Magnesium is a mineral that is important for overall health.
Our bodies are not able to create magnesium on their own, so it must be consumed through diet. Unfortunately, only about ⅓ of Americans consume enough magnesium each day .
What Is Magnesium?
Vitamins and minerals are essential for optimal health.
There are 16 minerals that the body needs through our diet. We need some minerals in large amounts (macrominerals). Others are needed in smaller amounts (trace minerals) .
Magnesium is a macromineral and the fourth most common mineral in the body, behind calcium, potassium, and sodium .
In the 1600s, magnesium was discovered as "Epsom salt", which we now use for relaxing baths. After its discovery, it became widely used for supporting health and longevity. .
However, at that time, much was unknown about the wide number of important roles that magnesium plays in the body. Magnesium supports several bodily processes that are necessary for everyday living.
Some of these processes that magnesium helps support include [3,4]:
DNA and RNA Production
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium supports the body in many ways. Below are the 8 primary benefits of magnesium.
1. May Protect Bone Health
Magnesium is one of the most prevalent minerals in the body with 60% of it found in the bones .
Magnesium is a co-factor for vitamin D, meaning it helps to create and activate it. The presence of vitamin D is important because it absorbs calcium.
Low magnesium can lead to deficient levels or ineffective use of vitamin D and calcium.
Therefore, making sure you have optimal vitamin D and magnesium levels will help ensure long-term bone health.
2. May Improve Mental Health
Magnesium affects the brain in many ways. One way it does so is by helping to regulate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.
The HPA axis controls stress. Low levels of magnesium can cause an increased level of stress. Taking magnesium may help to reduce HPA axis activity, which reduces overall stress levels [6,7].
Magnesium can also help your brain to relax because it supports the role of the neurotransmitter, GABA, in the the body. GABA is known for its calming and relaxing effects .
3. May Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Magnesium also supports healthy blood sugar levels. It plays an important role in helping cells utilize glucose (sugar) from our food in an effective way. This process keeps glucose from staying in our blood longer than needed after eating, resulting in stable blood sugar levels .
Our bodies also use insulin to help lower our blood sugars after eating. A magnesium deficiency can cause a problem with insulin’s ability to lower blood sugars [4,10].
So make sure to maintain optimal magnesium levels, that way your body can manage healthy blood sugar levels.
4. May Support Healthy Blood Pressure Levels
Magnesium affects blood pressure due to its role in muscle contraction.
Blood pressure rises when blood vessels contract and it falls when they relax. Magnesium is able to keep blood pressure low because it prevents blood vessels from contracting when they don’t need to. .
One study analyzed a number of human trials assessing blood pressure and magnesium. A link was found between magnesium supplementation and decreased blood pressure levels .
5. May Support Heart Health
Magnesium impacts the heart in a positive way as well.
Low magnesium levels are connected with high levels of inflammation, excess cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Adequate magnesium levels are known to support heart function [4,12].
6. May Improve Exercise Performance
Magnesium impacts exercise in many ways. This is due to the fact that magnesium plays roles in energy production and muscle contraction.
Animal studies shed more light on how magnesium improves exercise performance. Magnesium has been shown to help prevent muscles from getting tired sooner than desired. Also, it can ensure that that body has enough energy during exercise .
Humans studies show that magnesium can improve different exercise performance measures. Strength and jumping performance are two that can improve.
In elderly women, supplementing with magnesium helped improve their strength training. Also, magnesium may assist in muscle recovery, which helps athletes in rest periods [14,15].
Other research shows that low magnesium levels can hinder athletic performance. Endurance, strength, and energy during exercise are negatively affected due to a deficiency [14,15].
7. May Reduce Neurological Pain
Neurological pain and headaches can be a common occurrence for many people.
Magnesium plays a role in the neurological processes that prevent pain. Thus, it can be a possible solution for preventing or reducing the intensity of headache pain .
Some research has shown that low magnesium levels are common among those who experience neurological pain. Supplementing with magnesium can help decrease the re-occurrence and severity of this type of pain .
8. May Improve Sleep
Magnesium can help promote better sleep quality as well.
Many sleep quality metrics are improved by magnesium supplementation. Magnesium has been shown to help with sleep duration, night awakenings, and daytime tiredness .
Magnesium helps balance inflammation and regulate circadian rhythms. Researchers suggest that this is why magnesium is so helpful in improving sleep .
How to Add Magnesium to Your Diet
Knowing the benefits of magnesium is beneficial. But knowing where to get magnesium is even more impactful.
Including foods high in magnesium can allow you to be intentional about your intake. Foods with the highest magnesium content (from greatest to least) include:
Natalie Kravat, RDN, LDN, MS is a registered dietitian that is devoted to helping others find a love for healthy eating as well as being successful in reaching health goals. She has a passion for using whole foods to create delicious and convenient recipes and teaches others to use their creativity to do the same!
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