Unlike some of the other minerals such as calcium, potassium or sodium, magnesium is much less talked about but just as important to the health of one's body. Magnesium is crucial because it supports the health of the heart, brain, nerves, muscles blood and bones of the body. It plays a role in more than 300 enzyme reactions which translates to thousands of biochemical reactions in the body on a daily basis such as nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood coagulation, energy production, nutrient metabolism, blood pressure and blood glucose regulation and making protein, bone, and DNA.
Magnesium is important for healthy bones and bone growth. A little more than half the magnesium found in the body resides in our bones. Most people think of the mineral calcium when they think of bones but magnesium actually helps regulate calcium and other nutrients that support bone health like potassium and vitamin D. People with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.
Heart & Blood Pressure
Magnesium supports a normal heart rhythm while regulating healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Consuming more magnesium through ones diet has shown to modestly reduce the risk for coronary artery disease in men and lower risk of cardiac death in women.
The brain requires magnesium for proper nerve conduction. As we age the brain and memory function naturally declines. Magnesium improves synaptic function which is associated with learning and memory. Electrolyte imbalances that affect the nervous system such as low magnesium have shown to exhibit personality changes and even depression. Magnesium is also thought to help people who suffer from migraine headaches due to low levels of magnesium in the body. It has helped to reduce the frequency of the migraines.
Magnesium is a required element of muscle relaxation, and without it our muscles would be in a constant state of contraction. Calcium, on the other hand, signals muscles to contract. With low levels of magnesium the body holds on to the calcium which can cause muscle spasms over long periods of time. With adequate levels of magnesium muscles can relax and the magnesium helps to regulate calcium levels as well.
Magnesium helps the body break down sugars and might help reduce the risk of insulin resistance (a condition that leads to diabetes). People with higher amounts of magnesium in their diets tend to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In the stomach, magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stools through the intestine.
It's best to get your magnesium through your diet, however if you don't have access to the appropriate foods a combination supplement of calcium and magnesium with a 1:1 ratio is best. An easy way to remember foods that are good magnesium sources is to think fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes (beans, peas and soybeans), whole grains, vegetables (especially broccoli, squash, spinach and green leafy vegetables), seeds, and nuts (especially almonds, cashews). Other sources include dairy products like yogurt, meats, chocolate, and coffee. Water with a high mineral content, or “hard” water, is also a source of magnesium.