Magnesium is a mineral which is absolutely essential to our health yet it is often overlooked. Magnesium plays a role in managing anxiety, generation of ATP (energy), high-quality sleep, cell development and function as well as reducing inflammation within the body. However, it’s not always easy to get ample amounts of magnesium within your diet which is why it’s important to know how you can ensure you consume enough magnesium.
Importance Of Magnesium For Health
Reasons Why It’s Hard To Obtain Magnesium
Magnesium actually used to be a lot easier to obtain than it is now today. This is because magnesium is a mineral found in the soil as is naturally uptaken by plants during growth, so plant foods tend to be rich in magnesium. However, due to modern farming practices involving processing, changes in soil condition and a global change in eating habits, it has become more difficult to obtain magnesium within one’s diet.
The processing of many crops reduces magnesium content in foods, as well as causing a reduction in other vitamins and minerals.
In the UK, between 1936 – 1997 there was on average a 35% decline in magnesium content (as well as other minerals) across a range of fruits and vegetables studied, including, but not limited to kale, tomato, potato, spinach, apple, pear, barley, beetroot, cabbage, carrot, currant, brown rice and wheat.
In the US, between 1963 – 1992 there was on average a 21% decline in magnesium content across a range of fruits and vegetables studied.
When grains are processed into white flour, the bran and wheat germ are removed. When seeds or nuts are processed into refined oils, magnesium is removed from the seeds and nuts during the superheating process. These portions of the plant which are removed during processing often have the highest magnesium content.
2) Soil Conditions
Ultimately, the magnesium that makes its way into your diet comes from the soil and is uptaken by plants which are eaten by humans. More intensive agricultural processes are reducing the magnesium content in the soil and this is even reducing the magnesium content in meat as well presumably since the magnesium in livestock also comes from the plants they eat.
In addition, whilst pesticides are seen as a necessity to prevent crops from being eaten, they can actually affect vitamin-fixing bacteria in the soil, earthworms, natural soil aerators and fertilisers. As a result, the vegetation produced on these soils has a large reduced mineral and vitamin content.
3) Changes In Eating Habits
More and more people are eating less and less vegetables. Since vegetables are the primary source of magnesium (from the soil) then this makes it more likely that a large amount of the population will be deficient in magnesium. The increased consumption of ultra-processed foods doesn’t help either as these tend to also lack minerals and vitamins which are removed during processing. Ultimately, this problem is more within our control as individuals as we simply need to try and incorporate more vegetables into our diet.
Further Reading: 13 Easy Ways To Add Vegetables To Your Diet
Health Benefits Of Magnesium
Magnesium has been shown to:
- Reduce subjective anxiety when given as a supplement to those who are ‘mildly anxious’ and in women with premenstrual syndrome.
- Help reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure
- Improve exercise performance
- Improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar in magnesium-deficient individuals
- Relieve inflammation
- Reduce the severity of insomnia and improve sleep quality
- Aid in the metabolism of vitamin D
- Improve symptoms of anxiety
The body requires magnesium for many cellular processes such as:
- DNA synthesis
- Muscular contractions
- Nerve function
- Regulating heartbeat
- Building strong bones
- Maintaining a healthy immune system
- Protein synthesis
- Regulating blood pressure
Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency
The following symptoms may be a sign you have magnesium deficiency:
- Anxiety (usually linked with insomnia)
- Type 2 diabetes (linked to high blood sugar)
- High blood pressure
- Leg cramps
Risk Factors For Magnesium Deficiency
Furthermore, those who fit certain demographics may have an increased risk for magnesium deficiency:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases – the small intestine is where many minerals and vitamins are absorbed. If this part of the body is affected then it can lead to malabsorption and magnesium loss, particularly in those who opt for surgery so their digestive system can bypass certain parts of the small intestine.
- People with type 2 diabetes – type 2 diabetes typically comes with increased urination which can cause more magnesium to be lost from the body.
- Older adults – as people age, they tend to consume diets which contain less magnesium than younger adults. This is an easier fix that can be made with more thought about what foods you eat. The main problem is that as you age, magnesium absorption in the gut decreases and more magnesium is excreted from the body. Medications which may be taken to manage illnesses can also interfere with magnesium concentrations within the body.
- Regular alcohol drinkers – alcohol tends to absorb many nutrients out of your cells, effectively acting as an ‘antinutrient’. This will leech magnesium from your cells, making a magnesium deficiency more likely.
Magnesium Rich Foods
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is around 420mg for male adults and 320mg for female adults. Here are the best foods to incorporate into your diet in order to ensure you get an adequate amount of magnesium:
- Spinach, boiled – 156mg per cup
- Chard – 154mg per cup
- Almonds, dry roasted – 80mg per ounce
- Cashews, dry roasted – 76mg per ounce
- Soy milk – 61mg per cup
- Black beans, cooked – 60mg per ½ cup
- Avocado – 44mg per cup cubed
- Breakfast cereals fortified with 10% DV of magnesium – 40mg per serving
- Kidney beans, canned – 35mg per ½ cup
- Banana (medium) – 32mg
The most nutrient dense food to get your magnesium from would be spinach and chard as they are also very low in calories, so I’d suggest incorporating leafy green vegetables into your diet more often if you can.
For those who are worried about magnesium deficiency, may want to improve symptoms more quickly or just want to ensure they are getting enough magnesium, there is the option of taking magnesium supplements. There are several types of magnesium supplements out there, but the one I recommend is Magnesium Threonate.
Magnesium threonate is a newer magnesium supplement which has been shown to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane most efficiently. It’s particularly good at getting into the brain which can help for more immediate effects such as reducing anxiety. The version of this supplement you probably want to opt for is magnesium L-threonate.
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