Magnesium – we don’t eat enough of the dark green vegetables that contain it, and we don’t drink enough hard water in which the mineral is more absorbable by the body than in foods. The stress in our lives strips our bodies of it, as does our love of caffeinated beverages; and our high-sugar, high-starch diet depletes us of this vital nutrient.
People who eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods – beans, dark leafy greens, beans, nuts and whole grains – may be less likely to have a stroke, have a reduced risk of cancer, have a reduced risk of diabetes, have improved bone density if you are female, and a reduced risk of colon cancer if you’re male. Magnesium is also said to be useful in combating heart arrhythmia, and to relieve chronic pain. It’s even been used to treat anxiety and mood disorders. So many aspects of our health are dependent on the mineral because magnesium plays a part in the way our body creates proteins. Studies have shown magnesium to be a key player in building bones, maintaining tooth enamel, regulating metabolism and body temperature, and controlling muscle activity. It also helps conduct electrical impulses throughout the nervous system and assists the body in utilizing other minerals.
The recommended daily allowance of magnesium for an adult male is 270–400 mg, while an adult female should have between 280 and 300 mg. However, some medical authorities believe that it is more accurate to try to ensure 5 mg of magnesium per pound of body weight. In other words, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be getting 1,000 mg of magnesium per day. The best way to get this allowance is through food and hard water. Drinking unsoftened water may be the best way to consume magnesium, since the mineral in this form is much easier for the body to absorb. Eating beans, greens, nuts and whole grains will give most adults their daily recommended amount as well. Magnesium can also be found in foods such as spirulina and salba, nettles, dandelion and chickweed. Many people supplement with magnesium but this may have mild side effects of promoting loose bowels and/or diarrhea. The best forms of magnesium to supplement with is magnesium citrate or glycinate, with glycinate being usually the most absorbed by the human body.
Another way to increase magnesium levels is to take a bath with Epsom Salts. Not really a salt, but epsom salts are actually magnesium sulphate and its ability to help relax and heal stiff muscles is because the magnesium is absorbed through the skin. In addition to magnesium, soaking two or three times a week in the bathtub that has had 1/2 cup of epsom salts added will also assist with increasing sulfer levels, something else that many of us are deficient in.
Dangers of Magnesium Deficiency
Even though surveys have shown that Americans and Canadians fail to consume enough magnesium in their diets, magnesium deficiency can be difficult to detect. Exceptions may be diseases that slow or stop absorption like Crohn’s Disease, or as a symptom of other dysfunctions such as alcohol disease, uncontrolled diabetes, anything causing chronic vomiting, or as a side effect of other medications. Deficiency can also cause insomnia, heart disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Early signs that you might be suffering magnesium deficiency include nausea and vomiting, tiredness, constipation, loss of appetite, cramps, and muscle pain.
For optimum absorption and useability by the body, other Vitamins and Minerals must also be present. These include adequate levels of zinc, selenium, and Vitamin B6. Contrary to what many believe, calcium is not a major co-factor, rather magnesium is needed by calcium to help keep the mineral out of soft tissue where it does not belong.
Foods Rich In Magnesium
It is best to obtain magnesium from dietary sources with supplementation as a secondary option. Foods that are excellent sources of magnesium include almonds (1 ounce provides 80 mg or 20% of the recommended daily allowance), green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, cashews and black beans. As noted above, spirulina is also a magnesium rich food.
Seafood such as mollusks (3.5 oz serving may contain 250 mg of magnesium) as well as organ meats like liver are excellent sources of this very important mineral. Chocolate lovers will be interested to know that dark chocolate is also an excellent source, but to stay away from sugar, consider adding pure cocoa powder to smoothies.