Over a third of adult Canadians aren’t getting adequate intakes of magnesium through their diets. In fact, magnesium is among the four nutrients that have the highest inadequate intakes among the population, according to latest Statistics Canada numbers.
But little do many Canadians know, magnesium is an important mineral that can treat and help with a wide range of health issues and ailments and is essential to any diet.
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“In addition to making up part of your bones and teeth, magnesium is also important for proper muscle and nerve functioning,” says registered dietitian Andy De Santis. “Magnesium also plays an important role in energy metabolism – i.e. allowing our cells to utilize the energy from the carbs, protein and fat we intake from food – and hundreds of enzymes in our bodies require magnesium to function properly. It also plays a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels.”
Actually, registered dietitian Tristaca Curley says, more than half our body’s magnesium supply is in our bones.
“In my practice, magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies,” she says. “Since it plays a big role in health and reducing risk of disease, it is vital that we are getting enough.”
But how do you know if you’re getting enough?
There are physical signs and symptoms that may allude to a possible magnesium deficiency, according to both De Santis and Curley.
- Muscle weakness, spasms and/or cramping: This is due to the role magnesium plays in muscle contraction. This is also the most common and identifiable sign of magnesium issues
- Insulin resistance: Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme systems in the body, including those that control blood sugar
- High blood pressure: this is because magnesium relaxes blood vessels and thus lowers blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat: Magnesium plays a role in muscle contraction, and thus contraction of heart muscles and heart rate
- Low HDL (or good cholesterol): This is due to the role of magnesium in the metabolism of fats
- Tingling and numbness: Magnesium plays a role in nerve transmission
- Migraines: Magnesium reduces vasoconstriction, and the intake of magnesium can reduce occurrence of migraines by 40 per cent
“Because magnesium is so essential to our body’s proper functioning, people with low magnesium intakes over an extended period of time tend to have an increased risk of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and high blood pressure,” De Santis says. “There is also some limited evidence linking low magnesium intakes with issues in digestive and sexual health.”
And although magnesium inadequacy in many instances can be treated by modifying one’s diet, anyone experiencing severe symptoms should talk to a doctor to fully understand the cause of those symptoms, De Santis adds.
If you’re looking to up your magnesium intake, you can find the nutrient in plenty of foods, including: nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, seafood, chocolate, cocoa, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, soy-based foods (like tofu and edamame) and quinoa.
According to Eat Right Ontario, men between 19 and 30 years old need 400 mg per day, while women of the same age group need 310 mg. Men over 31 need 420 mg per day, while women 31 and over need 320 mg. However, it is important to note that anyone of any age should not have more than 350 mg of magnesium per day from supplements.