Magnesium is an essential mineral that is necessary for hundreds of different enzymatic reactions in the body. Fifty to 60 percent of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in the skeletal system.
Magnesium is needed for healthy functioning of all systems in the body, and it is used for metabolism, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, transmission of nerve impulses, bone density and much more.
We need magnesium to stay healthy and strong. Yet the majority of the population is not getting enough of it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Here you’ll learn all about why so many people are deficient in magnesium, what the signs and symptoms of deficiency are, and which foods to eat to prevent magnesium deficiency. Keep reading to find out!
Why is it that so many people today are lacking in this essential nutrient? Even people who eat healthy diets may find that they have a magnesium deficiency.
It all began with the invention of chemical fertilizers, which we now use to grow our crops.
Hundreds of years ago—before chemical fertilizers—the soil was rich in nutrients, and so were the foods that grew in it. Our modern lifestyle and commercial fast-paced farming methods have robbed the soil of those nutrients, leading to lower nutrient intake throughout the world.
To make matters even worse, our already low-nutrient crops are often processed so much that they are completely stripped of all vitamins and minerals and are totally devoid of any nutritional value whatsoever.
These two factors are major contributors to magnesium deficiency and other kinds of nutrient deficiencies as well. Switching over to organic foods and cutting out processed foods and white flour from your diet can help to reduce the risk of nutrient deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency signs, symptoms, and long-term effects
Magnesium deficiency can have some serious consequences, both short term and long term.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Personality changes
In severe cases, magnesium deficiency can cause serious long-term effects, including:
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Blood clots
- Coronary spasms and poor heart health
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Tooth decay
Since magnesium plays an important role in the conversion of tryptophan, an amino acid, to the neurotransmitter serotonin—also known as the “happy chemical”—magnesium deficiency can present with symptoms of depression. Low levels of serotonin may also cause loss of appetite, sleep problems and migraines.
In addition, magnesium deficiency has been linked to many chronic diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and heart disease. Magnesium is also vital for the detoxification of heavy metals—such as mercury, lead and aluminum—from the body, so a deficiency can result in the accumulation of heavy metals within cells, leading to toxicity.
How much magnesium do you need?
According to the NIH, the daily dietary recommendations for magnesium are as follows:
Birth to 6 months: 30 milligrams (mg)
7–12 months: 75 mg
1–3 years: 80 mg
4–8 years: 130 mg
9–13 years: 240 mg
14–18 years, males: 410 mg
14–18 years, females: 360 mg
19–30 years, males: 400 mg
19–30 years, females: 310 mg
31+ years, males: 420 mg
31+ years, females: 320 mg
Pregnant women: 350–400 mg
Lactating women: 320–360 mg
The best way to ensure that you are getting enough magnesium is to eat a diet rich in foods that are naturally high in magnesium. Some foods, such as breakfast cereals, are fortified with magnesium, and those are good sources as well.
15 magnesium-rich foods to add to your diet
Make these foods a regular part of your diet and you won’t need to worry about magnesium deficiency.
1 Almonds. A 1-ounce serving of almonds contains 75 mg of magnesium, or 19 percent of your recommended daily intake (RDI).
Almonds are also rich in fiber, protein and antioxidant vitamin E. Grab a handful of almonds for an easy, healthy and energizing snack on the go.
2 Cashews. A 1-ounce serving of cashews contains 81.8 mg of magnesium, or 20 percent of your RDI.
Other nutrients you’ll benefit from when you eat cashews include vitamin K, vitamin B6, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.
3 Spinach. This superfood is rich in many nutrients and antioxidants, and it happens to be one of the best sources of magnesium.
One cup of cooked spinach contains 157 mg of magnesium, which is 39 percent of your RDI. It’s also bursting in vitamins A, C, E, K, B vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.
Not to mention all those antioxidant phytonutrients, such as carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, among others.
4 Beet greens. Beet greens are another type of dark leafy greens, like spinach, that are rich in many nutrients, including magnesium.
One cup of cooked beet greens contains 98 mg of magnesium, or 24 percent of your RDI.
5 Swiss chard. The dark leafy green category tops the charts when it comes to antioxidant and nutrient content. Swiss chard is yet another dark leafy green that is especially rich in magnesium.
One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains 150 mg of magnesium or 38 percent of your RDI.
6 Sunflower seeds. Seeds are an incredibly healthy food with many benefits to offer. Flax, pumpkin, chia and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of magnesium.
A 1-ounce serving of sunflower seed kernels contains 91 mg of magnesium, or 23 percent of the RDI.
You’ll also benefit from a healthy serving of fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, iron and many other essential vitamins and minerals.
7 Avocado. If avocado isn’t a regular part of your diet, you’re missing out on a lot of incredible health benefits. Avocados are rich in healthy fats, fiber and many essential vitamins and minerals.
In one cup of cubed avocado, you’ll get 43.5 mg of magnesium, or 11 percent of your RDI. You’ll also get vitamins C, E and K, B vitamins, folate and potassium.
Avocados have been shown to lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, improve heart health and promote weight loss.
8 Black beans. Black beans are just one of those foods that are incredibly rich in so many essential macro- and micronutrients.
Black beans provide protein, fiber, folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and, of course, magnesium.
One cup of black beans contains 120 mg of magnesium, or 30 percent of your RDI.
9 Dark Chocolate. What dark chocolate lacks in vitamins, it certainly makes up for in mineral and antioxidant content.
Get yourself some good-quality 70 percent or higher dark chocolate, and indulge in a small piece each day. A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate contains 63.8 mg of magnesium, or 16 percent of your RDI.
10 Yogurt. A one-cup serving of yogurt provides 46.5 mg of magnesium, which is 12 percent of your RDI.
Yogurt is not only a good source of magnesium, but many other minerals as well, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and selenium.
In addition, yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics—good bacteria that are necessary for a healthy gut and a strong immune system.
11 Lentils. All legumes carry impressive nutritional value, as they’re all high in fiber, protein, folate, iron and many other nutrients and antioxidants.
Lentils are some of the most nutritious legumes. One cup of lentils contains 71.3 mg of magnesium, which is 18 percent of your RDI.
12 Brown rice. Whole grains, such as brown rice, are an excellent source of many essential minerals, including magnesium.
One cup of long-grain brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium, or 21 percent of your RDI. It’s also an excellent source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.
13 Dried figs. In a half-cup serving of dried figs, you’ll get 50 mg of magnesium, which is 13 percent of your RDI.
Dried figs are also a good source of vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium, copper and manganese.
14 Squash. Winter squash and butternut squash are teeming with many essential nutrients and antioxidants.
In one cup of cubed squash, you’ll get 59.5 mg of magnesium, or 15 percent of your RDI. You’ll also get more than 400 percent of your RDI of vitamin A, as well as a healthy serving of vitamins C, E, B6, folate, potassium and manganese.
15 Bananas. Bananas are best known for their potassium content, but they’re a good source of other essential nutrients as well.
One medium banana contains 32 mg of magnesium, which is 8 percent of your RDI.
Magnesium deficiency is no picnic. It can result in some serious symptoms and long-term effects.
Luckily, you now know which foods to eat in order to get a healthy serving of magnesium each and every day.