kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

When people ask me if they should take supplements, I usually say no. Eat well (organic, whole foods, with herbs in a variety of colors and textures) and you will cover most of your nutritional needs. There are a couple of exceptions: vitamin D in the winter months if you live in the northern hemisphere and magnesium.

Magnesium is a mineral every organ in your body needs, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys. By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium. This is why magnesium deficiency has been dubbed the “invisible deficiency”. Magnesium should be the fourth most abundant mineral in your body.

A century ago, people received approximately 500 mg of magnesium from their diet from the nutrient-rich soil in which the food was grown. Today, estimates suggest we are only getting 150-300 mg a day from our food. The RDI, recommended daily intake, is around 310 to 420 mg a day, depending on your age and sex. Some researchers believe we may need as much as 600 to 900 mg a day for optimal health.

Magnesium is involved in nearly every body process. It is concentrated in metabolically active areas like the brain, bones and muscles – especially the heart.  It is required for more than 300 different enzymes in your body. These enzymes allow your body to manufacture protein, DNA, mitochondrial energy, and RNA. RNA is ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins.

Mitochondria are the cellular compartments, or organelles, that are the powerhouses that convert energy from the food we eat into energy that runs a range of biological processes. In other words, the mitochondria are the source of our energy and we want our mitochondria to be healthy and…

Magnesium is critical for the optimization of your mitochondria.

Magnesium also functions as a counterbalance to calcium. Too much calcium with too little magnesium can lead to heart attack, strokes, and sudden death. Your target magnesium to calcium ratio is 1:1.

One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you’re far less likely to end up with too much of one nutrient at the expense of others. Foods in general contain all the cofactors and needed co-nutrients in the proper amounts for optimal health, which takes out the guess work. When you’re using supplements, you need to become a bit more savvy about how nutrients influence and synergistically affect each other.

For example, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. This is why I think it is tricky to supplement calcium.

Magnesium may actually be more important than calcium if you are going to consider supplementing. Americans in general tend to have a higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet, averaging about 3.5-to-1.

Magnesium helps keep calcium in your cells so they can do their job better. In many ways it serves as nutritional version of the class of drugs called calcium channel blockers, which are used in the treatment of high blood pressure, angina, and abnormal heart rhythms. Magnesium and vitamin K2 (consider adding this supplement if you are vegan) also complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease.

Magnesium plays a role in your body’s detoxification processes and therefore is important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. Even glutathione, your body’s most powerful antioxidant that has been called “the master antioxidant,” requires magnesium for its synthesis.

Magnesium Depleters/Inhibitors

  • Excess or deficient calcium
  • Sweating (exercise, heat)
  • Stressors (emotional, cold, trauma, surgery)
  • Alcohol, sugar, caffeine
  • Excess phosphorous
  • Antibiotics, diuretics, Proton Pump Inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, etc.), birth control pills
  • Age
  • Excessive D2

Magnesium Insufficiency/Deficiency


  • Stress
  • Soil depletion
  • Refined grains
  • Drugs/meds
  • Age – the elderly are at risk
  • Alcoholism
  • Anorexia

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Asthma
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure
  • Inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines
  • Muscle cramps
  • PMS, menstrual cramps

The best way to supplement is to add foods high in magnesium.

  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds – 191 mg
  • 1 cup cooked chard and spinach – 155 mg
  • 1 cup soybeans cooked – 147 mg
  • 1/4 cup of sesame seeds – 126 mg
  • 1 cup cooked black beans – 120 mg
  •  1/4 cup almonds and cashews – 100 mg
  • 1 cup cooked buckwheat – 86 mg
  • 1 cup quinoa and brown rice – 84 mg
  • 2 tbs flaxseeds – 55 mg

Look for whole-food based supplementation. Because deficiency is so rampant and serious, and because side effects of excess magnesium are minimal, high dose supplementation is okay for most. The cheated forms (“ate”) are best and 200 mg dosed with vitamin B6, 25-50 mg is a good start.

Look for glycinate, taurate, succinate, citrate or malate. Be aware that Mg citrate alone might act as a laxative. Epsom salts in the bath or magnesium oil allow magnesium to be absorbed via the skin. These are excellent muscle relaxants and pain relievers.

Take magnesium at night. Magnesium relaxes muscles and it will help you sleep soundly.

Black Beans

Black beans are classified as legumes. Also known as turtle beans because of their hard, shell-like appearance, black beans are, in fact, the edible seeds of the plant.

The black bean contains a dense, meaty texture and can be cooked in a variety of ways without losing nutritional properties – even when exposed to high temperatures. When black beans are combined with rice or quinoa, the combination forms a complete protein. A complete protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet.

Like other legumes, such as peanuts, peas, and lentils, black beans have a high protein and fiber content. They also contain several other key vitamins and minerals.

One cup of cooked black beans provides:

  • Calcium               46.4 mg   5% DV (Daily Value)
  • Iron                        3.6 mg   20%
  • Magnesium          120 mg   30%
  • Phosphorus         241 mg   24%
  • Zinc                      1.9 mg   13%
  • Copper                 0.4 mg   18%
  • Manganese          0.8 mg   38%
  • Selenium              2.1 mcg  3%
  • Thiamin (B1)        0.4 mg   28%
  • Folate  (B9)         256 mcg 64%

The iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc in black beans all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Calcium and phosphorus are important in bone structure, while iron and zinc play crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints.

Roughly 99 percent of the body’s calcium supply, 60 percent of its magnesium, and 80 percent of its phosphorus stores are contained in bone. This means it is extremely important to get enough of these nutrients from the diet to keep your bones strong.

