Magnesium is a key player in human metabolism, participating in over 300 enzymatic reactions throughout every single organ in the body. It is a necessary component of your teeth and bones, and helps to regulate levels of calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, and vitamin D.
Magnesium is also involved in the activity and transmission of neurotransmitters and muscle relaxation. With all of these important functions, you would think that obtaining enough magnesium would be on the top of our list of dietary priorities – but most people in the U.S. likely do not get enough magnesium in their diets!
Magnesium deficiency is especially prevalent in the elderly, and is associated with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, as well as heart disease and osteoporosis. It doesn’t help that it is difficult for your doctor to actually assess your magnesium status, since most of the magnesium in your body is located inside of cells or within the bone.
The measure of serum magnesium concentration in your blood does not usually reflect the actual total levels of magnesium in the body or in specific tissues.
How can adding magnesium to my diet help me?
As mentioned above, magnesium plays a pivotal role in many different functions in your body! Here are some ways that this all-star mineral can help you on your road to good health:
- Bone Health
Magnesium is essential in the formation of bones, as it is involved in the activation of vitamin D in the kidneys and also works to assimilate calcium into the bones. There have been a number of observational studies that found an association between higher magnesium intake and better bone mineral density in both men and women. There are also correlations between low magnesium levels and osteoporosis in women. All research seems to indicate that achieving the recommended intake of magnesium is likely to lower the risk of developing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
- Decreased Risk of Developing Diabetes
Magnesium is also involved in the metabolism of glucose, and scientific research has shown that an increase in dietary magnesium from food is linked to a 15% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Low levels of magnesium were linked to the development of insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular Health
Magnesium is behind the transmission of electrical signals in the body that are needed for your muscles, including the heart, to function properly!
Achieving an adequate intake of this important mineral is a great way to improve your heart health, as it is associated with a decreased risk of developing atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, as well as an improvement in blood cholesterol levels.
Magnesium is also often used in the treatment of congestive heart failure and heart conditions like arrhythmias.
- Improve PMS symptoms
Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, such as bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, and breast tenderness can be alleviated by consuming enough magnesium. Research suggests that combining magnesium with vitamin B6 is even more effective.
- Alleviate Symptoms of Depression
Eating a diet rich in magnesium can help to improve symptoms of depression! An inadequate intake of magnesium is linked to reduced levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which affects mood. One scientific study even suggested that magnesium was as effective as some antidepressants in treating depression in patients with diabetes.
- Reduce Migraine Headaches
There has been some research that suggests magnesium supplements may help prevent or reduce the duration of migraine headaches, especially when combined with riboflavin (vitamin B2). People who have migraine headaches usually tend to have lower levels of magnesium than those who do not suffer from chronic headaches.
- Improve Energy Levels
Magnesium plays an important role in how your body produces and uses ATP (adenosine triphosphate, or the “energy currency” of your cells). Because of this, a magnesium deficiency is associated with issues like fibromyalgia, muscle soreness, and body aches and pains.
There may also be an association between low energy levels that occur with adrenal fatigue and magnesium deficiency. Adrenal fatigue is a syndrome that occurs when the adrenal glands function at a lower capacity than normal, usually due to high stress levels.
How do I increase my magnesium intake?
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium varies by age and gender.
Adult males should have 410mg, while females only need 360mg. Because vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients that occur naturally in food work together synergistically, you should ideally get your magnesium from whole, unprocessed foods such as dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains.
If you must take magnesium supplements, be sure to also consider your calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K2 intake, as these vitamins and minerals all work together for a number of important bodily processes, such as the mineralization of bone.
You would think that it’s easy to add magnesium into your diet, as it is readily available in whole foods such as whole grains, nuts, seaweed, and green vegetables. However, modern farming practices of using fertilizers and herbicides like glyphosate have depleted magnesium from our soil. Glyphosate acts as a chelator, binding to important minerals and blocking their uptake, rendering them ineffective. Processing and cooking also depletes the natural magnesium levels in your food.
Ultimately, while it is always a better idea to try and obtain your vitamins and minerals through dietary sources, such as whole, unprocessed foods – it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about adding a magnesium supplement to your diet as extra “insurance” against a magnesium deficiency.
Here is a list of the top foods to add to your diet to increase your magnesium intake, and ultimately improve your overall health:
- Amaranth – 1 cup of this cooked ancient grain contains 160mg.
- Swiss Chard – 1 cup cooked contains 150mg.
- Black beans – 1 cup of cooked black beans contains 120mg.
- Quinoa – 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 118 mg.
- Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) – ½ cup of roasted pepitas contain around 103 mg of magnesium.
- Beet Greens – don’t throw away the tops of your beets! 1 cup of sautéed beet greens can add almost 100 mg of magnesium to your daily intake!
- Dark Chocolate – treat yourself with 1 ounce of the darkest chocolate and add around 64 mg of magnesium to your intake!
- Avocado – 1 cup of cubed avocado contains 44mg.
- Blackberries – 1 cup of raw blackberries contains about 29mg of magnesium.
- Fresh Basil – just 2 tbsp of chopped basil adds around 4 mg to your intake of magnesium!
Another way to improve your magnesium status is to use Epsom salt in your bath or foot bath. Epsom salt is actually a magnesium sulfate that is absorbed through your skin. Try adding 1-2 cups of epsom salt and a few drops of essential oil of lavender to your next bath for a relaxing and beneficial boost of magnesium! Topical magnesium oils are also readily available on the market.
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