magnesium deficiencyThe human body needs a variety of vitamins and minerals in order to function well. While your Vitamins A, D and Bs are very important, the sad truth is most people, including you perhaps, lack the essential nutrients needed by your body. And one of the most overlooked minerals today is magnesium.

For decades, scientists have demonstrated that the majority of Americans, Australians and people from many other countries do not get the minimum recommended daily requirement for magnesium, and yet most people are not aware that they are probably deficient and at risk of serious health problems.

Did you know that magnesium deficiency may be a bigger cause of death than AIDS and war combined?

One government study shows a staggering 68% of Americans do not consume the recommended daily intake of magnesium. Even more frightening are data from this study showing that 19% of Americans do not consume even half of the government’s recommended daily intake of magnesium.

A 2001 analysis of data collected from Australian individuals aged ≥ 65 years as part of the National Nutrition Survey 1995 highlighted the insufficiency of dietary magnesium in this age group, demonstrating that 47.7% of males and 55.5% of females in this age group had dietary intakes of magnesium lower than the RDI.

In Australia, the RDIs for magnesium have since been increased to 400-420 mg/day for adult men and 310-320 mg/day for adult women, so current dietary shortfalls are even more significant than these statistics suggest.

The reasons for such widespread magnesium deficiencies include increased consumption of processed foods, water purification that removes natural minerals, and consumption of foods that are growing in increasingly mineral-depleted soils.

Apparently, there is no popular way to tell people about the importance of this mineral, not to mention the less appealing name. Despite the lack of buzz, did you know that magnesium is one of the most important minerals you need and can bring a lot of health benefits?

Give yourself a magnesium check and read on to find everything you need to know about this essential mineral – plus tips on how to make up for it.

Understanding Magnesium

There are tons of minerals that your body needs to keep it healthy and functioning properly. One of this is magnesium. It is an essential mineral that is present in relatively large amounts in your body with an estimate of 25 grams, 50 to 60% going to your bones while the rest are distributed in soft tissues.

Aside from this, magnesium is needed by more than 300 chemical reactions to keep your body working properly. To remember it better, think of magnesium as a supporting actor. It does not play a major role unlike calcium for bones or sodium for blood pressure, but it does support the entire mineral kingdom of your body.

Without magnesium, it can be difficult for your body to maintain energy levels, or help you relax, or sustain good health for your heart and vessels. That is why a lot of doctors refer to it as the “miracle mineral” or “forgotten electrolyte” because of the crucial functions it plays in your health.

Magnesium: Why Do You Need It?

Given its supporting role, you might argue that magnesium may not that be important. That’s wrong. In fact, magnesium can bring a lot of health benefits in many ways you can’t imagine.

If you’re not convinced, here is a list of the many benefits magnesium can give to you and your health that will surely convince you of its importance.

  • Relief for gastrointestinal comfort and disease. Magnesium acts as a coenzyme in your digestive tract to break down food and absorb nutrients in your body. It also produces hydrochloric acid in your stomach to produce bile in your liver. If you are constipated, magnesium can also help cleanse the bowel of toxins.
  • Regulates blood sugar levels. Did you know that magnesium deficiency can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes and other chronic conditions? Hence, taking sufficient amount of magnesium can facilitate sugar metabolism to properly transfer glucose into the cells.
  • Maintains a healthy heart. According to a 2006 study published in the Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, magnesium aids in the proper transport of potassium, calcium and other nutrients across cell membranes. In return, these nutrients promote healthy nerve impulses, muscle contraction and normal heart functioning. Magnesium has a stabilizing effect on cell membranes, particularly in heart muscle. A healthy heart generates stable, predictable electrical impulses. Lack of magnesium permits unstable electrical impulses in the heart to emerge, generating abnormal heart rhythms (e.g. atrial fibrillation).
  • Promotes stronger bones. Calcium is needed for stronger bones. However, the supporting role behind calcium is magnesium. In fact, at least half of the magnesium supply goes directly to your bones. At the same time, it works together with calcium and vitamin D to maintain and strengthen your bones.
  • Balances cholesterol level. Magnesium helps balance the enzymes that create cholesterol in your body, which in turn balances your cholesterol levels too.
  • Powerful detoxifier. Glutathione is your body’s “master antioxidant.” In order for it to do its job, it requires magnesium to function properly and prevent harmful toxins to damage your body.
  • Decrease the risk of developing cancer. Cancer is often deadly. However, one way to minimize your risk is by maintaining healthy magnesium levels. Based on a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, every 100mg increase in magnesium intake can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 13%.
  • Improves your sleep. One of the effects of magnesium deficiency is the disturbance of sleep hormone called melatonin. If you are under stress, there is a tendency to suffer from insomnia, too. The good news is magnesium can also being balance and controls your stress hormones while improving your sleep.
  • Better muscle strength and flexibility. Magnesium helps produce insulin-like growth factor to promote growth and muscle strength. At the same time, it also loosens tight muscles and prevents cramps. Despite its many benefits, did you know that a lot of people are unable to reach the required 400mg daily value for magnesium? As a matter of fact, adults average 66% of the daily value for magnesium from food intake, plus another 8% from supplements. Hence, most people lack at least 100 to 125mg for the magnesium department. Still, there are many ways to up your magnesium levels. Read below to find out different foods that are rich in magnesium.
  • Protects against inflammation. Inflamation has been recognized as a vital contributing factor in numerous health conditions including heart disease and cancer. C-reactive protein is an inflammatory marker in the blood that predicts who is likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke and higher blood levels of C-reactive protein mean greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Did you know that higher serum levels of magnesium result in lower C-reactive protein?

