I love magnesium.
Without a doubt it is my favourite, most cherished essential mineral. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the mineral that I find the majority of people who walk through my clinic door are in need of. More often than not magnesium is one of the first things I prescribe when I am looking to help somebody feel better quickly, simply because it plays such an important role in many aspects of health.
You may be surprised to learn that magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body (that’s quite a lot!). It assists with blood sugar balance, builds strong healthy bones, helps to balance hormones, controls inflammation and pain, supports the burning of fat for energy, as well as maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels.
Magnesium deficiency is quite common – in fact, almost half of of us don’t take in anywhere near enough magnesium in our diets.1 And if you are drinking too much alcohol, overdoing the soft drinks or coffee, are dealing with a stressful event or situation, taking certain medications, suffer from heavy periods, or experience frequent digestive discomfort such as diarrhea, then these can all affect how well you absorb, and/or hold on to, the magnesium your body so desperately needs.
Here are just a few ways in which a magnesium deficiency can reveal itself:
- Muscle cramps
- Restless legs
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sugar cravings
- Low energy
- Difficulty losing weight
So it goes without saying that one of the easiest ways to reduce these kinds of symptoms is to increase the magnesium you take in through your diet. The following foods are all rich in magnesium:
- Nuts, especially cashews, but also almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts
- Cocoa, raw cacao and dark chocolate
- Seeds such as sesame, sunflower
- Wholegrain cereals, particularly barley
- Green vegetables and herbs such as spinach and parsley
- Animal proteins – beef, chicken, turkey
- Fruits – bananas, passionfruit and raspberries
- Legumes (beans, peas and lentils)
A word of caution regarding magnesium supplements. You can eat more magnesium-rich foods on a regular basis – that's pretty simple, right? But can’t you just as easily get a supplement? Well, this is not always the best course of action, and here’s why. Many over-the-counter magnesium supplements may look fancy and have a nice pretty label on the front, but your body may not be able to actually use what is in the supplement. For any supplement to be effective, your body needs to be able to absorb and utilize that particular nutrient – if it can’t do either of those things than the supplement is going to be virtually useless and a waste of money.
Magnesium in supplements is often in the form ‘magnesium oxide’. This is because it is cheap for the manufacturers to use, so that they can maximize profits. And they only need to justify that the supplement ‘contains magnesium’ – it is irrelevant to the manufacturer whether you, the consumer, receive a benefit from it or not.
Luckily, there are far better options available, particularly if you see a qualified naturopath or nutritionist. I always ensure that only the best quality supplements make it through my door, and are the only things that are good enough for my patients (and myself for that matter!).