One of the first times I was introduced to magnesium was after a second or third hard session lifting weights at the gym. Because of the lockdowns, that seems like such a long time ago now.
My new trainer advised me to go buy a tub of epsom salts (rich in magnesium which soak directly into the blood stream via the skin) and to pop them into my bath for a long soak that evening. I slept like a baby and I found that my muscles had recovered more quickly than previously. He said I’d become addicted. How right he was; I now buy the biggest tub they have and the rest of my family regularly bathe in the salts. This blog lists the 4 key benefits of magnesium to your health and to be frank, you shouldn’t ignore them as they are so important.
1) Magnesium Helps Protect your Heart
Correct levels of magnesium can lower your chances of an irregular heartbeat, heart disease and even heart attack. Magnesium relaxes the walls of your blood vessels, and that can help keep your blood pressure down. It also may help boost your HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol levels. One study tracked 88,375 female nurses in the US to determine whether magnesium levels – detected in blood tests and also recorded in dietary intake – were associated with sudden cardiac death over 26 years of follow-up. The fascinating results showed that women in the highest compared with the lowest quartile had a 34 per cent and 77 per cent lower risk of sudden cardiac death, respectively. Read our 8 Tips for Heart Health here.
2) Magnesium Reduces your Risk of Diabetes
Diets with higher amounts of magnesium are associated with a significantly lower risk of diabetes, possibly due to the important role of magnesium in glucose metabolism. Magnesium helps insulin work better. Insulin is a hormone that helps keep our blood sugar levels steady. In one study, people who consumed the most magnesium in their diet were less likely to get the disease than those who consumed the least. Watch ‘Type II Diabetes – What your Doctor is Not Telling You’.
3) Magnesium Helps Strengthen your Bones
Magnesium is involved in bone formation. Research suggests that it may also protect against bone loss, broken bones, and the bone disease osteoporosis. Studies show that women with osteoporosis tend to have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t. Although limited in number, studies suggest that increasing magnesium intakes from food or supplements might increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal and elderly women. One short-term study found that taking 290 mg of magnesium per day for 30 days in 20 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis suppressed bone turnover compared with placebo, suggesting that bone loss decreased.
4) Magnesium Aids Good Quality Sleep
Magnesium is well regarded as a helpful sleep aid, which is crucial for general good health but also for helping us to lose weight. Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters, which send signals throughout the nervous system and brain. It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body. The mineral binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for quieting down nerve activity. By helping to quieten the nervous system, magnesium may help prepare your body and mind for sleep, and can also ease anxiety. Download our free sleep report here.
How Much is Enough?
The recommended levels (for adults) is between 300mg (for women) and 400mg (for men) each day. However, surveys consistently show that intakes of magnesium are lower than recommended amounts.
This mineral has unfortunately become depleted in the foods we eat due to food processing, such as refining grains in ways that remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran, lowering magnesium content substantially (yet another argument to steer clear of white, processed carbs).
Also research shows that a poor diet – marked by a high intake of sugar and carbonated drinks, plus the consumption of processed, refined carbs – actually increases our need for magnesium (as this type of eating reduces absorption and increases magnesium excretion by the kidneys). We do also know that stress, consuming too much alcohol, ageing and digestive issues can lead to deficiencies. It is difficult to detect deficiency, but some signs include;
- fatigue and weakness
- loss of appetite
As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur. On the other hand, too much magnesium from food does not usually pose a health risk in healthy individuals because the kidneys eliminate excess amounts in the urine. However, high doses of magnesium from dietary supplements or medications can result in diarrhea that can be accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramping.
Benefits Of Magnesium To Your Health From Food Sources
Some of the richest food sources of magnesium include;
- 1 cup green leafy vegetables, such as spinach (approx. 157mg)
- 1 tbsp seeds (such as pumpkin or chia seeds – approx. 50-90mg)
- 50g dark chocolate (115mg)
- A quarter cup of almonds (90mg)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice (80mg)
- 1 cup soya milk (61mg)
- 1 cup cooked lentils (70mg)
- 1 medium avocado (58mg)
- 2tbsp peanut butter (50mg)
One of the easiest ways to increase your intake of this crucial mineral is to add two handfuls of spinach to your salad at lunch, or your morning smoothie, as this will provide around half of your daily intake. Another great option is putting half a cup of epsom salts into the bath as often as you can.
You could also consider taking a supplement, but it’s best to talk to your GP prior to this, particularly since magnesium can interact with some medications such as oestrogen or diuretics. Also anyone with impaired kidney function is generally advised against taking these supplements.
The benefits of magnesium to your health are quite clear and as I said at the top of this blog post, they are too important to ignore.