A Diet Loaded With Magnesium-Rich Foods Comes With Many Health Benefits
Created in aging stars and distributed through space when the supernovas explode, magnesium is one of the seven essential macrominerals the body needs to stay healthy, along with calcium, chloride, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur.
The health benefits of magnesium are legion because it is key to a wide array of the body’s vital functions. Every organ in the body—particularly the heart, muscles, and kidneys—needs magnesium to function, and every cell in your body uses it. Magnesium helps your heart beat, keeps your bones strong, helps your hair grow, and plays a role in healthy brain, heart, and muscle function.
The multitasking macronutrient fuels, regenerates, and repairs the body, helping to convert food into energy, create new proteins, create and repair DNA and RNA, facilitate muscle contraction and relaxation, and regulate neurotransmitters.
A variety of readily-available foods like leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains supply the body with magnesium—in theory. In practice, there’s a good chance you’re not consuming enough magnesium in your diet. Roughly half of Americans don’t get the daily recommended dose of magnesium, and as a result are likely living with the effects of magnesium deficiency without knowing it.
Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is around 300-400 mg per day for adults, and the best way to get enough magnesium is to eat a variety of magnesium-rich foods. However, due to changes in the way humans eat over the centuries and the way processing food can strip it of nutrients like magnesium, many people don’t get nearly enough magnesium in their diets.
Magnesium deficiency (hypomagnesemia) can also be caused by:
- Excessive sweating
- Consumption of alcohol
- Chronic diarrhea
- Excessive urination (polyuria)
- Burns covering large parts of the body
- Kidney tubule disorders
- Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and other malabsorption symptoms
- Certain medicines
The bad news: your body really does probably need more magnesium than you’ve been giving it, with emphasis on the word need. Because magnesium is so critical to the proper function of so many systems in the body, not getting enough magnesium can have a dramatic effect on overall health.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble sleeping
- Abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure
- Numbness, tingling, feelings of weakness, and cramping in the muscles
- Anxiety, depression, and personality changes
The good news: unlocking the health benefits of magnesium is relatively easy. Countering the symptoms of low magnesium levels in the body by being intentional about adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet is one of the simplest ways to improve your health and live better.
The Top Five Benefits to Upping Your Magnesium Intake
#1: Groggy or Cramping After Exercise? Magnesium Supports Your Muscles While You Work Out
Muscles depend on magnesium, which plays a key role in processes involving oxygen uptake, energy production, and electrolyte balance, so that makes magnesium an athlete’s best friend. Getting enough magnesium can curb post-workout fatigue because magnesium helps move blood sugar to the muscles and gets rid of lactate, which causes fatigue when it builds up. As an added bonus, supplementing your magnesium intake can counter cramping and help build muscle tone.
#2: Stressed or Depressed Lately? Getting More Magnesium Can Improve Your Mood
If you’ve been stressed or anxious recently, or if you’ve been feeling particularly blue, increasing your intake of magnesium may help. Magnesium helps regulate the neurotransmitters that send messages between the brain and body, and it activates the parasympathetic nervous system that governs relaxation. Possibly due to these functions, increased magnesium intake has been associated with reduced stress, reduced anxiety, and improvement to symptoms of depression.
#3: Tossing and Turning in Bed? Magnesium Can Help You Sleep Well at Night
In addition to its power to help the body be calm and de-stress, magnesium can help you sleep better at night. Magnesium regulates melatonin, the hormone responsible for your sleep cycle, and helps quiet the nervous system, which otherwise might keep you awake.
Having trouble sleeping lately? Try supplementing the magnesium in your diet.
#4 Is Pandemic Life Giving You High Blood Pressure? Magnesium Promotes Heart Health
As great for the heart as it is for the mind, magnesium relaxes the cells in veins and arteries and thus improves blood flow and reduces high blood pressure. Magnesium also protects the heart by moving calcium out of blood vessels and other tissues and into your bones, where it can be useful and strengthen them.
#5 A Little Backed Up? Magnesium May Be the Answer to Your Tummy Troubles
To digest food, you need magnesium.Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, many of which facilitate the process of digestion, from relaxing intestinal muscles to breaking down food and absorbing the nutrients. Magnesium deficiency therefore brings digestive problems with it. If you are suffering from constipation, for example, increasing your magnesium intake may well get things moving along once again.
How to Get Enough Magnesium
If you’re not sure if you have enough magnesium in your diet, your doctor can run a serum magnesium test to measure the amount of magnesium in your blood.
If you’re not getting enough magnesium, the best way to counter the effects of magnesium deficiency is to make sure that magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, beans, and leafy greens are well represented in your diet. If you can’t get enough magnesium through your diet, ask your doctor if magnesium supplements would be appropriate for you.
For more health-related topics, tips, and recipes, make sure to follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog. We’ve recently covered other antioxidant-rich foods in “4 Health Benefits of Cranberries” and “The Health Benefits of Green Tea.” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram.