The mineral magnesium doesn’t enjoy the rock (geddit?!?) star status of calcium and potassium, for example, but it’s essential nonetheless. In fact, the nutrient contributes to literally hundreds of processes that support healthy human function.
Read on to learn about the benefits of this multi-faceted mineral and find out how you can increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral considered “essential”, which means that it is necessary for normal functioning but is not produced by the body. Accordingly, it must be obtained through food.
A player in over 300 biochemical reactionsmagnesium also functions as a electrolyte, which is a mineral in body fluids (eg, blood) that carries an electrical charge. (However, most of the magnesium in the body is found in bones and soft tissues.)
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium supports normal metabolic function while contributing to musculoskeletal health and structure. “He’s a multitasker – he has many roles,” says Shelley Rael, MS, RDN
1. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar
“Specifically,” Raël adds, “magnesium is part of the process that allows our bodies to absorb and use glucose – the primary fuel source for our brains and red blood cells.”
2. Helps in bone formation
Magnesium homeostasis (balance) is associated with healthy bone density and integrity.
3. Supports Healthy Metabolism
“Magnesium helps with energy production, protein synthesis, and fat and carbohydrate metabolism,” says Alicia Smith, MEd, RD
4. Promotes Healthy Heart Function
Magnesium play an important role in the area of cardiovascular health, “by helping electrolytes like potassium and calcium pass through our cells to affect nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and heart rate,” says Smith.
How much magnesium should I consume per day?
For magnesium, the Recommended DV is 420 mg for adult men and 320 mg for adult women.
The Recommended Daily Value (DV) is the average daily intake of a nutrient needed to meet the needs of most healthy people, assuming a 2,000 calorie diet.
Are There Any Side Effects of Consuming Too Much Magnesium?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), our bodies only absorb 30 to 40 percent magnesium that we ingest, so there is no significant risk of consuming toxic amounts from food.
“You can’t really get toxicity from food because our kidneys regulate it,” says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD
An upper limit for supplemental magnesium has been set at 350mg for adults, it is therefore better to choose products with less than this amount because it is possible to consume too much. Some medications also contain magnesium (like antacids and laxatives), so be sure to check the labels.
Excess magnesium can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps.
A toxic amount – usually more than 5000 mg per day – can lead to a condition called “hypermagnesemia”, which starts with symptoms like fatigue and nausea, and can progress to more serious issues, like cardiac arrest.
What happens if I have a magnesium deficiency?
Most Americans don’t get enough magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The consequences of low magnesium intake are usually modest at first, as the kidneys compensate by accumulating more. But over time, the effects of a magnesium deficiency can be serious.
“Short term, the symptoms would be nausea and vomiting along with others like loss of appetite, weakness, and fatigue,” Giancoli says.
“It can also get worse, like muscle twitches and cramps. And it can even go as far as an abnormal heart rhythm. It is a clinical deficiency. Fortunately, our bodies have a system for keeping enough on board.
15 Best Dietary Sources of Magnesium
According to FDAa food can be considered “rich” in magnesium if it contains 20% or more of the daily value (DV) specified by the agency (80 mg) and a “good source” of iron if it contains 10 to 19 % of DV (40 to 78 mg).
The best way to increase magnesium intake is to consume it from food sources – which can range from fish and nuts to vegetables. Smith agrees, “Food is still the perfect way to get your vitamins and minerals.”
Magnesium: 168mg | Portion: 1 oz, dried
Not only rich in magnesium, a 158 calorie serving of pumpkin seeds is also a good source of iron, zinc and copper, and contains more protein than carbs.
Magnesium: 107mg | Portion: 1 oz.
The calorie count for Brazil nuts is 1-8-7, which can be murder for those counting. But you get a lot for your energy indulgence with more than a quarter of your daily magnesium intake, along with good vitamin E, phosphorus and zinc values.
Magnesium: 101mg | Portion: 1 oz, roasted
Tossed on a salad (good idea) or eaten on, say, eight Big Mac buns (bad idea), a serving of sesame seeds (160 calories) provides a quarter of the DV for magnesium.
Magnesium: 83mg | Portion: 1 oz, raw
A serving of about 18 cashews (157 calories) also contains healthy fats and proteins (5g) and is a good source of iron and zinc.
Magnesium: 77mg | Portion: 1 oz.
With about 23 nuts, a serving of almonds (about 165 calories) is also a good source of fiber (3.5g) and protein (6g).
Magnesium: 78mg | Portion: ½ cup, cooked
Just 20 calories of spinach provides an abundance of vitamins, including A and K.
Magnesium: 65mg | Portion: 1 oz, 70-85% cocoa solids
Treat yourself! A serving of dark chocolate (about 170 calories) is also a source of flavonoids and fiber (3 g) as well as iron (3 mg).
Magnesium: 60mg | Portion: ½ cup, cooked
Also known as turtle beans, one serving of this versatile legume (114 calories) is also high in fiber (7.5g) and a good source of protein (7.5g).
Magnesium: 54mg | Portion: 2 tbsp, smooth style
A 191-calorie serving of peanut butter is also packed with healthy fats and protein (7g).
Magnesium: 54mg | Portion: 3 ounces, cooked
A 156-calorie tuna fillet is also packed to the rafters with protein (25g).
Magnesium: 50mg | Portion: ½ cup
A serving of steamed or boiled soybeans (95 calories) is also a good source of fiber (4g) and a complete source of vegetable protein (9g).
Magnesium: 52mg | Portion: 1 medium, cooked
You could even go down a potato size and still have a good source of magnesium, but the medium size offers 5g of protein and 4g of fiber.
Magnesium: 48mg | Portion: 1 oz.
Twenty-eight nuts (technically legumes, food nerds) total 161 calories and provide fiber (2g), protein (7g), folate and vitamin E.
Magnesium: 39mg | Portion: ½ cup, cooked
At 124 calories, half a cup of cooked brown rice also provides more than a quarter of the daily value of niacin, which, among other functions, helps to transform fuel sources like carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy for use by the body.
Magnesium: 37mg | Portion: 1 large fruit
The only fruit to make the list (don’t freak out, the banana), at 121 calories, a banana is also a good source of potassium and fiber (4g).