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Magnesium: an important mineral for your health: Your bones, brain, and heart all benefit from magnesium.

Magnesium may not get as much attention as some other nutrients, but it's a critical mineral for your muscles, bones, brain, and heart. Getting more magnesium in your diet is associated with a lower risk of some diseases and even early death, according to a study published in BMC Medicine (Dec. 8, 2016). Researchers who analyzed dietary habits and health records of more than a million people in nine countries found that people who boosted their dietary intake of magnesium by 100 mg per day had a 22 percent lower risk of heart failure, a 7 percent lower risk of stroke, a 19 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and a 10 percent lower risk of early death, compared with those who did not increase dietary magnesium.

While the study was observational and did not show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between higher magnesium intake and lowering disease risk, there is no doubt that magnesium consumption is vital to your overall health.

"Your body also needs magnesium for optimal brain functioning, energy production, and bone formation," says Jenna Rosenfeld, MS, RD, CDN, CNSC, a dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell. "A deficiency in magnesium can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, migraines, and even make you feel more anxious or stressed."

Magnesium Sources

The current recommendation for women age 50 or older is to consume at least 320 milligrams (mg) of magnesium daily. Good dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, leafy greens, soy products, avocados, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa, cornmeal, whole wheat), beans, and peas.

Rosenfeld says it's easy to incorporate more magnesium-rich foods into your regular diet. "You can add spinach to scrambled eggs in the morning or as a side salad at lunch or dinner," she suggests. "Or, snack on almonds, cashews or peanuts for an afternoon pick-me-up. It's also easy to switch to whole grains, such as replacing white rice with brown rice."

Detecting a Deficiency

Most of the magnesium in your body is in your bones and soft tissues. Only about one percent of your total magnesium is circulating in your bloodstream, so it can be difficult to determine if your magnesium level is in the healthy range.

"A simple blood test evaluates only the serum (blood) content, which doesn't indicate the amount of magnesium that's stored throughout your body," Rosenfeld says. "Usually, magnesium levels are estimated by looking at your usual dietary intake, checking for symptoms of deficiency (see What You Should Know), and noting aberrations in other important mineral levels, such as calcium and potassium."

Doctors will generally suspect a magnesium deficit if they discover a person's dietary intake of magnesium is very low, she adds. "Magnesium deficiency may also be a side effect of a medication that is causing you to excrete too much magnesium or not absorb enough magnesium, such as diuretics (for hypertension) or proton pump inhibitors (for heartburn)."

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Signs of magnesium deficiency include:

* Nausea and vomiting

* Irritability

* Anxiety

* Sleep disturbances

* Restless leg syndrome

* Low blood pressure

* Irregular heart rhythm

* Muscle weakness or spasms

* Poor fingernail growth

Caption: Spinach, nuts, and avocados are excellent sources of Magnesium, a mineral that is vital to good health.
SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM

FOOD                    SERVING     MAGNESIUM
                          SIZE         (MG)

Quinoa, cooked           1 cup         118
Brown rice, cooked       1 cup          86
Almonds                   1 oz          80
Spinach, cooked         1/2 cup         78
White beans, cooked     1/2 cup         77
Cashews                   1 oz          74
Soy milk                 1 cup          61
Black beans, cooked     1/2 cup         60
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Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Apr 1, 2017
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