Nutrition / Food

Magnesium 101: Why You Need it and Where to Get It

Learn why magnesium is essential for your body and what happens if you don’t get enough.

Magnesium is more than just an element on the periodic table. It’s a vital mineral to keep the body functioning properly. Dominic Gallo, accredited practicing dietitian and owner of DG Dietetics and Fitness, explains, “It is a co-factor in more than 300 enzymes. And it’s involved in many body processes, such as taking energy from food and making new proteins, helping [to] keep your muscles and nerves healthy. [It is also] important for the formation of healthy bones. Almost every cell in the body requires magnesium.” Let’s break down this important mineral a bit more. 

What are the benefits of magnesium?

Not only does magnesium help your body processes, but it also assists in lowering blood pressure, improving blood sugar, improving sleep quality, and preventing migraines. Women, in particular, will also greatly benefit from the mineral, as it helps reduce PMS symptoms.

It is said to enhance athletic performance, as well. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 124 healthy, elderly women were given oral magnesium supplementation over 12 weeks. At the end of the 12-week period, these women had better physical performance than the control group.

How much magnesium do I need?

You should consume the mineral every day. Each individual is different, but there are guidelines that you can follow to make sure that you’re feeding your body enough to function optimally. Gallo recommends the following intakes.

Men, by age:

Women, by age:

What are some sources of magnesium?

Luckily, magnesium is present in many foods and liquids, so you can easily increase your intake. “The best sources of magnesium are legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains,” says Gallo.

Eating your greens, like spinach, will really help get your magnesium levels up. Just one cup of cooked spinach will give you 157 mg. Snacking on one cup of almonds will give you 80 mg. And, you will be happy to hear that just one square of dark chocolate at the end of the day will increase your intake by 90 mg.

Gallo lists other magnesium-rich foods, including “prickly pear, cooked potato with the skin, All-Bran Cereal, cooked quinoa, soy cheese and yogurt, tofu, and sunflower seeds.” But, beware of “highly refined flours, tubers, fruits, oils, and fats.” These foods are quite low in magnesium.

Some people may also turn to supplements to help raise their levels. However, Gallo explains that “magnesium from supplements should not exceed 350 mg per day.” If you are taking supplements, then he also advises carefully reading the labels beforehand. It is also important to first consult your doctor, as having too much magnesium can be a possibility.

How do I know if I have a magnesium deficiency?

Without enough magnesium in the body, you may suffer from some side effects of magnesium deficiency. Some signs include tremors, muscle cramps, weakness and/or spasms, nausea, vomiting, personality changes, hyperirritability and/or hyperexcitability, and fatigue.

There are also certain groups of people who may be more prone to low levels of magnesium than others. Gallo says, “The people most likely at risk of low magnesium include the elderly and people on diuretics.” Others are people suffering from Type 2 diabetes, alcoholism, renal disease, and pancreatitis.

If you fall into any of these groups, you should be more wary of your magnesium intake. Make sure that you hit the recommended daily amounts.

 

What happens when you have too much magnesium?

Excessive amounts of magnesium can result in diarrhea, an upset stomach, irregular heartbeats, breathing difficulty, and abdominal cramping. It can also offset the balance of other minerals in the body. This can cause further problems.

Therefore, it is best to stick to the daily guidelines for magnesium, based on your age and/or your doctor’s recommendation.

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