Included in its 600 bodily reactions, magnesium helps our bodies maintain normal muscle and nerve function, a steady heart rhythm, and healthy immune system while strengthening bones. It is vital to the brain’s function and mood as well, so magnesium supplements can even reduce symptoms of depression in some people. Magnesium sure does sound important.
It starts with basic biology. The heart is composed of cells—cells that need strength. And magnesium plays a vital role in growing muscle. When we lack this mineral, energy production and cell structure can be detrimentally affected. When cells begin to malfunction from a weak membrane system, calcium and sodium will intervene, causing symptoms of cardiovascular disease. According to Center for Magnesium Education & Research PhD, Andrea Rosanoff, “magnesium is the battery of life. Without it, cells lose the ability to energize, and, as cells are our building blocks, a living thing’s foundation begins to crumble.” But Rosanoff questions why magnesium is just now gaining attention when it had been neglected for so long. The average U.S. diet used to be heavily plant-based when people had direct access to their own farms—before the urban landscape began to take over. With the uproar of industrialization came the rise of commercial foods and a decline in plant-based diets—a haven for magnesium. Perhaps it is time to focus our attention on the endless health benefits of magnesium that may curve some eating habits.
Magnesium has now been found to connect to blood clotting. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine put out a study published on August 22, 2017 that points to magnesium as an important factor in hospital admission for intracerebral hemorrhage. According to Eric M. Liotta, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University showed “the lower the magnesium level at the time of presentation to the emergency room, the larger the hematomas.” The larger the hematomas, “the greater the hematoma growth over the next several hours, and the worse the patient’s outcome tended to be.” Though not direct, these findings suggest that magnesium, in addition to calcium, plays an important role in coagulation and hemostasis.
Type 2 diabetes is another facet of magnesium’s benefits, though it is not guaranteed to work for all type 2 diabetics. According to an evidence-based Healthline article, research suggests that people with a low intake of magnesium have a higher risk of developing diabetes. One study that followed 4,000+ subjects for 20 years found that those with the highest intake were 47% less likely to become diabetic. In another study, compared to a control group, diabetics who took high doses of the mineral experienced significant improvements to hemoglobin A1c levels and blood sugar. But, as previously mentioned, another study showed no improvement to insulin or blood sugar in people not deficient. So while magnesium is necessary for healthy cell growth and can be expected to lower blood pressure, enhance exercise performance, and fight against inflammation, it does not promise results.
While people with health conditions such as autoimmune disorders that cause magnesium deficiencies may benefit from taking supplements, it might be a good idea for everyone to make conscious food or supplement decisions that include the mineral. What foods contain magnesium? Magnesium can be found in green leafy vegetables, bananas, peas, beans, seeds, nuts, and even dark chocolate. A great source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, fish like mackerel, tuna, and wild salmon will surely provide you with magnesium. And get this! That one avocado you add to your salad or sandwich at lunch easily covers 15 percent of the recommended daily amount of the mineral left behind... magnesium.
More food sources with magnesium can be found below:
- Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDI in a quarter cup (16 grams).
- Spinach, boiled: 39% of the RDI in a cup (180 grams).
- Swiss chard, boiled: 38% of the RDI in a cup (175 grams).
- Quinoa, cooked: 33% of RDI the in a cup (185 grams).
- Halibut: 27% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
- Almonds: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (24 grams).
- Cashews: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (30 grams).
- Avocado: 15% of the RDI in one medium avocado (200 grams).