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Stroke Smart Magazine

March/April 2009

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Boost Your Energy Levels
Help Your Brain and Body with these Two Nutrients

By Roger Maxwell

Keeping your energy up can be a challenge when recovering from a stroke. The healing process and added exertion needed for regular activities and rehabilitation make extra demands on you. It also takes energy to build new pathways in the brain to take over lost functions. You can help with a healthy diet.

When recovering from stroke, various nutrients can have a profound effect on your brain. Two of the most important nutrients to help boost energy levels are magnesium and vitamin B12.


A May 2004 article in Agricultural Research, “Lack Energy? Maybe it’s Your Magnesium Level,” suggests that only 32 percent of the U.S. population meets the daily requirements for magnesium: The daily recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for people over age 31 is 320 milligrams (mg) for women and 420 mg for men. For example, one cup of black beans has 120 mg of magnesium; 1 cup of spinach has 157.

The most recent U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists the highest food sources of magnesium as roasted pumpkin kernels and squash kernels. Other sources are bran muffins, barley, buckwheat flour, garbanzo beans, lima beans, soybeans, trail mix, halibut steaks and spinach. Almonds, cashews and mixed nuts with peanuts are also good sources. If you can’t get enough magnesium through your diet, consider taking a magnesium supplement.

Vitamin B12

The “Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet” issued by the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, notes B12 boosts energy and helps maintain healthy nerve cells — of which you have about 100 billion in your brain. The RDA for B12 for men and women over age 19 is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) a day.

Foods high in B12 include mollusks, beef liver, sirloin and fish. However, since many people lose their ability to absorb the B12 naturally present in foods as they age, the government suggests that people older than 50 get vitamin B12 in fortified foods such as cereals and supplements.

Keep Up Your Energy with this Snack Mix

Boost your energy level by creating an easy energy snack mix rich in magnesium and vitamin B12.

  • Pick a dry cereal that has 100 percent of the minimum daily requirement of vitamin B12 in each serving, such as Malt-OMeal High Fiber Bran (28 mcg), Kellogg’s All Bran with Extra Fiber (24 mcg) or Multi-Grain Cheerios (21 mcg).
  • Get some roasted, shelled pumpkin seeds. If you can’t find any, try almonds, dry roasted cashews or oil-roasted mixed nuts with peanuts.
  • Mix 4 cups of the cereal with 1-1/2 cups of the seeds or nuts to make a snack mix.
  • Carry a bag with you at all times and eat a handful whenever you feel your energy dropping.
  • Speak with a health care professional to find out about how magnesium and vitamin B12 can best serve your specific needs.


Roger Maxwell had a stroke in March 2003. When his rehab ended, he devised and carried out a plan for full recovery. Today, he is a marathon runner and full-time patent attorney. Maxwell’s recovery is detailed in Taking Charge of Your Stroke Recovery: A Personal Recovery Workbook (www. takingchargebooks.com).


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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