Since starting my nutrition course I feel as though I’m always learning about different things my body needs and often panicking myself wondering what they are and how I can get more of them. One of the great things about studying nutrition is being able to learn the fact from the fiction and being able to share that knowledge with people. Magnesium appears to be having a bit of moment right now and with so much information out there I thought it might be useful to give you a rough guide to explain what it is, why we need it and how we can get more of it.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral – in fact it is one of the 6 essential minerals that must be supplied in the diet. Magnesium is often considered the ‘anti-stress’ mineral – it helps to relax skeletal muscles as well as the muscles of blood vessels and the gut. It is also considered to be important in the cardiovascular system as it is involved in blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It is also required for energy production, protein synthesis and muscle and nerve function. All in all it plays a huge part all over the body.
How do you know if you’re getting enough?
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium in the UK is 300mg a day for men and 270mg a day for women but it has been suggested that almost one-third of the population gets under 65% of the RDA for this mineral. In most cases most people aren’t getting enough due to a variety of reasons – for example alcohol, caffeine and sugar cause an increase in magnesium loss, meals high in protein or fat can decrease magnesium absorption, stress may increase magnesium excretion and cooking methods can result in magnesium being lost from foods whilst the soils that many vegetables are grown in may not have enough magnesium in the first place. If you look at the typical western diet and lifestyle it quickly becomes apparent that a lot of these factors may be present at one time and so it is no wonder we aren’t getting enough.
In terms of signs to look out for the following are very common with magnesium deficiency: headache, nausea, muscle cramps or spasms, low energy or fatigue, sleep problems, PMS, constipation, irritability and weakness.
Where can I get magnesium from?
Almost all of our magnesium supplies come from vegetables, although seafood also has a high amount. Dark green vegetables are great sources of magnesium, although as mentioned previously this does depend on the kind of soil they have been grown in so choose organic where possible. Most nuts, seeds and legumes have high amounts of magnesium; things like tofu, almonds, pecans, cashews and brazil nuts are great sources. Again choose organic where possible. Whole grains such as millet and brown rice are also good sources.
Epsom salts have also been known to be a great source of magnesium – when putting them in the bath they are easily absorbed through the skin. Alternatively magnesium supplements are a great way to get more magnesium into your diet if you are not getting enough from food.
What can magnesium help with?
Magnesium has a number of different therapeutic uses – everything from kidney stones to pregnancy and blood pressure! In terms of every day use though it really is something you want to make sure you’re getting enough of.
First of all, supplementing magnesium has been shown to alleviate a lot of problems related to periods. Symptoms such as cramps, irritability, fatigue, depression and water retention have been shown to have lessened with magnesium. Magnesium is often at its lowest level during menstruation so by supplementing with it a lot of the symptoms of PMS are relieved.
Fatigue has also been shown to be reduced with magnesium supplementation as the many systems that require magnesium actually help restore normal energy levels.
Last but not least – magnesium can help you to have an amazing night’s sleep and is also helpful with hangover symptoms!
So make sure you’re getting enough of this amazing mineral and I’m sure you’ll feel the benefits in no time!