intake of protein can sometimes help improve the body’s magnesium status.

  • Vera Springate

    I’ve taken magnesium-calcium-zinc supplement for several years for no “serious” reason.  At the time I think I read “somewhere” that I need it because I wasn’t eating meat.  A few months ago I stopped taking it because again I read that all nutrients should come from food and started having major digestive issues including some serious bloating.  I have no health or weight issues and don’t eat junk.  Since magnesium is a laxative, could it be that I just got too accustomed to it?  I was taking the supplement at low dose.  I also noticed that I now lose a few more stands of hair, whereas before none came off.  Do I go back to the supplement? 

  • David

    Just a thought, but maybe someone could use sites like 
    http://www.petridish.org, or 
    http://www.medstartr.com/, to conduct a study on magnesium effect through eating actual greens. Would be great! :)

    Since no company think the will profite, maybe the crowd will.

  • Chrysanthemum

    This is very interesting to me because my ophthalmologist told me today that at least 50% of people with classic migraines (which he said are a vascular spasm) and ocular migraines (which he said is actually a type of seizure) have low magnesium levels, and that correcting it usually resolves them. 

    He also said the big problem was all those supplements available cheaply are very poorly absorbed, making them almost useless for correcting the problem. What he didn’t tell me was how I can get magnesium that IS absorbable, so I came here.But he said that a regular blood serum test will not accurately reflect magnesium levels. Instead a different, more targeted blood test was required. We did that test, because he’d rather know for sure before he starts trying to find me a source of magnesium that is better than useless.

    So what I am seeing from comments here is that dark leafy vegetables are a good source, as well as nuts? I love raw spinach, eat it all the time, and I eat chick peas nearly every day. What else should I add?

  • Judith McConnell

    You are so smart! I love your info and have spread the news! Now the guy at the gym, my brother and his wife are favoring your advice. Thanks so much!
    Judith McConnell

  • paricutini

    Just had salad for lunch. Included, dark leaved lettuce and freshly picked leaves from my Oregano bush outside. Hope that gets rid of my blood clot.

    • beccadoggie10

      There is more nutrition in dark leafy greens like kale which are high in vitamin K, and which tastes even better cooked with red onions, garlic, and turmeric, than lettuce. However, kale like other health dark leafy greens, they normalize clotting levels.

      I think kale tastes far better cooked with lots of freshly mashed garlic, red Bermuda onions, and even turmeric root (fresh is better than dry). The latter root, that of turmeric I buy at health food stores or Oriental Groceries.

      ‘Some research suggests that garlic may increase the risk of bleeding due
      to its anti-clotting properties. It should NOT be used by people who will be having surgery soon, especially if they are given blood thinners or if bleeding after surgery is a concern. People on blood thinning
      medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin, should consult with their doctor before taking garlic supplements.”

      I cook with lots of garlic and never have been bothered with blood clots, even when I ingest 8 cups of cooked dark, leafy greens per day for calcium and magnesium needs on a lower fat diet.. Lately I’ve discovered kale and collards tastes hugely better cooked with a tad bit (less than a tablespoon) of a good organic olive oil and lots of sauteed garlic and onions, which reduce the blood clotting effects of high vitamin K veggies.

      Have your salad for lunch without fatty salad dressings if you desire. But, also have lots of dark leafy greens cooked with lots of garlic!

  • Alice

    I have recently discovered that I am a food Addict. Which means similarly to the way a drug addict can not ingest the tiniest bit of their drug of choice without the insanity of craving taking over their thinking- I can not eat any sugar/ flour or artificial sweeteners without becoming my own scary version of the cookie monster. (The only sweetener that doesn’t seem to effect me xylitol.)

    I also suffer cramps and muscle spasm from stress if I don’t take magnesium regularly I’ve been taking: http://www.bioceuticals.com.au/product/preview/Ultra-Muscleze-Night

    and: http://ethicalnutrients.com.au/content/products/mega-magnesium-powder

    both of which seem to be soothing the cramps but are in danger of triggering my cravings.

