You’ve probably heard good nutrition advice that emphasises a well-rounded, balanced diet and the benefits of our bodies getting the right intake of vitamins and minerals. However one vital mineral that sometimes doesn’t get the press coverage it fully deserves is magnesium. This despite being one of the key minerals necessary for the proper functioning of our bodies and one of the favourites of nutritionists.
For while many reports will touch on why it is essential in the diet and should be part of a balanced nutritional intake, less actually stress why it is so important, the range of foods that contain magnesium and how much is necessary for a healthy diet. We hope to answer a few of your questions about magnesium in this week’s article!
So how does magnesium affect our health and what are the benefits of the right amount of magnesium in our diet?
Magnesium works through the building and maintaining of our cells, the engine room of our bodies. Indeed not only does magnesium help in the way a cell functions — without it a cell is unable to produce enough high-energy molecules to function at a proper level— it is also necessary for the building of cell membranes, as well as contributing to the cell’s electrolyte balance.
Working hard at such a cellular level, a healthy and balanced intake of the mineral is therefore vital for healthy nerve, bone and muscle growth. It is also incredibly important for energy production and the proper functioning of the central nervous system, glucose metabolism and our heart as well as aiding in the absorption of calcium in our cells.
A magnesium imbalance has been linked with a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease, according to health information site WebMD.
On the other hand, getting the right balance of magnesium in the diet may help in the relief of the following conditions:
- Stress. Evidence shows that a diet higher in magnesium may help reduce the symptoms related to stress.
- Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
- Migraines. Some forms of tension-related migraines may be mitigated by magnesium intake.
- Bone deficiency. Poor bone health may be related to magnesium deficiency. A change in diet to introduce more into your diet will help strengthen bones and teeth.
- Digestive problems. Suffer from digestive problems such as constipation and indigestion? A higher intake of magnesium may help in resolving this by aiding the digestive process.
What is the recommended daily intake?
This depends on age, gender and life condition. For full details on the recommended daily intake of magnesium for all factors, check the extensive charts available here from the Australian Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council.
Which foods are considered to be rich in magnesium?
Magnesium can be found in many foods, however those where it is found to be most prevalent includes, dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as legumes and whole grains.
If you think of foods that are rich in fibre, you generally get an idea of those that contain magnesium in levels beneficial to our bodies. The good news is that there is plenty of delicious and healthy foods to choose from!
Some of the “super” magnesium foods include:
- Sunflower and sesame seeds (roasted)
- Almonds and cashews (roasted)
- Black beans
- Shredded wheat
- Brown rice
- Dried fruit
- Dark Chocolate
Meat cuts such as liver, heart, bacon, steak and chicken and turkey also contain moderate amounts of magnesium.
Can you take too much magnesium in your diet?
Do you think you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet? As always consult a health professional or nutritionist for best advice on getting the best rounded diet to suit your needs. Always ensure any focus on increasing magnesium is part of a full and well-balanced diet and make sure you don’t go overboard. For while the National Health and Medical Research Council sets upper limits for daily intake, it does so as a precautionary measure adding “...it has not been shown to produce toxic effects when ingested as naturally occurring magnesium in food”.
However common sense suggests the body needs a balance of vitamins and minerals and too much of a good thing — even magnesium! — may be counter productive.
Magnesium can truly be classed as one of nature’s super minerals, an imbalance of which can cause severe health problems. While a healthy, balanced diet should be enough to give you all the magnesium (and other vitamins and minerals) you need, the plethora of pervasive, processed foods available on our supermarket shelves and fast food joints has created a magnesium deficiency in many people. So much so that the USDA has estimated that half of people receive less than their daily requirement from food sources.
So next time you’re writing out the family’s weekly shopping list, kick the processed foods out and don’t forget to write down a few of those foods that naturally contain high levels of magnesium. Remember think fibre!