Let’s look at why magnesium is the ultimate restorative mineral, some signs of mineral deficiency and whether you should look at magnesium supplements. Plus, some magnesium-rich foods to boost your mood, energy and vitality.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that's involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body. That means that it plays a role in everything from energy production and protein synthesis to blood pressure regulation and bone health. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, with the majority of it stored in skeletal muscle and soft tissue.
In addition to its role in neurotransmitter function, magnesium is also involved in muscle contraction, blood sugar regulation, and bone health. Importantly, because of magnesium’s widespread functions within the body, it plays a major role in disease prevention and supporting overall health.
How much magnesium do I need to stay healthy?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 310-420 mg per day for adults, depending on your age and gender. However, many experts believe that the RDA is too low and that most people actually need more than this. If you’re undergoing periods of illness or stress, your body may be depleted of magnesium and therefore you’ll want to up your intake. Food-sources are always the ideal way to replete magnesium, however supplements can be useful in certain circumstances. More on that below.
Why is magnesium so important for neurotransmitter function?
Magnesium is likely most well-known for its role in neurotransmitter function. Specifically, it helps ‘switch on’ critically important brain neurochemicals, like dopamine and serotonin. And truthfully, magnesium is involved in the synthesis, release, and reuptake of many neurotransmitters. This means that magnesium influences how our brains communicate with our bodies. Magnesium deficiencies have been linked to various neurological disorders, such as migraines, anxiety, and depression. So it’s easy to see how vital this mineral is for our mental health and wellbeing, among other things.
What are some good sources of magnesium?
If you're looking to increase your magnesium intake, aim to add magnesium-rich foods to your diet every day. Include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains. Here are some great ideas to get more magnesium:
- Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach contains 157 mg of magnesium.
- Swiss chard: One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains154 mg of magnesium.
- Kale: One cup of cooked kale contains 84 mg of magnesium.
- Almonds: One ounce of almonds contains 80 mg of magnesium.
- Cashews: One ounce of cashews contains 74 mg of magnesium.
- Pumpkin seeds: One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg of magnesium.
- Black beans: One cup of cooked black beans contains 60 mg of magnesium.
- Kidney beans: One cup of cooked kidney beans contains 48 mg of magnesium.
- Lentils: One cup of cooked lentils contains 71 mg of magnesium.
What does the research say about magnesium?
There is some evidence to suggest that magnesium supplementation can improve various health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, migraines, PMS symptoms, and osteoporosis.
According to Takaya et al. (2004), magnesium is critically involved in the action of insulin, helping the uptake of glucose in the bloodstream. An interesting study published in the Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, found that supplementation with magnesium had a profound effect on reducing PMS symptoms. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, headaches, irritability and tension were reduced due to magnesium supplementation. Similar results were seen when vitamin B6 was added.
What are some signs of magnesium deficiency?
Magnesium deficiency is relatively common, particularly in adults. Some clinical signs of magnesium deficiency include:
- Muscle cramps
- Eye twitching
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Insomnia or sleep issues
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Musculoskeletal pain
If you’re concerned about any symptoms, it’s best to consult the advice of your trusted health provider.
Are magnesium supplements useful?
Magnesium supplements can be useful for people who are magnesium deficient. However, it's always best to get your nutrients from food first. Some supplements are loaded with excipients that are difficult for your body to break down, and can be inflammatory. Also, the actual dose of magnesium is often nowhere near the therapeutic level to have any benefit. So, if you're interested in taking a magnesium supplement, speak to a trusted health provider who knows about magnesium supplementation.
What are the most bioavailable types of magnesium supplements?
There are many different types of magnesium supplements on the market, but not all of them are created equal. When it comes to magnesium supplements, you want to look for something that is highly bioavailable, meaning your body can easily absorb and use it. Some of the most bioavailable types of magnesium supplements include magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium threonate. Again, talk with the provider to get a better understanding if what you’re taking is really right for you and your health concern.
What are some recipes that are high in magnesium?
If you're looking for recipes that are high in magnesium, look no further. Magnesium is abundantly present in plenty of foods. Try some of these delicious recipes.
- Green Smoothie Bowl: Blitz spinach, banana, coconut milk and chia seeds and serve in a bowl.
- Almond Butter with Banana on Toast: Simple and delicious almond butter and banana. Both high in magnesium and other healthy minerals.
- Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with chicken: Enjoy a mixed salad with magnesium-rich ingredients like chicken, quinoa, artichokes, olives and olive oil.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts: This recipe features both Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts, which are both good sources of magnesium. (see below)
Brussel Sprouts & Toasted Hazelnuts
- 1 tbsp. Butter
- 400g brussels sprouts, quartered
- ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts
- ½ tsp. Salt
- Cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsps. water
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- Place butter on a baking dish and roast until browned, around 5 minutes.
- Add Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts to brown butter. Season with salt and pepper and mix with a spatula to coat evenly.
- Continue to roast for another 15 minutes, add water halfway through. Ensure they aren’t burning.
- Roast until Brussels sprouts are browned and tender. Enjoy!
Fathizadeh, N., Ebrahimi, E., Valiani, M., Tavakoli, N., & Yar, M. H. (2010). Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 15(Suppl 1), 401–405.
Feng, J., Wang, H., Jing, Z., Wang, Y., Cheng, Y., Wang, W., & Sun, W. (2020). Role of Magnesium in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Biological trace element research, 196(1), 74–85. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-019-01922-0
Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Centre, Other Nutrients, Minerals, Magnesium. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium, viewed 20 September 2022
Takaya, J., Higashino, H., & Kobayashi, Y. (2004). Intracellular magnesium and insulin resistance. Magnesium research, 17(2), 126–136.
Volpe S. L. (2013). Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 4(3), 378S–83S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.003483