Magnesium is an important mineral, playing a role in over 300 enzyme reactions in the human body. Magnesium is one of seven essential macrominerals. These macrominerals are minerals that people need to consume in relatively large amounts — at least 100 milligrams (mg) per day. Microminerals, such as iron and zinc, are just as important, though people need them in smaller amounts. Its many functions include helping with muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system. Essential and elemental, magnesium works nothing short of miracles when it comes to your health. It plays a chief role in regulating blood glucose levels and blood pressure, and it even ensures the conductivity of electrical impulses for a regular heartbeat. Among its other essential roles, magnesium synthesizes proteins, ensures proper muscle contraction, and aids in increasing bone density. It’s also a major player in healthy brain functioning.
From individual cells to entire organ systems, magnesium plays a vital role in the health of the body. Within each cell, magnesium participates in the function of organelles, such as mitochondria, where it directly affects energy production. It helps to stabilize the cell membranes, allowing potassium, calcium, and sodium to flow in and out of the cell. For example, when magnesium gets depleted from the body due to excessive sweat, calcium isn’t able to flow out of muscle cells, leading to muscle cramping. Nerve cells depend on magnesium to regulate the correct levels of sodium and potassium within them; if they’re unbalanced, then anxiety, irritability, or migraine headaches can take over. Magnesium also influences cell receptor activity, facilitating numerous operations required for the creation of DNA, RNA, and the master antioxidant glutathione. The less magnesium in the body, the less efficiently it behaves.
About 68 percent of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency. Because it’s a macro mineral, large doses of magnesium must be consumed frequently to avoid deficiency. Gaining a thorough understanding of the impact of a magnesium-rich diet may help you assess whether you could be lacking sufficient intake. Increasing your consumption of magnesium-rich foods or supplements will only improve your health. The body stores more than half of its magnesium in the skeletal system, while the rest resides in muscle and other tissues. When the body has consumed sufficient amounts of magnesium, calcium absorption in the bones activates vitamin D in the body. Because the bones require magnesium in order to absorb calcium, insufficient magnesium intake forces the unabsorbed calcium to adhere to the arterial walls, or to harden into stones, which leads to cardiovascular disease and kidney stones.
Magnesium inadequacy or deficiency can result from excess consumption of alcohol, a side effect of certain medications, and some health conditions, including gastrointestinal disorder and diabetes. Deficiency is more common in older adults.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
a loss of appetite
nausea or vomiting
fatigue or weakness
Symptoms of more advanced magnesium deficiency include:
heart rhythm changes or spasms
Research has linked magnesium deficiency with a range of health conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and migraine.
Many foods contain high levels of magnesium, including nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Manufacturers also add magnesium to some breakfast cereals and other fortified foods.
The best sources of magnesium include:
Source Per serving Percentage of daily value
Almonds (1 ounces or oz) 80 mg 20%
Spinach (half a cup) 78 mg 20%
Roasted cashews (1 oz) 74 mg 19%
Oil roasted peanuts (one-quarter cup) 63 mg 16%
Soy milk (1 cup) 61 mg 15%
Cooked black beans (half a cup) 60 mg 15%
Cooked edamame beans (half a cup) 50 mg 13%
Peanut butter (2 tablespoons) 49 mg 12%
Whole wheat bread (2 slices) 46 mg 12%
Avocado (1 cup) 44 mg 11%
Potato with skin (3.5 oz) 43 mg 11%
Cooked brown rice (half a cup) 42 mg 11%
Low fat yogurt (8 oz) 42 mg 11%
Fortified breakfast cereals 40 mg 10%
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet 36 mg 9%
Canned kidney beans (half a cup) 35 mg 9%
Banana (1 medium) 32 mg 8%
Wheat products lose magnesium when the wheat is refined, so it is best to choose cereals and bread products made with whole grains. Most common fruits, meat, and fish contain low in magnesium.
Risks of too much magnesium
An overdose of magnesium through dietary sources is unlikely because the body will eliminate any excess magnesium from food through urine.
However, a high intake of magnesium from supplements can lead to gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, or cramping.
Very large doses can cause kidney problems, low blood pressure, urine retention, nausea and vomiting, depression, lethargy, a loss of central nervous system (CNS) control, cardiac arrest, and possibly death.
People with a kidney disorder should not take magnesium supplements unless their doctor advises that they do so.