How much do you know about vitamins and minerals? Do you monitor your diet and more importantly, do you eat healthily? Each vitamin and mineral has an important role to play in the function of the body. So, with this in mind, what is magnesium and are you getting sufficient levels?
What is Magnesium?
The word magnesium comes from the root (and obsolete word) magnes, which means magnetic power or magnet. Without a doubt, magnesium is crucial to your health. Although all vitamins and minerals are required, a deficiency of this mineral can have serious implications. Although it is available from many different food sources, many people do not have sufficient amounts in their diet. Due to time restraints, many people opt for ready meals which are largely processed or they fail to eat a balanced diet, not fully understanding the importance of monitoring nutrients. With this in mind, what is magnesium and why do you really need it?
Approximately 99% of the magnesium levels within the body is storied in your muscles, soft tissues, and your bones. Approximately 1% is stored in your blood. It is vital for normal nerve and muscle function but it also supports your immune system. It works on keeping your heart rate steady, helping to regulate blood glucose levels too. In fact, it also helps with energy and protein production and processing. Magnesium is important for about 300 biochemical reactions in your body and so, when you are deficient, you are just asking for trouble.
Why Magnesium is Important
Did you know that in the US, less than 60% of people are gaining the required levels of magnesium in their diet? That’s serious because magnesium plays such a crucial role in health. When there are low levels of magnesium, it opens you up to serious health issues and the potential to fall foul of conditions such as Alzheimer’s or even diabetes. There is data to suggest that magnesium deficiency and depression is also inter-linked. Magnesium may also be important in the short-term for helping to relax the smooth muscles at bronchial level which could be a positive benefit for anyone who suffers from asthma.
A macro-mineral, your body needs magnesium in fairly large amounts. Once it enters your body, it is broken down and then released forming magnesium atoms. It is an important cell regulator for many chemical reactions in the body. It is of the utmost importance to over 300 enzyme biochemical reactions but all of these nutrients are used to either regulate or control specific functions of the body or are used as building blocks.
Consider magnesium’s primary role as being regulatory, which means when it is present in the body it enables enzymes to function correctly. It is crucial for the breakdown of fat and for the creation of DNA and RNA and it even regulates the production of cholesterol. Even a slight imbalance will impact the health of your body.
Where Can You Get Magnesium?
There are magnesium supplements available but it is far better to obtain this mineral through your diet and to be honest, with awareness of what you are eating, it’s fairly easy to do so. There are considerations however. In the main, there are three basic reasons as to why you may struggle to obtain sufficient levels of magnesium:
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in soil conditions
- Processing of food causes lower levels
Refined oils actually remove all traces of this mineral. Refined grains remove up to 97% of magnesium and refined sugar has no magnesium at all. With this in mind, use molasses instead of sugar as it contains ¼ of your required levels in just one tablespoon. But there can be many reasons for a deficiency of this mineral. Digestive disorders could lead to the malabsorption of this mineral and others. If you have taken antibiotics, this could also cause problems with the digestive tract along with some prescribed medications and for some, it may be difficult to absorb this mineral fully.
It is important to note that your body loses some of its magnesium each day simply through normal, everyday functions. This includes the production of hormones, muscle movement, and very importantly, your heartbeat. It is therefore, important to keep topping up these levels to ensure you do not become deficient. It is your kidneys that control magnesium levels usually and they excrete the mineral through urine.
When this mineral and electrolyte levels drop, you will find that you urinate less.
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can gain magnesium from eating figs, dried apricots, bananas, almonds, and cashews but do be aware that the levels of magnesium may not be as good due to any refining or processing. It’s a sad fact that many of the processes designed to make life easier, also make us less healthy.
Magnesium can also be obtained through the following food types:
- Whole grains – brown rice
- Soya flour
- Green leafy vegetables i.e. spinach
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
If you are deficient of magnesium, you may demonstrate some of these symptoms:
- Weakness of the muscles
- Feeling sleepy or having insomnia
- Appetite loss
- Feelings of fatigue
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
- PMS symptoms that gradually grow worse
- Changes to heart rhythms
- Kidney or liver damage
- Mood swings
- Behavioral disorders etc.
Although it is better to obtain magnesium through a well-balanced diet, it is still possible to be deficient of this mineral. Supplements are available in various forms and they will all have different absorption rates. Magnesium citrate, chelate, and chloride forms are more likely to be absorbed more efficiently than supplements in either oxide or sulfate form.
So, What is Magnesium?
In conclusion, a lack of magnesium in the diet can lead to some very serious health issues. By failing to ensure your diet has sufficient levels of this mineral, you are opening yourself up to potential life-threatening health conditions i.e. heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes, to name just a few.
Do your research before opting for supplements, but if you do find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms listed here, start increasing the amount of magnesium straight away. Magnesium is not a ‘nice to have’ mineral, it’s a necessity.
So, next time you think what is magnesium and do I need it? Know that without it, your health will plummet. Why put yourself at risk? Starting adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet today. Note, if you have a health condition such as Crohn’s disease, you may not be absorbing sufficient vitamins and minerals. Seek medical advice.