    Is it necessary to take magnesium in a power form? if so can you recommend one free of any kind of sweetener.

    And if tablets are ok which ones would you recommend?

    PS I’m in Australia so preferably a brand I can get over here or that isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg to ship.

    thanks for your help. :)

    • Thea

      Alice: I’m sorry to hear of your troubles. Good for you for taking your health into your own hands and working to improve it.

      While I don’t personally have answers for your specific questions, I wanted to point you to a book that is really great:

      “Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings—And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally” by Dr. Bernard

      Best of luck to you.

    • Kim Glasson

      I have a sweet tooth as well. :-) Are you able to eat dates? They have a decent amount of magnesium. They don’t make me crave sweets like simple sugar does. They very healthy as well. http://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-dates-good-for-you/

  • Alice

    Also I forgot to add I’m trying to turn vegan so a dairy free version would be preferable :)

  • Rosemary Guy

    Looking at the difference between how I eat and my asian friends, they are so much more likely to eat dark leafy veges at every meal whereas I don’t think I was brought up like this way and therefore have to consciously do this. When i was teaching four classes of Tai chi a day I would supplement with magnesium because i would get leg cramps whenever I was low in magnesium……however, its always hard to suppliment because its like admitting that what you are doing isn’t perfect……something like there is a disconnect between what you eat and nourishment. I was also taking barley grass or spirulina quite regularly.

    • Ruby

      Me too Rosemary. seems like the more greens and algaes I eat, the more magnesium I need, despite a diet chock full of MORE than enough, so I get the sentiment. I’ve asked Dr G but have not gotten a response back but I hear that certain nerve issues deplete magnesium stores, and since I have nerve issues and started taking a lot of extra as Epsome salts, seems like I am better but the more I need also, as if somehting is rallying in defence and stealing it all. Anywho I bulk up and cross my fingers for a response about needing ridiculous doses of magnesium in the interum. It feels good to not be alone in this from folks who also dose high in greens and algaes and need more and more mg too. What’s up I wonder?? I’d bet there is a connection somehow.

  • ljwar

    I eat a plant based diet high in green leafy vegetables as well as legumes, nuts and seeds. However, I still have a hunch that I am deficient in magnesium. I have frequent muscle tension and abdominal cramping and currently use a magnesium supplement to relieve these symptoms. This seems to help. Are there any magnesium supplements that you consider safe? Which form do you recommend? And how many milligrams?
    Thanks!

    • Ruby

      Try nightly or morning baths with Epsome salts as well. It seems to be absorbed into the skin more readily than ingesting – and scrub while in there with a brush or still lufa. Works great for me – like a lithium bath – and I also am one who needs HIGH doses of it for the same reasons, which seemeed to surface when I stopped meats/dairy and grains too, even though my diet is very high in magnesium foods, like it sounds like your’s is too. I think I now take several 1,000mg of magnesium daily, and almost can’t get enough. Green juices also help. Hope you don’t mind my nosing into your question. Cheers.

  • lisa

    Magnesium

  • Ruby

    Dr G, great to hear you comment on how silly to suggest taking a pill instead of just upping the magnesium rich foods in a diet, even the veg heads are not eating enough mg. But Dr G? How come when it comes to B12, I always hear you mention pills and not greens and brewers yeast and such high B12 foods??? What up?? One of my big beefs is that vegans can live on TERRIBLE food choices and so it’s not enough to cut out animals. Folks have to start eating their greens and beans – those are my core foods.. . . and I find grains make me tired and cranky and want sugar so I don’t even touch them any more, since beans are so awsome (loved the bean Disqus today btw. Horray for beans and heart! Since I’ve been eating lots of them my iris no longer shows heart issues so I’m down. Thanks!

