But what about the other natural goodies that keep your body and mind in tip-top shape? It’s time to stop putting them in a corner!
Take magnesium, for example. This mineral is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions, explains Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., nutritionist and manager of scientific affairs for The Vitamin Shoppe. “As important as it is, more than half the population in the U.S. doesn’t meet their daily magnesium needs.”
Once you learn a little more about magnesium, we guarantee you’ll want to show it some more love.
Magnesium, Biological Powerhouse
One of magnesium’s hundreds of roles in your body is energy production. “We produce and use a chemical called ATP to do everything from making our heartbeat to keeping our brain functioning,” says Tanzer. Magnesium contributes to ATP production, and indirectly influences tons of other body functions.
It’s also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, like the feel-good serotonin, in our brain, Tanzer says. That may explain why low magnesium levels are often associated with poor mood and common in people with depression.
Magnesium has a soothing effect on many parts of the body. “Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, promoting blood flow and healthy blood pressure,” says Tanzer. It similarly helps the heart and your other muscles relax after contracting (calcium handles that part).
Are You Getting Your Fill?
The average adult man needs 420mg of magnesium per day, while the average adult woman needs 320mg per day, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Some of the best sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables and nuts. According to the NIH, an ounce of almonds contains 80mg of magnesium (20 percent of your daily needs!) while a ½ cup of boiled spinach comes in at 78mg. “The chlorophyll in leafy green veggies is where you’ll find the magnesium, so the darker the green the higher the concentration of magnesium,” says Tanzer.
Legumes and beans like peanuts, edamame, and black beans are also good sources of magnesium, with a serving of each packing more than 10 percent of your daily magnesium needs.
Most of us don’t get the recommended daily amount of magnesium from food alone, however, and some groups, like people who take certain meds, are at even higher risk for deficiency.
Some blood pressure meds, like diuretics, make you pee more, and you flush out magnesium in all the extra pee, says Tanzer.
Meanwhile, stomach meds like antacids and proton pump inhibitors often used for digestive troubles like heartburn can also mess with your magnesium by reducing your absorption. While this may not be problematic short-term, chronic use of these meds may deplete your magnesium and impact your health, Tanzer says.
Lastly, people who exercise a lot may burn through more magnesium than the average Joe. (Remember, you need magnesium to make your muscles contract and relax when you’re working out.)
Since less than one percent of your body’s magnesium is stored in your blood (most is stored in your bones, and the rest in your muscles and kidneys), magnesium deficiency can’t be easily tested for. That being said, symptoms like fatigue, elevated blood pressure, changes in mood, and elevated blood sugar can indicate you’re low on the mineral, says Tanzer.
Maximize Your Magnesium
If you’re looking to take a magnesium supplement in addition to your daily multivitamin, which should contain some, you’ll find it in a few forms online or on the store shelf.
Varieties labeled as “chelated magnesium” or “magnesium glycinate” tend to be gentler on the stomach and more easily absorbed, explains Tanzer. Magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate may have a mild laxative effect, because they stay in the GI tract longer and draw in water, he adds. That’s why many people turn to milk of magnesia when backed up—it’s made with magnesium hydroxide.
Some magnesium can be absorbed through the skin to help soothe and relax tired, sore muscles. Fitness junkies or athletes may want to try taking an Epsom salt bath, which contains magnesium, after a workout, Tanzer suggests.