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Follow the footsteps of a rock star
(No. 138) You could eat dirt.
The other day I climbed a very tall stairway to an elevated train with a friend. I noticed he was racing up the middle of the wide steps, while I was on the side, using the railing. I was impressed by his agility. Fishing for a compliment, he spoke up:
“A while back I was in an antique store in Providence that had this twisting little stairway going up to the next floor. The owner told me that once, Mick Jagger, in his 70s, came in to shop and climbed those stairs hands free — the owner was so impressed with how well he moved, for an old guy. I always remember that, and I do it myself whenever I can,” he said.
“Yeah, look at you,” I said. “You’re doing great.”
I sounded enthusiastic, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was thinking about how I didn’t need to use the railing, myself, yet for some reason I had. I felt I’d lost this race. (Everything is a competition for me.) Climbing stairs without using the railing is a real sign of strength and a definite indicator of longevity. Just like getting up from the floor using only one hand.
The next day, I thought about my friend’s story as I climbed hands-free up to my fifth floor apartment. I was puzzled, because I knew I’d heard a different version of that story from someone else, maybe a year before. So I called my friend to get to the bottom of it.
“Hey, I just need to check something out. That story you told about Mick Jagger. Someone else told me the same story, but it took place at Monticello, that house that Thomas Jefferson built in Virginia. I’m trying to figure out if Mick Jagger impresses everyone like that, or if this is some kind of urban myth that people believe they’ve experienced themselves, even though they haven’t.”
“Oh damn,” he said. “That was me. I just got mixed up. It did take place at Monticello.”
Hmmm, I thought. You may be able to walk up a tall stairway unassisted, but your mind is surely going to hell these days.
“Are you going to write about it?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
But as you can see, I did.
The allure of magnesium
Yesterday, I walked down a brushy alley in Astoria, Queens, on my way to a restaurant that serves Egyptian-style blackened fish. The leaves in the alley were course and deep green, seemingly healthy and thriving though the plants’ root systems were supported just by thin, dry NYC soil. They made me think of magnesium, a vital nutrient that has diminished in American soils over the years. That means plants, like leafy greens, don’t absorb as much magnesium these days, which means that many of us don’t get as much magnesium as we need, even when we eat a “healthy” diet.
Add to that the fact that older people naturally absorb less of this nutrient than younger people, and magnesium deficiency is a problem for many of us as we age. (What isn’t a problem, really?)
The Egyptian restaurant, called AbuQir, was relaxed and friendly, and my friends and I sat at a sidewalk table with a startling view of sunset clouds over the East River as we cooled off with some nice mineral water (that contained magnesium). We went up to the counter and surveyed all the uncooked seafood, from shrimp to octopus, and chose a few carcasses for our dinner: we would have grilled shrimp, grilled scallops, and a whole blackened sea bass from local waters, plus a Greek salad, charred eggplant in tomato sauce, tahini spread and flatbreads. I was relieved when my phone told me that a portion of sea bass contains about 10 percent of a person’s daily magnesium (Mg) requirements. That means I had about 40 percent of my needs filled at that dinner alone.
That helped keep me in the 25 percent of Americans who regularly get enough magnesium. Almost every day I keep my levels up of by mixing electrolyte powder into at least one of the jumbo jars of water I drink every day at my desk, and by using “Lite” salt that contains potassium and magnesium, and by occasionally putting Epsomsalts in a hot bath to be absorbed through the skin.
Supposedly, all this magnesium will help keep my brain working well. The neuroprotective benefits start kicking in for people as young as 40. And the benefits are more pronounced in women, than in men.
Other foods that contain good amounts of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts, legumes, seeds and whole grains. Wow, what a surprise that the same foods that help you stay healthy in other areas of your life also help you in this one. Had you expected me to say deep fried Twinkies were the answer to all your magnesium needs? Still, I find that the more often I eat nutrient dense, healthy foods, the better they taste.
Enjoy your Mg!
First mined in Epsom, England, in 1618