Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body, is the building block of DNA, and plays a vital role in cellular metabolism and detoxification.
According to NHANES data more than one-half of the US population (ages ≥4 years) has intakes below the EAR* for magnesium. If you are feeling fatigued, weak, have muscle cramps, or joint pain you might not be getting enough magnesium to function optimally.
*Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) – a nutrient intake value that is estimated to meet the requirement of half the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.
Why are we Not getting enough magnesium?
The answer is multifaceted. Many foods in a standard American diet—such as refined flours, oils, and sugar—lose magnesium through processing. In addition, conventional farming methods have depleted the soil of this essential nutrient. So traditionally magnesium-rich crops like kale and spinach grown using convention farming methods have significantly less magnesium than they did say seventy-five years ago. Furthermore, most supplements do not provide enough magnesium or are made with a form of magnesium that is poorly absorbed.
Only 10-20 percent of magnesium oxide (one of the most widely available supplemental forms of magnesium) is absorbed and the rest stays in the digestive tract causing digestive upset.
Consuming whole foods rich in magnesium and taking a magnesium supplement that is well-absorbed are the best ways to ensure you are getting the recommended dietary allowance.
What are the richest whole food sources of magnesium?
- dark leafy green vegetables (one cup cooked spinach has 156 mg, 37% DV)
- pumpkin seeds (one ounce has 156 mg, 37% DV)
- legumes (1 cup of black beans has 120 mg, 30% DV)
- chia seeds (one ounce has 111 mg, 26 % DV)
- almonds (one ounce has 80 mg, 19% DV)
- dark chocolate, 72% cacao (one ounce has 64 mg, 16% DV)
* DV= Daily Value. The DV for magnesium is 400 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and older.
I am taking some medications, is it okay to start taking magnesium?
Talk to your health care team before starting a magnesium supplement. Your doctor should complete a health assessment, review your health history and current medications to help you decide if a magnesium supplement is the right choice for you.
What kind of magnesium is well-absorbed? How much should I take?
If you get the thumbs up from your health care team:
- Aim for 350 mg of supplemental magnesium daily.
- Take a smaller dose (120-150 mg) 2-3 times a day.
- Look for a supplement that is third party tested and contains at least one type of magnesium that is well-absorbed such as magnesium citrate or magnesium malate. Magnesium CitraMate by Thorne, is third party tested by NSF International.
- Take a relaxing epsom salt bath or foot soak twice a week.
Review the supplement label carefully and do not take more than 500 mg of supplemental magnesium daily because it could cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea or a decrease in blood-pressure.
How do I know that these lifestyle changes are helping?
It is difficult to assess magnesium accurately with lab tests but as you begin to restore your levels of this vital mineral you will notice positive changes such as: less joint and muscle aches, improvements in overall digestive health and more restful sleep.