While you may be less familiar with magnesium than some of the other nutrients we need to stay healthy, this mineral is vital in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
Muscles need magnesium to contract, nerves require magnesium to send and receive messages, and it supports the cardiovascular and immune systems. Healthy bone formation relies on magnesium too – around 60 percent of magnesium in our bodies is found in the bones.
Thankfully, it is relatively simple to obtain the recommended daily intake (RDI) of 300mg for men and 270mg for women through diet. Foods such as leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and even dark chocolate all contain the mineral – just 100g of spinach provides roughly 87mg of magnesium.
This mineral has additional benefits. Research has shown that migraine sufferers may have lower levels of magnesium in their systems and a US study found that taking supplements reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by over 40 percent. Magnesium also normalises the actions of different hormones, including progesterone, on the nervous system, so may help to ease the symptoms of PMS. There is some research too which suggests that, as this mineral supports the metabolism, it could help with athletic performance, although the evidence is not yet conclusive.
Deficiency can be quite difficult to identify as symptoms don’t commonly appear until the level of magnesium in your system becomes very low. Early signs include loss of appetite, nausea and fatigue, with symptoms including muscle twitches, cramps and abnormal heart rhythms developing later.
Usually, the kidney is able to limit our excretion of magnesium, but if you habitually lose the mineral, due to health conditions related to kidney function such as Crohn’s disease, IBS or medication which may affect secretion, the risk rises.
While magnesium supplementation can be safe when consumed according to your needs, too much can worsen symptoms and have side effects such as diarrhoea. If you are considering supplementation, seek advice from a qualified healthcare provider first.
4 ways to ensure you get your RDI of magnesium
- Include plenty of green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains in your diet.
- There is some evidence to suggest that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin. Try a magnesium cream or run a bath with Epsom salts to increase your intake.
- Add fortified food products to your usual routine. Cereals enriched with magnesium are a great source – plus, pairing your cereal with milk or yoghurt adds another hit of the mineral.
- Make dark chocolate your go-to treat. A 28g serving provides almost 64mg of magnesium, just over 20 percent of your recommended daily intake.
Egzona Makolli(BSc Hons. MSc ANutr)
As a nutritionist, Egzona knows how what we eat affects our overall health and is passionate about sharing her knowledge. Learn more at KijaniLiving.com