In it’s most natural form, magnesium is a mineral. It’s found everywhere—in the earth, the ocean, in plants, animals, and people. In the human body, magnesium plays a lot of important roles. As a matter of fact, every single cell in your body contains magnesium and needs it in order to function as it should.
Magnesium is also one of seven essential macrominerals, which include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Each of these minerals is needed in moderate amounts (as opposed to trace minerals such as iron and copper). Magnesium is an “essential” macromineral because the body can’t make it itself. It needs to get it from food.
Although magnesium plays an essential role in your health and wellbeing, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough of it. Some studies estimate that more than 50% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet.
Wondering what makes magnesium so important and how to ensure you’re getting enough? Read on.What Magnesium Does
Magnesium plays many roles, but one of its most important is acting as a helper molecule in chemical reactions. These chemical reactions range from converting food into energy to contracting and relaxing muscles. Magnesium is involved in over 600 chemical reactions in the human body—and they’re all necessary for our mental and physical health.
- Helps bone development and fights bone loss by improving calcium absorption.
- Helps regulate the body’s stress-response system by playing a role in the release and suppression of stress hormones such as cortisol.
- Controls how calcium and other important minerals move around the body. These minerals make muscles and nerves function properly.
- Is essential in the process of turning food into energy by activating ATP.
- Can work as an electrolyte, which helps you stay properly hydrated.
- Regulates blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol production
- Improves symptoms of anxiety
Magnesium and Sleep
In addition to all the above functions, magnesium also plays an important role in your sleep. Magnesium helps maintain healthy levels of GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter. Its role is to block impulses between nerve cells and the brain. Blocking these impulses can help sleep quality, especially in people who don’t usually sleep well.
Those who don’t get enough magnesium in their diet are often plagued with insomnia, much of it due to restless leg syndrome.
Magnesium can also help lower stress. If your GABA levels are low, you may feel more stress and anxiety than normal. Some research has also found those deficient in magnesium can be more prone to anxiety. This seems to be linked to magnesium’s impact on gut bacteria, which plays a part in mood.
Where to Get Magnesium
As mentioned above, your body doesn’t make magnesium on its own. You need to get it from food. Foods rich in magnesium include:
- Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Nuts, especially almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin and flax seeds
- Whole grains such as buckwheat, barley, quinoa, and oats
- Dark chocolate
If you’re eating a healthy diet, chances are you’re probably getting the right amount of magnesium each day. The problem is, however, most of us aren’t eating a healthy diet. If you’ve been sleeping poorly, or haven’t been feeling right, one of the easiest things you can do to make an immediate impact is eat better.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will contain all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function at its best and be less at risk for disease and illness.
The FDA’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 310-420 mgs for adults. To put that into perspective, one ounce of cashews has 82 mgs of magnesium, which is 20% of the RDA. If you’re looking to supplement, most studies have found positive effects with daily doses of 125-2500 mgs.