    • Tommasina

      Hi Ruby! I’ve loved seeing all your cheerful, high-spirited comments around the site, by the way. I wanted to chime in on this though–did you see Dr. Greger’s video on Daily Source of Vitamin B12? http://nutritionfacts.org/video/daily-source-of-vitamin-b12/ In order to get enough B12 from nutritional yeast, you’d have to take 2 teaspoons three times a day (4 to 6 hours apart). That seems more than most of us could handle. Greens, as far as I can tell, aren’t a source of B12.

      I’m sure you’ve noticed that Dr. G usually recommends whole food nutrition as opposed to supplements, except when it comes to B12, omega 3s, and possibly D (http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/12/dr-gregers-2011-optimum-nutrition-recommendations/).

      Glad to hear your health issues have improved! :)

      • Ruby

        Hiya Tomasina! (love that name! :). . . The second vid was a 404, no longer found vid. . . wasss up? The first one. . . . says needs to take b12 several times a day and that we can’t absorb but a smidge per eating. . . Huugh, you know my problem with these “studies” sometimes is, step back a jif and, they don’t make any sense. If b12 comes from meat and we need b12 and there’s not enough in greens (and I see plenty that greens are the non meat source, so). . . .if we’re deficient it has to be because we are not getting what we have been genetically are designed to. . .but if so we’d have to not be eating foods we would generally get without civilization. Green things woudld be THE most available source, daily. No one ever ate meat several times a day, so the supposed bioavailbility limits make me shy with incredulity. I don’t eat that much bewers yeast. It comes and goes from my diet, but I eat a lb of cholorlla a month(2tbs a day) and at least a bunch of come dark leafy (kale, chard, spinach, collards). . . 2 bunches of fresh spinach and one collard is there now, along with a couple parsely and cilantro. My freezer has many jars of parsely/cilantro pesto with fresh nuts, which I spoon into my soups. . . . I nhear the arguments and the studies. I had a blood teast last year and got raised eyebrows of praise, though I don’t know the details. I am going to get another done and get the numbers on my B12. Then I can either make a really big point, or conceed. . . .. though surely the atter would be highly miffing to me. Later gater! And thanks for the sunny reply to my post. ;)

      • Ruby

        Just wanted to dash back to you Tommasina. Your response has me skooting around sleuthing this absorption issue and I found I think a big key. B12 needs a thing secreted by the stomach to get attached to in order to be absorbed in the small intestine. It’s about ph levels in the belly. Reminds me of an old guy story I heard once. He was 150 or some rediculous thing. He claimed his long life was dude souley to squeezing fresh lemon on every single meal. This changes the ph to more acidic in the belly which is what is needed for absorption of B12 (and probably all else I’d suspect). And this brings to mind how sometimes when I take my chlorella I get lazy with squirting a half lemon in the jar with the water and powder and a splash of honey. A big ahh haaaa comes. When I miss that step my belly feels blah, and UGH – like it’s hard to digest. Actually hurts my belly . . . Big ah haaa. Stomach acid. Back in 05 I was tooling around seeking if vegans get cancer and I found 6 women, all vegans at least 7 yrs, 2 were lifetime, one was 12yr – so all veterans. All had stomach cancer. . . .. I think we need the acids. Especially those of us taking pills, and things like algaes, as opposed to salads which often have that acid in the vinegar. We need stomach acids to go with the foods in order to digest and absorb. That’s my idea. I’m glad as heck lemon is a daily thing for me and almost always has been. . .. but with water/tea and not as much with meals. As of today I’ll be squirting lemon on all my greens, and up my lemon dosing from one to two lemonds daily. Cheers to you for inspiring the sleuthing on absorption Tommasina. That’s a peice to the puzzle for me, and maye for we vegans on the whole. Goodonya and tanks bunches!

        • LG King

          “For many vegetarians, being a vegetarian is not about a plant-based diet. It’s about not harming animals.”

          Nothing wrong with harming animals…we harm plants. Every living thing on the planet consumes another living thing.

          • Ruby

            I’m not sure why you’re witing me LG, what that quotation has to so with anything at all, or what in the world anything you wrote has to do with my my post. So. Shrug.