In order to achieve optimal health, the body needs minerals. One of the most important minerals that you can give the body is a macro-mineral known as magnesium. Unlike trace minerals (such as iron and zinc) which are only required in small amounts, macro-minerals like magnesium are required in larger doses. Unfortunately, more than 60% of individuals get less than the required daily dose of magnesium. While much of the minerals that our bodies need can be obtained from the foods we eat, there are also instances where you may need to take a mineral supplement – especially if you are mineral-deficient. Below is a more in-depth look at magnesium, including the potential warning signs that you may be magnesium deficient, how magnesium benefits the body, and which foods contain the highest levels.

It is an evidence-based fact that magnesium has many positives. It’s great for the function of your brain and heart, as well as plays a variety of other important roles. In fact, every cell in your body contains magnesium and requires it in order to function properly. It is also involved in more than 600 chemical reactions in the body – most notable the creation of energy, formation of protein, regulation of the nervous system, maintenance of genes, and even muscle movement. It also plays a major role in physical performance, such as when you’re working out. Depending on the type of physical activity you’re partaking in, your body will require anywhere from 10 to 20 percent more magnesium than what it would be getting if you were resting. If you experience pain during exercise, this is often due to a build-up of lactic acid and not enough magnesium. By increasing your magnesium intake, however, this will help to move blood sugar into the muscles, dispose of lactic acid, and reduce your pain level. Some studies have also suggested that those who had a higher intake of magnesium also saw faster running, swimming and cycling times – though some opinions on this are mixed. As mentioned, magnesium also plays a critical role in brain function. While more research still needs to be done to determine exactly how magnesium can benefit the mood, some studies have shown that individuals with lower levels of magnesium were considered to have an increased risk of developing depression by as much as 22%.

Magnesium can also be of benefit to individuals with at risk of developing or already diagnosed with certain health conditions. For example, nearly 50% of individuals with type 2 diabetes are said to have low levels of magnesium – and the lower your magnesium level is, the more difficult it is for insulin to keep your blood sugar levels under control. If you’ve not yet been diagnosed with diabetes but are considered to be at risk, you can reduce that risk by as much as 47% if you have adequate magnesium intake. You can also benefit from magnesium if you suffer from high blood pressure and will see a significant decrease in your systolic and diastolic levels by taking 450 milligrams of magnesium each day. Interestingly, another study also found that magnesium did not seem to have any effect on those with normal blood pressure levels. Low magnesium levels have also been linked to chronic inflammation. By increasing your magnesium intake with a supplement or through eating certain foods, you can reduce markers of inflammation, such as your CRP level, in the blood. If you suffer from migraine headaches, there is also a chance that increasing your magnesium intake could help reduce the symptoms, including pain, nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light – as well as decrease the frequency of your migraines.

While many of us don’t get nearly enough magnesium, actually being deficient in it is rare – though there are some warning signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for, including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, fatigue, and weakness. Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to muscle cramps, numbing and tingling, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and even lower levels of calcium and potassium. You are at risk of becoming magnesium deficient if you continually eat a diet that is low in magnesium, have certain gastrointestinal disorders (such as Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease), are pregnant and lactating, take certain medications (including antibiotics, diuretics, and proton pump inhibitors), as well as if you are of a certain age (magnesium deficiently more commonly affects individuals who are older.)

Because magnesium supplements tend to be poorly absorbed, it is best to get your magnesium from having a healthy, well-balanced diet. Examples of foods that are rich in magnesium include vegetables (such as spinach, kale, broccoli, artichokes, peas, green beans, and asparagus), fruits (such as figs, raspberries, bananas and avocado), legumes (such as chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans), whole grains (such as brown rice and oats), seafood (such as salmon and tuna), as well as tofu. If you do plan on taking a magnesium supplement, they are widely available at pharmacies, though you may do better with one that is powdered so that you can drink it in liquid form.

For more information on the benefits of magnesium, read ‘The Power of Magnesium For Your Body’.