The Benefits of Magnesium
This important mineral can keep your heart healthy and your muscles strong
Leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. If you aren’t eating these foods regularly, your diet may be lacking in magnesium. In fact, nearly half of Americans fall short of their daily need for this mineral, according to the Department of Agriculture. Men should get 420 mg daily and women 320 mg.
Insufficient magnesium can have widespread consequences. “It is an essential nutrient needed for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body,” says Anna Taylor, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “It helps regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate while maintaining bone strength, and nerve and muscle function.”
How Magnesium Protects
“Most people will feel better and their health will improve if their magnesium intake is in an ideal range,” says James O’Keefe, MD, director of St. Luke’s Charles & Barbara Duboc Cardio Health & Wellness Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Minding Magnesium Intake
Magnesium deficiency can cause vague symptoms such as appetite loss, fatigue, weakness, and nausea. “That’s why we call it one of the great masqueraders,” says Liron Sinvani, MD, a geriatrician-hospitalist at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y. Doctors can test only for levels in the blood, but that’s not a good indicator because only 1 percent of magnesium is found there. The rest is in bones and soft tissue.
So focusing on magnesium-rich foods is key. Though the mineral is found in many foods in small amounts, the best sources are beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. A few top sources:
• Pumpkin seeds: 1 oz., 156 mg
• Quinoa, cooked: 1 cup, 118 mg
• Edamame, frozen: 1 cup, 99 mg
• Almonds, dry roasted: 1 oz., 79 mg
• Spinach, cooked: 1⁄2 cup, 79 mg
• Swiss chard, cooked: 1⁄2 cup, 75 mg
• Kidney beans, canned: 1 cup, 69 mg
• 70%-85% dark chocolate: 1 oz., 65 mg
• Oatmeal, cooked: 1 cup, 63 mg
• Peanut butter: 2 Tbsp., 54 mg
If you take certain drugs, pay special attention to magnesium. Diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, bisphosphonates, and some antibiotics can lead to a deficiency, O’Keefe says. But supplements may not be the answer unless prescribed by a doctor. “They can actually do harm if they raise magnesium levels too high,” Sinvani says.