Do you suffer from chronic pain or fatigue? Are you occasionally confused? Do you experience random muscle twitching? Do you have frequent bouts of insomnia? These symptoms can be signs of various chronic health conditions. If you experience two or more of these symptoms, your diet may be lacking magnesium.
The typical American diet often results in magnesium deficiency. In the early 20th century, Americans consumed approximately 500 mg of magnesium each day, but average magnesium consumption is now 175 to 225 mg per day. According to data published by the National Institutes of Health, adult males need 400 to 420 mg of magnesium per day, whereas adult females require 310 to 320 mg per day. Therefore—based on these figures—most Americans are significantly lacking magnesium on a daily basis.
A diet high in refined sugars and other simple carbohydrates is low in magnesium. Highly processed foods often remove magnesium from grains, and magnesium fortification is rare among manufacturers. Additional factors contributing to low magnesium levels include consuming fewer than three servings of vegetables per day, excess alcohol consumption, taking prescription medications such as antibiotics and diuretics, and poor digestion due to leaky gut syndrome. Choosing foods high in magnesium is essential, but remember only 30 percent to 40 percent of dietary magnesium is actually absorbed by our bodies. Also, remember it is very difficult to consume too much magnesium in the diet. Excess magnesium consumption generally does not create health problems, and the kidneys eliminate excess magnesium in the urine.
Our body depends on magnesium to perform several functions. It reduces pain by relaxing muscles and steadies nerves. It also helps build strong bones, stabilizes heartbeat, and regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Magnesium contributes to the structural development of bones, and it is required for energy production.
If you believe you suffer from magnesium deficiency, the best response is modifying your diet. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach; legumes; nuts; seeds; and whole grains are all good sources. For example, a snack consisting of only 2 ounces of almonds has 168 mg of magnesium. Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be a good source. Other great sources of magnesium include:
- Dry-roasted almonds
- Swiss chard
- Black beans
- Peanut butter
- Brown rice
Remember factory-produced foods are often deficient in magnesium. Eating a diet based on organic foods is better for maintaining healthy mineral levels. Further, organic foods are not exposed to herbicides and pesticides. However, simply eating organic foods does not guarantee higher magnesium levels. Seek farmers who practice crop rotation and work to maintain mineral levels in the soil.
Habitually low intakes of magnesium change biochemical pathways, thereby increasing risk of illness with time. Four diseases and disorders in particular may involve magnesium, but bear in mind that more research is needed to further establish the relationship between magnesium deficiency and these conditions.
Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease
Studies have found magnesium supplementation only slightly reduces blood pressure. However, a diet with added fruits and vegetables, more low-fat dairy products, and less fat overall shows a larger decrease in blood pressure. In addition, studies suggest higher serum levels of magnesium are significantly associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Type 2 Diabetes
A recent study found increasing magnesium intake by 100 mg per day decreases diabetes risk by 15 percent. Although increasing dietary magnesium consumption helps control diabetes risk, results establishing a similar outcome with magnesium supplementation are lacking.
Pain from Osteoporosis
Magnesium is an important mineral in bone formation and affects the concentration of both the parathyroid hormone and the active form of vitamin D, the primary regulators of bone homeostasis. Studies suggest increasing magnesium intake from either food or supplements may increase bone density in postmenopausal and elderly women.
Magnesium deficiency is related to factors promoting migraines. The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society indicate magnesium therapy may be effective for relieving pain and migraine prevention.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Nutrients should come primarily from foods.” Many foods can provide adequate magnesium consumption. By replacing a bag of chips with a healthier snack such as a trail mix consisting of nuts, pumpkin seeds, and some dried fruit, you will ensure you get your daily requirement of magnesium and will eliminate empty calories.