Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and impacts blood pressure, metabolism, immune function and many other aspects of health. Proper magnesium levels are required for the maintenance of bone health, the prevention of type-2 diabetes, the prevention of cancer, detoxification processes in the body (filtering out caffeine, alcohol, artificial dyes and preservatives, any of those chemical nasties like parabens or SLES in your personal care products…), and many, many other things.
Magnesium deficiency is a widespread problem and some estimates suggest that over 90% of us are deficient. Most of us have diets that are lacking in whole, unprocessed foods and leafy, green vegetables. Further, the soil used to grow those foods has been depleted of nutrients over the years due to over-farming (i.e. growing crops and not replacing the nutrients taken from the soil). Another HUGE contributing factor to magnesium deficiency is increased intake of caffeine and sugar, and stress. (Sound familiar, anyone?)
Raw cacao + banana + spinach = my favourite magnesium-boosting smoothie. Get the recipe here.
10 (+1) Signs You Might be Magnesium Deficient
- Migraine headaches. Clinical studies have shown that there may be a link between low magnesium levels and migraine headaches.
- Anxiety and depression. There is a lot of research that suggests that magnesium might have a significant impact on mental health. This article in Psychology Today explains why.
- weight gain. Magnesium helps digest proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
- Fibromyalgia. Magnesium deficiency is common in those diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Combined with malic acid (magnesium malate) is has been clinically demonstrated to reduce pain and tenderness.
- Cardiovascular disease. The most dangerous symptom of magnesium deficiency is calcification of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack. Half of all heart attack patients receive injections of magnesium chloride to help stop the blood clotting and calcification.
- Low energy levels. Magnesium is required in the reactions that create ATP energy in the cells, which is the main source of cellular energy.
- Trouble sleeping. Magnesium not only helps the body relax. It is also needed for proper function of the GABA receptors in the brain, and GABA is the neurotransmitter that allows the brain to transition to a restful state.
- Pregnancy complaints (morning sickness, mood, hypertension, headaches). See all the other listed symptoms of magnesium deficiency and then add pregnancy. Not fun.
- High blood pressure/hypertension. One Harvard study of 70,000 people found high magnesium intake to be associated with health blood pressure levels. A follow-up meta-analysis of available studies showed a reduction of blood pressure with magnesium supplementation.
- Muscle spasms and cramps. This is especially a problem for women as muscle cramps associated with the menstrual cycle can also be related to magnesium levels. It is also needed to stimulate the hormone calcitonin which draws calcium out of the muscles and soft tissues and into the bones.
- Osteoporosis and poor bone health. Magnesium is needed for Vitamin D to turn on calcium absorption in the body.
Health Benefits of Magnesium
- increased energy levels
- prevention of cancer
- detoxification from toxic exposures
- better bone health (magnesium is just as important as calcium in maintaining bone health)
- proper regulation of blood sugar and prevention of type-2 diabetes
- lower risk of arthritis, heart attack, and kidney stones
- all natural anti-aging (clinical studies have shown that magnesium deficiency may accelerate aging)
A century ago, people got an estimated 500 milligrams (mg) of magnesium from their diet, courtesy of the nutrient-rich soil in which the food was grown. Today, estimates suggest we’re only getting 150 to 300 mg a day from our food.
Organic unprocessed foods tend to be your best bet, but since the magnesium content of your food depends on the richness of magnesium in the soil in which the plant was grown, even organics are no guarantee you’re getting high magnesium content.
Best Foods to Boost Your Magnesium Intake
- swiss chard
- brussel sprouts
- turnip greens
- bok choy
- beet greens
- collard greens
- romaine lettuce
- raw, organic cacao nibs
- pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- cashews, almonds, brazil nuts
The BEST sources of magnesium are chlorophyll-rich foods, i.e. green, leafy vegetables.
If you eat organic whole foods and show no signs of deficiency, you’re probably getting sufficient amounts from your food. If you eat well but still exhibit deficiency signs, you may want to consider taking a supplement as well.
Want my absolute favourite “green” smoothies recipe for boosting magnesium levels? Read this. Then go get your blender.