Magnesium: A Key Mineral That Makes Your Body Work Right

Jan 11 2018

Magnesium: A Key Mineral That Makes Your Body Work Right

Magnesium helps with hundreds of important body processes, including those that control how your muscles and nerves work. It helps to keep your bones strong, heart healthy, and blood sugar normal. It also plays a role in your energy level. You can get magnesium in many foods and drinks.




An adult woman needs about 310 milligrams of magnesium a day, and 320 milligrams after age 30. Pregnant women need an extra 40 milligrams. Adult men under 31 need 400 milligrams and 420 milligrams if they’re older. Kids need anywhere from 30 to 410 milligrams, depending on their age and gender.

Almost half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium from their diet. Indeed, low levels of the mineral may set the stage for a variety of health issues, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and migraines. Seniors, alcoholics, and those with type 2 diabetes or digestive issues are more likely to lack it.


Magnesium: Strengthens Bones

Your body uses it to build new bone cells. 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.


Magnesium: Fights Inflammation

Inflammation is your immune system’s reaction to potential harm. In the short term, it helps your body fight off viruses and heal wounds. But if you have inflammation all the time, it can lead to health problems such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes.


Magnesium: Protects the Heart

Magnesium helps your heart pump blood. Right levels of the mineral can lower your chances of an irregular heartbeat, heart disease, or a heart attack. It also 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.


Magnesium: Prevents Migraines

Experts think it helps to block or lower pain chemicals in your brain and keeps your blood vessels from tightening. You’re more likely to get migraines if you don’t get enough. A 400- to 500-milligram supplement may help keep these headaches away.


Magnesium: Lowers Odds of Diabetes

Magnesium helps a hormone called insulin work right. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar levels steady. In one study, people who got the most magnesium in their diet were less likely to get the disease than those who got the least.


Magnesium: Eat Nuts and Seeds

Snack on an ounce of almonds or cashews, and you’ll get about 80 milligrams of magnesium. Other good choices include pumpkin seeds, pecans, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and flax. Sprinkle them on a salad or toss them into a trail mix. You’ll also get heart-healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.


Magnesium: Eat Whole Grains

When it comes to nutrition, whole grains beat out white bread and other highly processed foods. Not only do they have lots of fiber, but they’re also high in magnesium. Two slices of whole wheat bread pack 45 milligrams of the mineral, a half-cup of brown rice has about 40 milligrams, and a half-cup of cooked oatmeal gives you 30 milligrams.


Magnesium: Eat Avocado

Any way you slice, dice, or mash it, this is a great source. One cup of the diced fruit holds 44 milligrams. It also serves up heart-healthy fats, fiber, and folate. Try adding avocado to your sandwich, salad, or taco.


Magnesium: Eat Dark Leafy Greens

Here’s yet another reason to eat your veggies. You’ll get about 150 milligrams from a cup of cooked spinach or Swiss chard. Besides those two standouts, other good magnesium sources are dark leafy greens such as collard greens and kale. Bonus: They’re also loaded with calcium, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and K. The vegetables don’t all have to be leafy. Okra, for example, is magnesium-rich.


Magnesium: Soy Products

Soy is a staple among vegetarians for its plant-based protein. But it’s no slouch in the magnesium department, either. A cup of soy milk rings up 60 milligrams, while a half-cup of firm tofu packs about 50 milligrams. Also check out tempeh, made with fermented soy, edamame, and soy yogurt.


Magnesium: Eat Beans

On a given day, only 8% of Americans eat a serving of beans. That means most people are missing out on a healthy magnesium source. A half-cup of black beans has 60 milligrams and kidney beans has 35 milligrams. Other magnesium-rich legumes include chickpeas, white beans, and lentils. From stews to salads, you can add beans to nearly any dish. You’ll also get an extra dose of fiber, protein, iron, and zinc.

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Barry G

Barry graduated from City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in Physiological Psychology.

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