- Magnesium is one of seven essential macrominerals that needs to be ingested in relatively large amounts to perform its myriad bodily functions.
- Along with building a strong heart and bones, magnesium supports diabetes and premenstrual system (PMS) symptom management.
- Magnesium can be found in a well-balanced diet comprised of plant- and animal-based foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
A nutritional sorcerer
While that might be stretching magnesium’s boundaries a bit, this powerful macromineral wields a unique form of magic within the body. And because it’s charged with a myriad of disparate responsibilities, it needs to be consumed in macro, or relatively large, amounts. Take a look at the Recommended Daily Allowance of this essential nutrient, for example. Men age 19 and over should consume 400 to 420 mg per day, while their female counterparts have a slightly lower threshold of 310 to 320 mg per day.
And what type of magic does magnesium wield? Tasked with regulating more than 300 enzymatic and biochemical reactions within the body, magnesium is mainly known for its role in supporting the metabolism of food, protein/fatty acid synthesis, bone strength, blood glucose control and blood pressure stabilization.
The heart of magnesium (and other key functions)
As an essential macromineral charged with the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes, magnesium has an impressive “to-do” list that it checks off daily in the human body. Let’s get to the heart of the matter first: supporting a healthy cardiovascular system, which magnesium seamlessly executes by strengthening heart muscles, supporting improvement of lipid panels to prevent atherosclerosis, and supporting reduction of the risks of hypertension, arrhythmia and stroke.
But the heart isn’t the only body part that magnesium supports. Strong bones are equally important, which magnesium supports by assimilating calcium into the bone. By increasing bone density and boosting the formation of bone crystals, the chances of osteoporosis in women after menopause are diminished. Also, by preventing calcium from reaching excessive levels, magnesium also supports stave off arterial calcification and kidney stones.
For those concerned about type 2 diabetes, magnesium has a few tricks up its sleeve. Due to its role in glucose metabolism, magnesium may support lowering the risk of diabetes. It can also support insulin selectivity and secretion.
For women, magnesium has additional tricks in its sleeve. Those suffering with premenstrual syndrome will appreciate its support of impact on bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, leg swelling and other common PMS symptoms – especially when combined with vitamin B6. Not only that, magnesium can support your efforts to relieve anxiety and migraine headaches, along with its regular functions of supporting DNA and RNA synthesis and energy production, muscle function and nerve impulse conduction.
Best sources of magnesium
Mainly absorbed in the small intestine, magnesium has a medium level bioavailability. While naturally present in many foods, magnesium can also found in bottled waters and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. Dietary supplements, as well as popular over-the-counter medicines like laxatives and heartburn/stomach remedies, are other common sources.
Spinach and other green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of this vital nutrient. Other plant-based food options (in alphabetical order) include:
- Black beans
Who is in danger of a deficiency?
Older adults – as well as those with type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases or alcohol dependence – may be at heightened risk for magnesium inadequacies due to their unique age-related and medical situations. As such, they should monitor their intake closely. Even if they consume a nutritionally balanced diet of leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts and whole grains – along with salmon, chicken breast and beef – dietary supplementation may be needed to attain desired RDAs.
What’s the bottom line?
One of seven essential macrominerals, magnesium is responsible for a host of critical functions within the body. Along with regulating more than 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, magnesium contributes to a strong heart and bones and also facilitates energy production, muscle and nerve function, DNA synthesis and PMS symptom management. While it can be naturally gleaned from a balanced diet of animal and high-fiber plant foods, magnesium supplements may be needed to achieve ideal levels. If so, a physician or holistic practitioner should be consulted to determine appropriate treatment protocols.