Magnesium is an essential mineral and vital component of our body’s cells. It not only helps the body maintain good health, but also protects from illness. Although it is found in healthy foods, supplements can raise low levels.
Many consider it the most vital mineral for our health. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies, half of which is found in our bones. The mineral works with cells throughout the body to boost energy, regulate enzyme function, and keep the muscles and organs working properly. Tests for a deficiency are difficult since only 1 percent of it in our bodies is found in the blood.
Whole grains, leafy green vegetables, fruit, dairy products, fish, and meat contain generous amounts of this important mineral. However, owing to dietary habits and poor soil conditions, our diets often do not provide us with optimal levels of this mineral. Compared with food grown 50 years ago, today’s food (even organic) contains greatly reduced levels of vital nutrients. Modern-day farming depletes the soil’s minerals and dumps tons of chemicals and fertilizers on the crops. By the time produce reaches the market, it is laced with preservatives and synthetic additives. According to John B. Marler and Jeanne R. Wallin, researchers at the Nutrition Security Institute in Washington, DC, mineral depletion in our nation’s croplands is the primary cause for declining nutritional value of American foods.
Popeye may have been on to something when he promoted eating spinach. Just one cup of spinach can provide 40% of the daily recommended amount of this important mineral. Other foods that can help boost your levels include avocado, chard, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate.
What are some common signs that I might be magnesium deficient?
Muscle pain, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, headaches, high blood pressure, fatigue, and anxiety are some common symptoms that you may have a deficiency. Many of these symptoms can be treated by eating a diet rich in whole foods. Green leafy vegetables which are packed with chlorophyll are known as the “life blood” of a plant and have the ability to absorb the sun’s light and turn it into energy. A major difference between human blood and chlorophyll is that human blood has iron at the center of the cell, but plants have magnesium at the center of the cell.
Here are seven benefits of supplements:
- Supplements can relax muscles throughout the body, including those in the heart. They have also been used in hospitals to treat irregular heartbeat. Further, they can help regulate cholesterol levels to help prevent heart disease. They lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol, which clogs the arteries. Conversely, these supplements raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or the “good” cholesterol, which allows the liver to clean away excess cholesterol.
- Research shows that these supplements may help lower the risk of stroke. A 2012 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that an analysis of seven studies revealed people who took an extra 100 milligrams of magnesium per day reduced the risk of stroke by 8 percent.
- Without adequate magnesium, our bodies cannot produce or regulate hormones to allow a normal sleep process. Research has shown that maintaining adequate magnesium levels increases deep sleep.
- Increased intake, administered intravenously, has been used to lower high blood pressure for some pregnant women. Research has also emphasized eating more fruits and vegetables in conjunction with increasing magnesium doses to lower blood pressure.
- These supplements may reduce or prevent migraine headaches. It is “probably effective” in preventing migraines, according to the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology.
- Because magnesium balances metabolism and boosts energy, athletes have used magnesium supplements to induce energy. Athletes have found supplements improve endurance.
- Magnesium supplements help the digestive system. They have been used in laxatives to treat constipation, and supplements may help prevent or treat heartburn symptoms.
If you decide to take magnesium supplements, many considerations are in order. First, taking excessive amounts may cause side effects, so consult with a healthcare provider before beginning supplementation. Next, keep in mind the many varieties of magnesium supplements, including capsules, pills, powders, and liquids. Each form has advantages and disadvantages, so use the form you determine best for yourself. Also, consider dividing the dosage throughout the day to improve supplement absorption.
Following are a few examples of magnesium supplements to consider.
- Magnesium citrate is the most widely used magnesium supplement. It is inexpensive, is easy to take, and has a mild laxative effect.
- Magnesium taurate, glycinate, and orotate are amino acid chelates of magnesium. They tend to have less laxative effects on the intestines than magnesium citrate does, so they are often recommended to those who experience loose stools.
- Picometer magnesium has no laxative effect, and it is the safest non-oral magnesium supplement.
- Magnesium chloride is a form many say is best for indigestion, because it has extra chloride molecules to produce hydrochloric acid in the stomach to enhance gastric acid absorption.
- Magnesium malate combines magnesium with malic acid, a weak organic acid found in vegetables and fruits, particularly apples. It can be readily absorbed by the body and is often recommended for those who suffer from insomnia, chronic fatigue, or fibromyalgia.
- Magnesium oxide is not absorbed into the body. Rather, it remains in the intestines and tends to have the most laxative effect.
Research on adequate magnesium levels continues. One thing we know for sure: Healthy magnesium levels—obtained through diet and/or supplementation—are vital to our health and well-being.