Everything You Need To Know About Magnesium

If this article were a Dr Suess poem it would be called ‘Magnesium the Most Marvellous Mineral’, because it’s just that – marvellous!

You’ve probably heard of magnesium, and maybe you even know of a few ways it benefits our bodies but did you know it’s involved in over 300 functions? Because of this, it can be a little confusing to understand this mighty mineral and if you need more of it!

Kelly, one of our amazing naturopaths, is here to take you through everything you need to know about this mineral, all in one place – it will be a handy article to bookmark!

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that supports your health and well-being in numerous ways. This mega mineral is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body so it’s no wonder we need it.

Ever experienced tight muscles, difficultly relaxing after a stressful day or trouble sleeping at night? Sometimes these issues come and go but if they are staying around longer than normal this could be the reason why – not enough magnesium. These are all signs our body may be lacking this most essential mineral. This is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies we see in our modern-day lifestyles.

Why is Magnesium important, what is it used for?

Why is Magnesium important, what is it used for?

The real answer is: what isn’t magnesium used for! Many people think this mineral simply helps with tense, tight muscles; but in truth, it’s one of nature’s most versatile minerals.

Here’s just a selection of the functions that this marvellous mineral performs within your body:

  • Plays a part in over 300 different metabolic processes
  • Supports restful sleep
  • Assists with mental relaxation
  • Helps relax tense and tight muscles
  • Supports strong, healthy bones as well as aiding with calcium absorption
  • Helps maintain healthy heart function

That’s a lot of different roles – which means it’s really important to ensure you and your family are getting enough each day.

How much magnesium do we need?

According to the New Zealand Ministry of Health guidelines, Kiwi men need between 400-420mg of elemental Magnesium each day, depending on their age. For women, the level is lower, 310-320mg (unless you’re pregnant, in which case the recommendation is 350-400mg). Again, the exact amount depends on your age.

Keep in mind that this recommendation is for your intake from ALL sources – both food and supplements.

Are there any reasons someone would need more or less magnesium than average?

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) sometimes isn’t enough. It really represents an average requirement to ward off deficiencies, but not necessarily an optimal requirement to benefit health.

There are many reasons why extra may be needed by some people at different times. If you recognise any of these situations below for yourself, then consider some getting extra into your day.

  1. Poor sleep? Disrupted sleep is often because we are stressed, tense and not able to unwind after a busy day. Raising magnesium levels supports relaxation and subsequently, the body falls better into sleep.
  2. Stressed? The body chews through our magnesium stores when we’re stressed, so replenishing our levels is essential when under any form of stress particularly when it lasts a long time.
  3. Tense muscles? Waking up in the middle of the night with cramps is a common occurrence for many. High levels of athletic training can further deplete levels leaving muscles achy and sore.
  4. Chocolate cravings? Perhaps your body is really shouting out for the magnesium found in cocoa!
  5. Bone strength a concern? Over half of our magnesium is stored in our bones and it works together with calcium and vitamin D to keep our bone structure solid. Getting enough in our diet reduces the chances of the body taking it from our bones, which in turn keeps our bones healthy.

How do I know if I already get enough magnesium?

How do I know if I already get enough magnesium?

A fibre-rich diet full of leafy green vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds provides high levels.  But it’s hard to raise magnesium levels by diet alone, due to poor nutrient levels in our soils.  Add to the that all the factors that deplete this mineral, like excess stress, intense exercise, excessive sweating, alcohol, caffeine, processed diets, certain medications, and even ageing itself, and you begin to understand why low levels are so prevalent. 

Are there different forms of magnesium?

Yes. You see, magnesium doesn’t exist on its own in nature. Instead, it forms “salts” with other substances, for example, magnesium oxide, or magnesium hydroxide (also known as ‘marine magnesium, taken from seawater).  These forms have higher concentrations of the mineral in the total complex, but their overall absorption is relatively low.

Sometimes magnesium is attached to other nutrients to provide additional health benefits. For example, magnesium glycinate is a magnesium molecule attached to the amino acid glycine.  These forms are known as ‘amino acid chelates’. Usually, they are more readily absorbed by the body, and the amino acid can confer health benefits of its own. For example, glycine in this instance is a calming amino acid that adds to magnesium’s relaxing effect.

How can I get more magnesium into my diet?

How can I get more magnesium into my diet?

The good news is that it occurs naturally in many of the staples of a healthy diet. Some of the richest food sources include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. kale, spinach and silver beet)
  • A range of other fruits and veges (especially apricots, bananas and avocados)
  • Legumes (peas, beans and chickpeas) and nuts (especially almonds and cashews)
  • Soy and soy products
  • Whole grains
  • Milk and dairy products

Should I take a magnesium supplement?

There are a vast number of options on the market. The right one for you will depend on the amount you need, plus a host of other factors. Contact our expert Healtheries naturopaths on 0800 848 254 to get personalised advice and recommendations on the best possible option for you.

Are there any side effects?

There are no side effects of eating a diet high in magnesium.  However, taking too much supplemental magnesium can cause issues for some people.  You see, magnesium acts as a natural laxative, drawing water into the bowel to make it easier to pass a bowel motion. So for those with sluggish, congested bowels, a magnesium supplement can provide a gentle, natural laxative action. But for those with a tendency to a loose bowel already, this effect becomes undesirable. Furthermore, taking too much for your needs can also cause a loose bowel or stomach upsets, so seek advice if you are unsure what is best for you.