The Magnesium Fix

What is Magnesium and Why do I Care?

One of the best jobs I ever had was working in the supplement department of a health food store. The dysfunctions that a perfect stranger feels compelled to share with a kid working the nutrition department are mind boggling.  Imagine days filled discussing the particulars related to all things bowel, gastrointestinal, stress, sleep and libido.  Fascinating!  I would furiously search the internet looking for the perfect supplement recommendation for my customer of the moment. Time and again my reading pulled up magnesium deficiency as a possible avenue of exploration.  Even with conditions where the research shows fairly weak correlations there should still be a consideration for magnesium deficiency as it is involved in so many different processes.  Here are a few of the quick hits...

  • Better sleep
  • Stress reduction
  • Protein synthesis
  • Help with constipation
  • Blood pressure regulation 
  • Glucose control 
  • Structural development of bone
  • Help with headaches
  • Help with depression
  • DNA and RNA synthesis

The list is endless but the quick and dirty is that magnesium is a co-factor (helper molecules that help enzymes do their thing) in over 300 enzymatic reactions that regulate all manner of biochemical reactions.  So the real question is…

Am I Deficient?  

Estimates vary but it’s thought that anywhere from 60 - 80% of adults in the US are deficient in magnesium.  Why?  Well the reasons are all over the place but as you probably guessed, a diet high in processed foods and alcohol along with the increased stress levels of the average hard charging adult are very high on the list of probable suspects.  Certain populations are more susceptible however with those at particular risk of deficiency being older adults, diabetics, folks with alcohol dependency, people with bone density issues, migraine sufferers, frequent exercisers and those with gastrointestinal issues. 

How Do I Get It?

Dietary sources should always be your go to when looking to address a deficiency.  Nutrients don’t act in isolation and when a food contains a significant amount of magnesium or any other nutrient it is also usually rich in all the other things that make that nutrient go.  It's a veritable witches brew of all the requisite good stuff to create and maintain balance in the body.  This synergy specifically relating to Vitamin D, Calcium and Vitamin K is easily upset by taking too much of any single nutrient through supplementation. The research is all over the place with respect to supplementation.  You know what the research agrees on?  Vegetables!  And getting your nutrition through food. Seriously eat like an adult and not like a stoned 14 year old. Put down the snickers and eat a vegetable every once in a while.  If you eat a varied diet that regularly considers fruits, veggies, tubers, responsibly raised animal proteins along with nuts, seeds and legumes as part of the equation then you will most likely be doing just fine.  Following is a short list of foods high in magnesium.  There are many others so if you don’t like these then hop on the interwebs and figure out a few that you do.  Your body will thank you.

Foods High In Magnesium

  • Spinach - 156mg / cup (37% RDA)

  • Swiss Chard - 150mg / cup (36% RDA)

  • Beet Greens - 97mg / cup (23% RDA)

  • Pumpkin Seeds - 190mg / .25 cup (45% RDA)

  • Soybeans - 147mg / cup (45% RDA)

  • Sesame Seeds - 126mg / .25 cup (30% RDA)

  • Black Beans - 120mg / cup (29% RDA)

  • Quinoa - 120mg / cup (28% RDA)

  • Cashews - 116mg / .25 cup (28% RDA)

  • Sunflower Seeds - 113mg / .25 cup (27% RDA)

  • Millet - 76mg / cup (18% RDA)

  • Buckwheat - 85mg / cup (20% RDA)

  • Dark Chocolate 80% or more - 114mg / 50g (27% RDA)

  • Certain mineral waters - varies