Mineral Spotlight: Magnesium

October 25, 2021

Magnesium is a mineral that many Americans don’t get enough of in their diets. The interesting thing is, our daily needs for this important nutrient can easily be met by consuming just a few magnesium-rich foods each day.  There typically isn’t a need for supplementation, but to be sure you’re getting enough, let’s take a look at what it does, how best to consume it, and what happens if we get too much or too little in our diet.

Magnesium’s Role in the Body:

  • Helps produce energy, make body proteins, and regulate blood glucose levels
  • Supports muscle and nerve function, signaling muscles to contract and relax
  • Promotes healthy heart rhythm and normal blood pressure
  • Is a component of bones
  • Could help maintain immune response

How Much Magnesium Do We Need?

Life StageAgeAmount
Infants0-6 mos30 mg/day
 6-12 mos75 mg/day
Children1-3 yrs80 mg/day
 4-8 yrs130 mg/day
Males9-13 yrs240 mg/day
 14-18 yrs410 mg/day
 19-30 yrs400 mg/day
 31 + yrs420 mg/day
Females9-13 yrs240 mg/day
 14-18 yrs360 mg/day
 19-30 yrs310 mg/day
 31 + yrs320 mg/day

*Note that recommended amounts increase slightly for women during pregnancy.

  • A deficiency of magnesium is rare due to the body’s ability to regulate and maintain healthy levels by reducing loss through urine. Generally, the only ones who need to be concerned about a deficiency are those with malabsorptive diseases, such as chronic digestive problems, celiac disease, kidney disease, or alcoholism.

What are the Best Sources of Magnesium?

  • Beans and peas
  • Nuts (1 oz of almonds contains 20% of the daily magnesium an adult needs) and nut butters
  • Whole grains
  • Dark green vegetables (chlorophyll contains magnesium)
  • Fortified foods
  • Some waters (tap, mineral or bottled) can provide magnesium

Of Special Note:

  • Low magnesium levels usually don’t cause symptom. However, chronically low levels can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
  • New research is emerging to show that magnesium therapy may help prevent or relieve headaches, particularly migraines. Magnesium deficiency can affect neurotransmitters and restrict blood vessel constriction, factors which doctors link to migraines.
  • Magnesium may also play a role in premenstrual syndrome. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest that taking magnesium supplements could help to reduce bloating, mood symptoms, and breast tenderness in PMS, though more research is still needed on this topic.

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