Top 10 Foods That Are High in Magnesium

Given these many health benefits, the question now is where to get magnesium? After all, the World’s Healthiest Food recommends a daily value of 400 mg per day for the adults. Taking magnesium supplements can help and it's a must these days, but don’t you think it’s better if you go for natural food sources first? Here is a list of 10 foods that are high in magnesium.

  1. Spinach – this is the highest source of magnesium wherein one cup contains 157mg or 39% of the recommended daily value.
  2. Swiss chard – this is another excellent source of magnesium. One cup of Swiss chard has 150mg of magnesium or 37% DV.
  3. Pumpkin seeds – nuts and seeds such as sesame seeds and almonds can be a good source of magnesium. However, nothing beats pumpkin seeds wherein a 0.25 cup of serving has a magnesium content of 190mg or 47% daily value.
  4. Mackerel – fish such as pollock and tuna are high in magnesium. When it comes to magnesium content, mackerel has the highest source with 97mg or 24% daily value per 100 grams.
  5. Quinoa – this superfood surely has a lot of benefits, including a good source of magnesium. 0.75 cup of quinoa contains 118mg or 29% of the required daily value for magnesium.
  6. Soy beans – eating 100 grams of soybean has 86mg or 22% DV of magnesium. If you are looking for other beans and lentils with high magnesium content, you can try white beans, pinto beans or French beans.
  7. Dark chocolate – good news chocolate lovers! Did you know that 100 grams of dark chocolate has 327mg of magnesium? Just take it easy though since one square of dark chocolate can give you 145 calories.
  8. Brown rice – 100 grams of brown rice can already give you 44mg of magnesium content or 11% of the recommended DV. If you’re not a fan of brown rice, other whole wheat foods with high magnesium content are millet, bulgur, buckwheat and wild rice.
  9. Avocado – this fruit may not be ideal for dieters because of the calories it contain. Still, 100 grams of avocado contains 29mg of magnesium which comprises 7% of the recommended daily value.
  10. Bananas – aside from dark leafy greens, fruits can also be a good source of magnesium. The perfect example is banana. A 100 grams serving of banana can give you 27mg magnesium content and 1 cup of this fruit has 47mg. Aside from these mentioned, other natural foods that are high in magnesium are cabbage, asparagus, parsley, beets, broccoli, barley, summer squash, oats and tofu. To help you remember magnesium better, just think of FIBRE. Generally, fibre-rich foods are also high in magnesium content.

Signs That You Are Magnesium-Deficient

So you know the health benefits and the different natural sources of magnesium. The question now is how will you know if you lack in the magnesium deficient? What are the signs that will say you need magnesium? You can have a blood test but they often non-conclusive because under normal conditions the body maintains constant circulating concentrations of magnesium in the blood, so instead of spending money on expensive lab tests, here are signs that will say you are may be magnesium deficient.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Personality changes
  • Muscle contraptions and cramps (so many people experience annoying leg cramps and yet most doctors won't advise you to take a magnesium supplement)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Seizures
  • Coronary spasms

If you experienced any of these symptoms, go to your doctor and have yourself checked. This might also be a sign of something serious.

Magnesium and Its Relationship with Other Nutrients

Since magnesium plays a supporting role, it is normal to find magnesium combined with other vitamins and minerals in supplements.. In fact, magnesium can be combined with:

  • Calcium – both calcium and magnesium have been subjected to various researches. According to recent studies, the magnesium absorption from the intestine depends also on the amount of calcium present in your body. However, the key is balance since these two nutrients compete for absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Potassium – since potassium and magnesium belong to the same class of minerals, you will often find these two together for normal heart health and better neurologic function and enzymatic processes.
  • Phosphorus – magnesium and phosphorus also have a long-standing relationship. However, more magnesium means lesser phosphorus absorption. The good thing is this is not a serious issue since most diets do not correspond with phosphorus deficiency.
  • Vitamin D and vitamin K – for best absorption always take a multivitamin which usually contain these beneficial nutrients.

So What Type of Magnesium Should You Take?

Magnesium comes in many forms. While natural foods can be the best sources of magnesium, there are still people who take supplements to make up for the deficiency. Before you rush to the nearest drugstore, take a look at the different magnesium supplements and find out which is the best one for you.

  • Magnesium amino acid chelate – this is best magnesium supplement if you’re trying to correct a deficiency because of its high level of absorption and bioavailability.
  • Magnesium chloride / Magnesium lactate – it has good absorption however, it only contains 12% magnesium.
  • Magnesium carbonate – the absorption is somewhat lower but it contain 45% magnesium.
  • Magnesium citrate – it contains magnesium and citric acid that has laxative properties
  • Magnesium oxide – it has 60% magnesium that is bound to an organic or fatty acid. It has lesser absorption with stool softening properties. It is well absorbed on an empty stomach.
  • Magnesium sulphate / Magnesium hydroxide – also known as “milk of magnesia.” It is usually used as a laxative and recommended to take only the required dosage.
  • Magnesium taurate – it is a combination of magnesium and taurine that can provide a calming effect on your mind and body.
  • Magnesium threonate – it has the ability to penetrate to the mitochondrial membrane, thereby becoming a popular form of magnesium supplement.   

Since different forms of magnesium are absorbed somewhat differently, it's a good idea to take a supplement that contains a mix of three best forms: magnesium acid chelate, magnesium citrate and magnesium carbonate and take 300-400 mg every day.

Do not take magnesium for granted. Keep in mind that without a sufficient amount of this essential mineral, your body will not be able to function properly. Make some effort to increase magnesium levels by eating foods that are rich in magnesium and taking a high quality supplement every day. Remember, prevention is better than cure.

About the Author

Barbara is the founder and owner of She is a former research scientist with a serious passion for health. She enjoys writing about nutrition, wellness and lifestyle and empowering people to take control of their health.

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