Eating a balanced diet filled with various vitamins and minerals is important for our bodies to stay healthy. We know that. Calcium is important for strong bones. Fiber is important for a healthy digestive system. Iron is important for a healthy blood supply. But there is a mineral that is important to almost every organ in the body as well as for biochemical reactions in the body that doesn’t get as much attention. Magnesium.
Magnesium can be found in relatively large amounts in the body. More than half of the magnesium in the body is stored in the skeletal system; the rest is in muscle, soft tissues, and bodily fluids. Every organ in the body, especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys, needs magnesium.
Magnesium is one of the seven essential macro minerals (the required amount is greater than or equal to 100 milligrams per day) and is important for many different functions in the body. These include more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body that include food metabolism and fatty acid and protein synthesis. It is also involved in neuromuscular transmissions, such as muscle relaxation. Magnesium also helps to regulate the levels of calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, and vitamin D in the body. Because magnesium plays a role in the transportation of electrolytes, it influences heart rhythm, muscle contraction, the conduction of nerve impulses.
Although it is difficult to become deficient in magnesium because it is easily found in many foods, magnesium deficiency is dangerous and difficult to diagnose. Some experts call it the “invisible deficiency” because of how hard it is to diagnose. The reason it is so hard to diagnose is because only about one percent of magnesium is found in the blood (it is mostly found in bones and organs) so a simple blood test often isn’t sufficient in detecting magnesium deficiency. A diagnosis is usually made through process of elimination and examining a person’s lifestyle.
The initial symptoms of magnesium deficiency are loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue—which are common side effects of several health problems—is part of the problem. Magnesium deficiency may lead to noticeable problems with your muscle and nerve function, such as tingling, cramping, numbness and contraction. When magnesium deficiency is severe it can cause seizures, personality changes, or abnormal heart rhythms.
The majority of adults in the United States don’t get the recommended amount of magnesium. Only about 25 percent of adults meet or exceed the recommended daily amounts—which is 310 to 320 mg for women and 400 to 420 for men. The 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that at least 50 percent of the U.S. population consumed inadequate amounts of magnesium.
It is easy to get enough magnesium from the food we eat. However, some of the foods we eat affect how the body processes magnesium. For example, refined sugars cause the body the excrete magnesium through the kidneys resulting in insufficient amounts of magnesium in the body. Supplements can help to boost the levels of magnesium but it is best to get magnesium from food. There are several magnesium-rich foods, including:
- Dark leafy greens such as spinach
- Nuts – brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans
- Seeds – squash and pumpkin
- Fish – mackerel, turbot, Pollock, halibut, tuna, and salmon
- Beans and lentils – soybeans, white beans, French beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, garbonzo beans, pinto beans, lentils, and legumes
- Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, millet, bulgur, wild rice, buckwheat, and oats
- Fruit – avocados and bananas
- Dried fruit – figs, prunes, apricots, raisins, and dates
- Dark chocolate
By including these foods as part of a balanced diet, you can help ensure that your body is receiving adequate amounts of magnesium. Don’t let magnesium become a neglected area of your diet!