The mighty mineral: discover why magnesium is essential for promoting holistic health
Your nervous system is your body’s engine room. It is integral to controlling your heart rate, breathing, digestion and skeletal muscle movement – and it is magnesium that is the mineral most critical to proper nervous system function. In fact, magnesium is an essential mineral required by every organ in the body including for energy production, metabolism and regulating levels of many other important nutrients like calcium, potassium, and zinc.
As an adult, you need around 300 to 400 milligrams of magnesium per day
If magnesium levels in your nervous system fall below a certain point then it can affect your musculoskeletal health in many ways. And although severe magnesium deficiency is uncommon, you may be at increased risk if you suffer from gastrointestinal diseases or chronic diarrhoea, metabolic disturbances such as insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, are a heavy drinker of alcohol, suffer from high levels of perspiration (especially if you live in hot climates or undertake high levels of physical activity) and if you use medications such as laxatives or certain diuretics. The elderly are also more likely to suffer magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium can help support a better night’s sleep and promote good cognitive function
One of the malaise of modern life is insomnia and problems with sleep. But, when taken for a period of eight weeks, magnesium has been found to increase sleep time and melatonin levels (the hormone that modulates sleep/wake cycle). Poor concentration and cognitive function can also be supported with magnesium supplementation, and it can be beneficial for patients with dementia-related diseases.
Your kidneys regulate the magnesium levels in your body, so a deficiency is rare
However, if your diet is too low in magnesium then over time you may be at risk of certain chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and high blood pressure. The most common symptoms that may indicate magnesium deficiency include:
- muscle cramps, spasms and weakness
- eye twitches
- fatigue or lethargy
- poor mood or irritability
- poor concentration
- reduced appetite or nausea
- elevated blood pressure
- restless leg syndrome
- abnormal heart rhythms
- low blood pressure
- muscle weakness or twitching
- nausea and vomiting
Magnesium-rich foods are found abundantly in nature and are easy to enjoy
Magnesium is found in a wide range of foods with plant foods being the richest sources of these minerals along with green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts and some seafood. Our favourite foods that will give you a good dose of magnesium are:
- spinach and swiss chard (can go with just about every meal these days)
- seeds (like pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp and flax seeds)
- cocoa and cacao (yes, enjoy a little chocolate)
- almonds and cashes (raw is best)
- bananas (a medium sized banana contains around 32 milligrams of magnesium)
- coffee (but drink it black as calcium from milk and refined sugar can interfere with magnesium absorption)
Magnesium is crucial for your body to function and could be the key to a healthier you
It is the essential mineral, especially when it comes to heart health, helping fight symptoms of depression and type 2 diabetes, and relieving the symptoms of PMS including fluid retention, bloating and mood swings. And while there are several dietary factors that can either inhibit the absorption or increase the excretion of magnesium from the body including oxalates and phytates which bind to magnesium and other minerals; interestingly, many magnesium-rich foods are also high in these compounds.
Phytate-rich foods such as seeds, nuts, grains, legumes and soy can be cooked, soaked or fermented to reduce the levels of phytates, but it may difficult to eat enough magnesium-rich foods to meet your nutritional needs. If you are not getting enough nagnesium through dietary sources, supplementation may help to increase your intake of this vital mineral. Your healthcare practitioner can help you determine your nutritional requirements and prescribe the most appropriate supplements.
Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.