Magnesium (Mg) may be the most overlooked mineral. No one has yet popularized a simple way to remember it, in the way that we usually associate, calcium with bone health, and sodium with blood pressure. б But magnesium is an incredibly versatile and important nutrient that many doctors, nutritionists, and researchers believe is the single most important nutrient for human health. It is essential for over 300 different chemical reactions in the body, including maintaining your energy level, helping you relax, and sustaining the health of your heart and blood vessels. Unfortunately, in most of the developed world, magnesium deficiency is probably the most common nutritional deficiency. Because it has so many crucial functions, and because it appears to protect us from serious conditions that are most prevalent in the developed world, magnesium really is the Бmiracle mineral. Б
What is magnesium good for? One of its most common uses is for alleviating constipation; you may recognize it as the active ingredient in well-known over-the-counter laxative medicines. It is also a natural calcium-channel blocker Б many integrative medicine practitioners have used magnesium supplements to help lower blood pressure and maintain healthy blood pressure. While we often hear about the importance of calcium for bones, magnesium is the other key mineral for healthy bones.
And because so many people take calcium pills without magnesium, there may actually be a greater need for magnesium than for calcium in people who are most vulnerable to osteoporosis. Magnesium is probably the most important nutrient for that energy powerhouse, the human heart; it helps the heart muscle itself function better. Magnesium also helps protect blood vessels, which is where most of what we call heart disease actually happens. Magnesium is also a natural blood thinner, much like aspirin, so many doctors and researchers believe that it may help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Perhaps the area where magnesium could have the biggest impact is in the prevention of diabetes: Scientists have proven that magnesium levels are low in people with diabetes; people with higher magnesium levels do not develop diabetes; and that supplementing with magnesium appears to help reverse pre-diabetes. As with all minerals in foods, the mineral has to be present in the soil where the food is grown. The best food sources of magnesium are beans, especially soy; whole grains, including bran; nuts like almonds and brazil nuts; and seeds, including flaxseed, sesame, and sunflower. Dry cocoa powder, and thus dark chocolate, is also a great (and incredibly tasty! ) source. б Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body.
Two-thirds of it is found in your bones and the rest in your tissues. This amazing mineral is absorbed into the body through the intestines and is then transported through the blood to your cells and organs where it\’s stored. Because the body can\’t produce it (unlike some nutrients like vitamin A), you need to eat enough magnesium-rich foods on a daily basis to remain healthy. Researchers know that magnesium plays a wide variety of roles in the body. Your cardiovascular system, digestive system, nervous system, muscles, kidneys, liver, hormone-secreting glands and brain all rely on the mineral to accomplish even the most basic tasks. And scientists believe it may play an important role in preventing or treating dozens of health conditions including asthma, autism, heart disease, eclampsia, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, PMS and lupus. Because the magnesium is involved is a wide array of bodily reactions and functions, symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can vary widely. Here are some of the most common: Muscle weakness, tremors and spasms Lack of appetiteYou can, however, get too much of this mineral. Magnesium toxicity usually results when it is taken as a supplement or in pill form. Toxicity symptoms include drowsiness, weakness and diarrhea. Stick to magnesium-rich foods, unless directed differently by your doctor.
Who is at risk for a magnesium deficiency? Certain groups of people will have a harder time reaching their daily dose of the nutrient. At-risk groups include: People with digestive diseases. People who suffer from Crohn\’s or irritable bowel syndrome have lower absorption rates than others. People who experience vomiting or diarrhea. Whether you have the flu or experience an allergic reaction, excessive vomiting or diarrhea will deplete the magnesium stores in your body and will compromise the digestive system\’s ability to absorb it. People taking certain medications. Certain diuretics, antibiotics and medications (like those used to treat cancer) inhibit the digestive system\’s ability to absorb the mineral. Diabetics. Some diabetics are prone to urinate more often than others. Because magnesium is flushed from our body through the kidneys, the more you urinate, the more magnesium your body will lose. People with low blood levels of potassium or calcium. These nutrients and minerals work together to create balance in the body. If you\’re running low on either potassium or calcium, you run the risk of becoming magnesium deficient as well. Seniors. The body\’s digestive tract changes with age. The older you are, the more prone you are to problems like diarrhea. As a result, seniors run a higher risk of becoming deficient than their younger counterparts do.
Some of the best food sources for magnesium include:Halibut, cooked, 3 oz = 90 mg Almonds, dry roasted, 1 oz = 80 mg Cashews, dry roasted, 1 oz = 75 mg Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 cup = 75 mg Spinach, cooked, 1/2 cup = 75 mg Oatmeal, instant prepared with water, 1 cup = 55 mg Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tbsp = 50 mg Avocado, California, 1/2 cup = 35 mg Raisins, seedless, 1/4 cup = 25 mg Getting more magnesium from your diet is easy. Here are a few quick and easy tips: 1. Eat green. Green vegetables are a good source of magnesium because the nutrient that makes them green (chlorophyll) is packed with the mineral. 2. Avoid refined foods. Refining and processing flour strips the grain of almost all its magnesium content. Reach for whole grain products instead. 3. Skip bottled water. Tap water is a great source of magnesium. That\’s especially true if you have hard water. 4. Get your daily five. Meeting your daily fruit and veggie quota of 5 to 10 servings will guarantee you reach your magnesium RDA. 5. Limit alcohol and coffee. Both increase your body\’s urge to urinate. The more you urinate, the more magnesium will be excreted from your body. 6. Eat your fruits and veggies raw. Steaming, blanching or boiling certain foods can cut their magnesium content by as much as 65 percent. Reach for freshly chopped foods instead.