Magnesium – it’s the micronutrient that everyone seems to be talking about lately
Chances are, somebody has told you that you might be deficient in it. Or that you need to take it to sleep well at night. Or you need it to maximize your recovery if you’re an athlete.
Everyone seems to have magnesium on the brain. And for good reason. This micronutrient is powerful and essential for our body to function properly.
The beauty of whole foods (that is – foods that come from the Earth and are consumed in their *mostly* natural state) is that they are loaded down with the macro- and micronutrients our body needs to operate.
But overall, Americans are not eating a lot of whole foods. Because the standard American diet reigns supreme in the United States, most experts agree that the average American is most likely deficient in magnesium.
Is this a big deal? Should we be worried about our magnesium intake? What foods can we eat to ensure that we aren’t lacking in this essential nutrient?
Let’s get into it.
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What Does Magnesium Do?
This micronutrient plays a role in many of our body’s natural functions. In fact, it is involved in over 300 biological processes.
Magnesium is stored in your bones – so naturally, it plays a role in the metabolism of bone. Diets that are deficient in magnesium can lead to eventual bone loss.
It is a catalyst for energy production by its ability to active ATP. ATP is what our body uses for energy. If you’re deficient in magnesium, chances are you feel sluggish or fatigued regularly.
Magnesium also regulates levels of calcium and potassium within the body. Magnesium is needed for the active transport of calcium and potassium ions between cells. This plays an important role in ensuring our heart beats regularly and our nerves and muscles function properly.
Magnesium has been cited as helping calm anxiety by regulating hormones that promote relaxation; specifically it plays a role in GABA – a neurotransmitter that produces serotonin. Serotonin is most often referred to as the “happy hormone” and is important for mental health.
It also plays a key role in digestion by relaxing the muscles of the digestive tract – allowing digestion to happen easier and holding the potential to clear up constipation.
According to the National Institute of Health, these are the recommended daily intake values for magnesium:
Could You Be Deficient?
A magnesium deficiency can present in a multitude of ways. Of course, these are totally individualized and based on a number of factors. You should always consult with your healthcare professional if you believe you have a deficiency.
That being said, some common symptoms of deficiency include: muscle cramping or twitching, restless leg syndrome, abnormal heartbeats, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and general weakness.
Are You at Risk?
Some people are more prone to deficiency than others. Of course, like I said earlier, people who eat a standard American diet (aka – a majority of processed foods, refined carbs, sugar, etc.) are at risk because magnesium is most present in whole foods.
Other populations who may be at risk include athletes and those who suffer from alcohol dependency, digestive issues, or malabsorption issues. People who experience high stress loads (so probably close to all of us reading this…) may also be at risk for decreased magnesium levels. This is because stress can cause mineral depletion in our body.
Where Can I Get Magnesium?
When it comes to magnesium in foods, there are quite a few foods that will help ensure that you’re reaching your recommended daily intake.
Listed below are some Paleo-friendly sources of food that are rich in magnesium. Be sure to incorporate these foods into your diet in varied ways to boost your magnesium intake.
- Pumpkin seeds – ¼ cup – 48% DV
- Spinach – 1 cup – 39% DV
- Swiss chard – 1 cup – 38% DV
- Sesame seeds – 1 cup – 32% DV
- Cashews – ¼ cup – 29% DV
- Sunflower seeds – ¼ cup – 28% DV
- Beet greens – 1 cup – 24% DV
- Almonds – ¼ cup – 15% DV
- Summer squash – 1 cup – 11% DV
- Turnip greens – 1 cup – 8% DV
It’s worth pointing out that the magnesium levels in our food might be lower than before. This is thought to be due to modern day farming practices (like using pesticides) and soil depletion. This is obviously something that is out of our control, but it’s good be aware of it. I always recommend buying locally and organic when possible.
Magnesium as a supplement
While there are plenty of food sources that contain magnesium, you can also incorporate a magnesium supplement into your daily routine. Supplements are found in different forms including pills, powders, or topical solutions.
It’s worth noting that supplements taken internally can cause some digestive distress, so it’s better to start slow at first and see how your body adjusts.
My favorite way to incorporate magnesium into my daily routine is drinking Natural Calm at night. Natural Calm is a magnesium powder than can be mixed into water. I drink it before going to bed at night.
Whether you choose to supplement or not, ensuring that you include magnesium rich foods into your diet is important.
Have questions about magnesium? Let us know in the comments.
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