Magnesium is an essential nutrient for maintaining good health. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is involved in many bodily processes.
Despite its importance, many people do not meet their recommended daily intake. Low levels of magnesium have been linked to some negative health impacts including weakness, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Health benefits of magnesium
Magnesium is a nutrient involved in many processes in the body, so reaching your recommended daily intake of magnesium has a multitude of benefits, including:
Maintaining healthy brain function
Magnesium plays an important role in relaying signals between the body and brain. It is the gatekeeper of the NMDA receptors found on nerve cells and protects them from weak signals which may stimulate your nerve cells unnecessarily—overstimulation of these nerve cells due to lack of magnesium can kill them. NMDA receptors are extremely important and aid brain development, learning, and memory.
Boosting exercise performance
Magnesium helps to move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate which can build up during exercise, causing fatigue. Ensuring you have everything you need to exercise effectively can help you avoid or delay further support such as physio perth and other interventions. Increased magnesium intake may even result in increased muscle mass and power.
Supporting cardiovascular health
Our bodies need magnesium to maintain muscle health, and this includes our heart. Some studies suggest a link between magnesium deficiencies and cardiovascular problems, indicating that taking magnesium may lower a person’s risk of cardiovascular issues. More research still needs to be done to better understand the role of magnesium in heart health.
Combating anxiety and depression
Magnesium levels may play a role in mood disorders including anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest low levels of the nutrient could have links with higher levels of anxiety and depression in an individual. However, more high-quality studies need to be done to find out how well magnesium supplements could help in this regard.
Reducing migraine headaches
People who experience migraines sometimes have low magnesium in their tissues and blood. Some small studies found that magnesium supplements can modestly reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Magnesium should, however, only be used for this purpose as allowed by your doctor, as intake may need to be high to take effect.
Regulating muscle contractions
Magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker, meaning it helps keep the balance between calcium contracting your muscles and magnesium helping them relax. If your body doesn’t have enough, there is less magnesium to compete with calcium to relax your muscles, causing cramps or spasms.
Promoting bone health
Like calcium, magnesium is also essential for healthy bone formation. It helps to regulate calcium and vitamin D levels, which are two nutrients that are essential for bone health.
Promoting better sleep
Possibly related to magnesium’s ability to relax your body’s muscles, magnesium may also improve your quality of sleep. Having a relaxed body and mind makes drifting off much easier and quicker.
Ways to increase magnesium levels
Dietary intake is one of the most effective ways of increasing your magnesium levels. Many foods are high in this nutrient, such as seeds, nuts and dark green vegetables.
The following foods are rich in magnesium:
- Pumpkin seeds: 37% of the DV (Daily Value) per ounce (28 grams)
- Chia seeds: 26% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
- Spinach, boiled: 19% of the DV per 1/2 cup (90 grams)
- Almonds: 19% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
- Cashews: 18% of the DV per ounce (28 grams)
- Black beans, cooked: 14% of the DV per 1/2 cup (86 grams)
- Edamame, cooked: 12% of the DV per 1/2 cup (78 grams)
- Peanut butter: 12% of the DV per 2 tablespoons (32 grams)
- Brown rice, cooked: 10% of the DV per 1/2 cup (100 grams)
- Salmon, cooked: 6% of the DV per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Halibut, cooked: 6% of the DV per 3 ounces (85 grams)
- Avocado: 5% of the DV per 1/2 cup (75 grams)
Including a variety of magnesium-rich foods in your diet is a great way to help you get more of this important nutrient into your body. These examples make good additions to smoothies, snacks and other dishes as they are very versatile.
Alternatively, taking a magnesium supplement or a multivitamin may help you fill any gaps in your diet and increase your intake. However, it is important to check with your doctor before you take magnesium supplements as they can interfere with some medications.
While many people do not meet the recommended daily intake of magnesium, deficiency symptoms are rare in otherwise healthy people. Deficiency symptoms can result from a number of things including a side effect of some medications, excess alcohol consumption and certain health conditions. These deficiencies are more common in older adults.
It is important to remember, our bodies are made up of many different nutrients and minerals, so following a balanced diet is more important than focusing on a single nutrient.