- One of seven essential macrominerals, magnesium needs to be consumed in relatively high amounts to optimize its functionality within the body.
- Among its many roles, magnesium helps build strong bones, support the cardiovascular system and diabetes management.
- Magnesium can be found in a myriad of plant- and animal-based foods, with superior sources including green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
A mighty macronutrient
As one of seven essential macrominerals, magnesium – as its classification suggests – needs to be consumed in macro, or relatively large, amounts. For men age 19 and over, this equates to 400 to 420 mg per day. Women in the same age bracket have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of 310 to 320 mg per day.
Magnesium plays a vital role in regulating more than 300 enzymatic and biochemical reactions within the body. It is tasked with everything from the metabolism of food and protein/fatty acid synthesis to bone strength, blood glucose control and blood pressure stabilization.
An essential macromineral charged with the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes, magnesium performs a host of critical functions within the body. Its scope is widespread – and its results are impressive.
Let’s start with bone health. Magnesium supports assimilate calcium into the bone, increasing bone density and boosting the formation of bone crystals to lessen the likelihood of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. By regulating calcium and preventing it from reaching excessive levels, magnesium also supports stave off arterial calcification, kidney stones and cardiovascular disease.
Speaking of matters of the heart, magnesium can support your body to fight to maintain healthy heart muscles; decrease the risks of hypertension, arrhythmia and stroke; and mitigate the potential of atherosclerosis by improving lipid profiles. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels may also be diminished with the support of a magnesium-rich diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and dairy products, and less fat in general.
Magnesium’s role in glucose and carbohydrate metabolism can’t be discounted either. Studies suggest that as magnesium intake increases, the risk of diabetes decreases. Conversely, low magnesium levels can negatively impact insulin selectivity and secretion.
Last, but not least, magnesium works additional magic by supporting DNA and RNA synthesis; assisting with nerve impulse conduction, muscle function and energy production; and relieving anxiety, migraine headaches and premenstrual syndrome-related symptoms.
Best sources of magnesium
Magnesium has a medium level bioavailability and is primarily absorbed in the small intestine. Naturally present in many foods, magnesium can also be added to other foods (for example, breakfast cereals and other fortified items) as well as beverages such as bottled waters. It can also be found in popular over-the-counter medicines, including laxatives and heartburn/stomach remedies, as well as in dietary supplements.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach are among the best sources of magnesium, as are legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Here are some options (in alphabetical order):
- Black beans
The detriment of a deficiency
Because magnesium is readily available through a nutritionally balanced diet comprised of leafy vegetables, nuts and whole grains – along with salmon, chicken breast and beef – most people should be able to get their required levels through the food they eat. If that doesn’t provide adequate amounts, supplementation as advised by a medical practitioner can shore up any nutritional gaps. Be advised that older adults – as well as those with type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases or alcohol dependence – should monitor their intake closely, as their particular scenarios may place them at a heightened risk for magnesium inadequacies.
What’s the bottom line?
An abundant mineral in the body, magnesium is primarily found in the bones (50 to 60 percent) with the bulk of the rest located in soft tissues. It is an essential macromineral charged with a host of critical bodily functions and enzymatic reactions including muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, bone strength, DNA synthesis and energy production. Magnesium can be naturally obtained through a well-balanced diet of animal and plant foods, particularly those high in dietary fiber. If magnesium supplements are needed to obtain the minimum RDA, a physician or holistic practitioner should be consulted for appropriate dosage levels as well as potential risks and side effects.