Your body needs several things to stay healthy: water, a nutritious diet, daily movement, and with that, a slew of vitamins and nutrients to keep it humming along in tip top shape. You get most of these vitamins, like vitamin D and B12, through diet and being outside. The same goes for magnesium, a nutrient needed to regulate muscle and nerve function, keep blood sugar and pressure levels steady, bone formation, and even DNA production.
Sounds like big jobs for one little nutrient, right? Magnesium does a lot more than that, however, providing changes in the body you can see and feel. Read on for the complete scoop on magnesium, and how to make sure you’re getting enough of it through your diet.
Magnesium is a mineral that is found in the body as well as in many foods, supplements, and in some cases, even medicines. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult has about 25 g of magnesium in their body, with 50% to 60% located in the bones and the rest in soft tissue. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions which help control how your body functions. This makes magnesium a major mineral, meaning we need higher amounts of it than some other minerals like iron and zinc.
In addition to regulating many of your bodily functions (which you would otherwise be unaware of), magnesium has other perks:
It may reduce PMS symptoms. Research published in the Journal of Caring Sciences found that in a study of 126 women dealing with PMS symptoms, taking magnesium supplements reduced water retention, cravings, and feelings of anxiety. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology also recommends magnesium supplements during PMS to help with these symptoms in addition to breast tenderness.
Magnesium might also help with migraines. One of the many causes of migraines may be from low magnesium levels in the brain. Magnesium may also prevent brain wave signaling that can lead to auras during migraines. That’s why the American Migraine Foundation advises those who deal with migraines to take 400 to 600 mg of magnesium a day.
Magnesium boosts bone health. According to a review published in BioMetals, people with high levels of magnesium have a higher bone density. This can lower the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. As a mineral that also controls the regulation of calcium and vitamin B, both needed for bone health, having higher levels of magnesium in the body can ensure the amounts of other bone-helping vitamins and nutrients are stable, too.
Men should aim to get 400 to 420 mg of magnesium a day, while women need 310 to 320 mg daily. (Pregnant women may need slightly more, so be sure to consult with your doctor). You can ensure you have enough magnesium in your diet by eating a well-rounded, healthy diet. There are trace amounts of magnesium in most foods, but to get the most bang for your bite, fill your kitchen with these magnesium-rich foods:
Dark, leafy greens like spinach
Nuts like almonds and cashews
If you find you need to add a magnesium supplement to your diet, choose magnesium aspartate, magnesium citrate, magnesium lactate, or magnesium chloride, as these are absorbed more easily by the body. You should consult with your primary care doctor before starting a new supplement.
About the author
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more.