For Nutrition Tip Tuesday this week, we are looking at one of the micro-minerals that we outlined last week – magnesium!
Magnesium is one of seven essential microminerals. These microminerals are minerals that people need to consume in relatively large amounts — at least 100 milligrams (mg) per day, compared to trace minerals which are needed in smaller amounts. There is around 25g of magnesium in the human body, making it the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and around 60% of this is found in bone while the rest of it is found in muscles, soft tissue and fluids.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400–420 mg per day for men and 310–320 mg per day for women but unfortunately a lot of people don’t get enough in the diet. Stress also has an interesting effect on magnesium as too much stress can deplete magnesium. Having low magnesium levels in the body is also seen as a stressor to the body which then depletes more magnesium, making this cycle continue.
Low magnesium can lead to a lot of issues as it is crucial to the proper functioning of the human body as every cell in the human body needs magnesium to function.
Magnesium is involved in:
1. 600+ biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes
These reactions include converting food to energy, creating proteins from amino acids, muscle contraction and relaxation, creating and repairing RNA and DNA and helps regulate neurotransmitters throughout the brain and nervous system.
2. Brain function, anxiety and mood
Having low levels of magnesium might lead to an increased risk of depression. While more research is needed in this area to get conclusive results, supplementing with magnesium may help reduce symptoms of depression. Some researchers believe that the low magnesium content of our modern day food could be linked to depression and mental illness in our society.
Linked to the point above, magnesium might also help prevent and relieve headaches and migraines. This is because magnesium deficiency can affect neurotransmitters and blood vessel constriction which can lead to migraines. In regards to preventing migraines, it has been suggested that taking magnesium citrate could be a safe and effective method to prevent migraines and may be worth discussing with your medical professional.
4. Heart health
It has been shown that taking magnesium can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those with high blood pressure, although this may only be to a small extent. Magnesium deficiency might also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as congestive heart failure or arrhythmia and those who are given magnesium after a heart attack may also have a lower risk of mortality.
Having low levels of magnesium is linked to chronic inflammation which can cause obesity, chronic disease and aging. Those with low magnesium levels have also been found to have high levels of CRP (an inflammatory marker), blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels. Magnesium supplements can reduce CRP and other markers of inflammation in older adults, overweight people and those with prediabetes
6. Insulin resistance
We’ve talked about insulin resistance in previous Nutrition Tip Tuesdays (check out our Instagram for more info) but basically, when you have reduced insulin resistance, the cells in your muscle and liver aren’t able to properly absorb sugar from your blood leading to elevated insulin levels. This is very bad for your health and is one of the leading causes of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Magnesium is involved in the process of muscle and liver cells absorbing sugar from the blood and it has been shown that many people with metabolic syndrome are deficient in magnesium. The high levels of insulin also play their part in magnesium deficiency as this leads to loss of magnesium through the urine, exacerbating this issue.
7. Premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS)
PMS is common for women of childbearing age and can include water retention, cramps, irritability, breast tenderness and fatigue leading into menstruation. Magnesium may be able to alleviate some of these symptoms.
8. Bone health
Research has shown that getting adequate levels of magnesium in the diet is linked to a higher bone density and a lower risk of osteoporosis for women after menopause. Magnesium is also involved in regulating calcium and vitamin D levels in the body, both of which are nutrients that are important for bone health.
9. Exercise performance
Depending on the activity, you could need 10-20% more magnesium during exercise than when not exercising. This is because it is involved in moving blood sugar to your muscles and disposing of lactate which builds up in muscles during more intense exercise and causes fatigue. The good news is that supplementing with magnesium may boost exercise performance and they could also reduce insulin and stress hormone levels in athletes.
Food Sources of Magnesium:
Pumpkin seeds: ~46% of the RDI in a quarter cup (16 grams)
Spinach, boiled: ~39% of the RDI in a cup (180 grams)
Swiss chard, boiled: ~38% of the RDI in a cup (175 grams)
Quinoa, cooked: ~33% of the RDI the in a cup of cooked quinoa (185 grams)
Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa): ~33% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
Black beans: ~30% of the RDI in a cup (172 grams)
Almonds: ~25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (24 grams)
Cashews: ~25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (30 grams)
Avocado: ~15% of the RDI in one medium avocado (200 grams)
Salmon: ~9% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
If you make sure to get plenty of the foods above in your diet you should be able to keep your magnesium levels at a reasonable level. If not, a medical professional may recommend supplementing magnesium.
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