Magnesium 101

How This Oft-Overlooked Mega-Mineral Fuels our Health

Magnesium is a mineral found in abundance in our bodies and naturally in our foods. It is involved in over 600 chemical processes and enzymatic reactions that regulate energy production, protein formation, gene maintenance, blood pressure, glucose levels and muscle contraction and relaxation. Magnesium also supports the regulation of the nervous system, healthy bowels and bones and cognitive function. Every cell in the body contains magnesium and needs it to function, yet nearly 50% of Americans fail to get enough magnesium in their everyday diets. “The need for magnesium is not specific to a certain population,” says nutritionist Jenn Gargiulo, RDN, CSSD. “It plays a role in the health and wellbeing of people of all ages, especially athletes.”

Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is essential to so many body processes that it is important to maintain optimal levels. Magnesium plays a supportive role in managing a healthy appetite, keeps exercising muscles contracting, and supports cardiovascular health. Proper magnesium intake has been shown to promote a healthy mood and regulate blood pressure, making it a perfect companion in the fight against occasional stress.

Magnesium levels are most often checked via a blood test, but because up to 60% of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in our bones, blood tests are not always accurate. Consult your doctor for more information.

Magnesium is a Natural “Chill Pill”

Magnesium is so effective at helping us regulate our stress levels that it is often called a natural “chill pill.” The higher our magnesium levels, the lower our levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. However, while stress robs the body of magnesium, the body must also have magnesium to respond effectively to stress, making it all the more important to ensure you consume enough of it. Proper magnesium levels have been shown to help our nervous systems better handle stress.

Magnesium Can Help Manage Healthy Blood Glucose Levels

Optimal magnesium levels can be beneficial in helping people maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Magnesium plays an essential role in healthy insulin function, the hormone that, among other things, helps to keep blood sugar in a healthy range.

Athletes Need Magnesium

When we exercise, our bodies need 10 to 20% more magnesium than when they are at rest, due to the depletion of magnesium through sweat and urine. Because of this, many athletes and individuals who engage in strenuous exercise become magnesium deficient over time. Magnesium may also improve athletic performance by increasing the availability of glucose in the blood, muscles and brain during exercise, and by delaying the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles.

Other Benefits of Magnesium Supplementation

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to help maintain a healthy blood pressure, balance fluid retention, and promote a healthy mood and more restful sleep. It is also involved in healthy bone development. 

Sources of Magnesium

The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 420 milligrams for men and 320 milligrams for women, but because most of us only absorb 30 to 40% of the magnesium we consume, optimal intake may be even higher than the RDI. However, the best natural food sources of magnesium are just not foods the average American consumes in bulk. The best source is pumpkin seeds, which have 168 milligrams of magnesium per ounce. Cooked spinach has 157 milligrams per cup. Other sources include bananas, figs, raspberries, salmon, halibut, quinoa, chia seeds, cashews, almonds, black beans, avocado, Swiss chard and dark chocolate. “People just aren’t eating huge amounts of spinach, or of black beans, avocados or quinoa,” Gargiulo says. “Ideally, we would reach the recommended daily intake through food, but for many people, it just isn’t realistic and a supplement is a good alternative.”

Types of Magnesium

There are many types of magnesium, named for the other compound with which the magnesium is bound. Magnesium citrate is bound with citric acid. Magnesium oxide is combined with oxygen. Magnesium chloride includes chlorine. Kore Magnesium contains 420 milligrams of magnesium glycinate, which is bound with the amino acid glycine. It is well-tolerated and easily absorbed, while glycine works with neurotransmitters in your brain, like GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, to promote a feeling of calm and improve sleep quality.