The potassium, calcium, and magnesium in black beans also have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.

Studies have shown that individuals with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels. Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One cup of cooked black beans contributes 15 g of fiber.  The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 25 g of fiber per day based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

The fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and phytonutrient content of black beans, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. The fiber content helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Vitamin B6 and folate prevent the buildup of a compound known as homocysteine. When excessive amounts of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage blood vessels and lead to heart problems. (You can’t get homocysteine from your diet. It has to be made from methionine, which is another amino acid that is found in meat, fish, and dairy products. Eating too much of these foods can cause higher homocysteine levels. Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B12 and folic acid are needed to make this reaction occur. Foods containing methionine are transformed into homocysteine in the bloodstream.)

The quercetin and saponins found in black beans protect the heart. Quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory that appears to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, plaque build up in your arteries.

As with many beans and legumes, black beans contain starch, a form of complex carbohydrate. Starch acts as a “slow burn” energy store that is slowly digested by the body, preventing a spike in blood sugar levels.

Selenium is a mineral that is not present in most fruits and vegetables but can be found in black beans. It plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium may prevent inflammation and decreases tumor growth rates.

Dietary fiber is commonly recognized as an important factor in weight loss and weight management by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system. High fiber foods increase the sense of fullness after eating and reduce appetite.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like black beans decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

How to Buy

Black beans are available year-round and are found in grocery stores either dried and packaged or canned. They will be in the bulk section of your local co-op. They have almost a meaty texture that makes them a popular source of protein in vegetarian dishes.

If you are using canned black beans, be sure to select those with no added sodium and to drain and rinse them.

How to Store

Dried black beans can be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place up to 1 year. Despite their long shelf-life, do not mix new beans with any remaining older dried beans when restocking your dried beans. Old beans will take longer to cook, and the oldest beans will stay tough and chewy no matter how long they simmer.

How to Cook

When preparing dried black beans, it is important to sort them, picking out any small rocks or other debris that may have wound up in the package. Wash and soak them in water for at least 8 to 10 hours before cooking to achieve optimum flavor and texture.

You can tell they are finished soaking when you can split them easily between your fingers. Soaking dried legumes reduces the amount of time needed to cook them, and also helps remove some of the oligosaccharides that cause gastrointestinal distress. Soaking beans for longer periods can help to reduce phytates. Phytates may reduce mineral absorption.

  • Make a hearty black bean soup by blending cooked black beans with onions, tomatoes, and your favorite spices
  • Add black beans to burritos
  • Blend cooked black beans with garlic, onion, fresh cilantro, and lime juice for a quick and easy bean dip
  • Mix black beans, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sharp cheddar cheese** and salsa together for a simple taco salad

**You can find vegan options from Treeline cheese! All of their cheeses are: 100% vegan and free from dairy, lactose, casein, gluten or soy. They don’t add any gums, thickeners, artificial preservatives or oils – definitely no palm oil! All Treeline products are certified non-GMO and Kosher Parve by KOF-K.


Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger

The Minimalist Baker

6 Patties


  • 1 cups mashed sweet potato (~2 large sweet potatoes – organic when possible)
  • 0.5 cup cooked black beans (rinsed and well drained)
  • 0.50.75 cups cooked brown rice* (or substitute cooked quinoa* -results will vary)
  • 0.25 cup walnut or pecan meal (or very finely chopped)
  • 0.25 cup finely diced green onion
  • 1.25 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 0.13 tsp each salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 0.13 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
  • 0.5 Tbsp brown sugar (optional, for added sweetness)

Note:*To cook rice: bring 2 cups water to a boil. Then add 1 cup very well-rinsed rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes or until fluffy and tender. You will have leftovers.
*For quinoa: rinse 1 cup quinoa and add to a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté in a bit of olive oil for 1-2 minutes, then add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and continue cooking for about 15 minutes or until tender and fluffy and the water is absorbed.


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and cut sweet potatoes in half. Rub with olive oil and place face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake sweet potatoes until soft and tender to the touch – about 30 minutes – set aside. Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees F.
  2. While potatoes are baking, cook rice or quinoa (see notes for instructions).
  3. Add black beans to a mixing bowl and mash half of them for texture. Then add sweet potato and lightly mash, then 1 cup rice, green onion, nut meal and spices. Mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more rice or nut meal if the mixture feels too wet. It should be very moist but moldable.

  4. Lightly grease a baking sheet and line a 1/4 cup measuring cup with plastic wrap.
  5. Fill the lined measuring cup with sweet potato mixture. Scrape down to pack, then lift out and transfer to the baking sheet and gently press down to mash. The thinner you press them, the faster they’ll cook, but no need to go too far. Just a gentle press will do.
  6. Bake burgers for a total 30-45 minutes, carefully flipping 20 minutes in to ensure even cooking. The longer you bake them the firmer and drier they will get – around the 35 minute mark is good.
  7. Serve on slider buns (double stack for more bulk) or atop a salad with sliced avocado, red onion, greens, and ketchup or salsa.
  8. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for a few days. Freeze for longer term storage.

  9. Freezing instructions: par-bake for ~20 minutes (instead of 30-45 minutes), let cool, and then carefully layer between pieces of parchment paper and enclose in a container with a secure lid. Reheat them from frozen at 375 degrees F  for about 20-30 minutes or until desired firmness.

D. Piovesan et al., "The Human Magnesome"': Detecting Magnesium Binding Sites on Human Proteins" BMC Bioinformatics, 13, no.14 supplement (2012):S10, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-13-S14-S10.
Eades M, Eades A, The Protein Power Lifeplan, Warner Books, New York, 1999


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