Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in your body, so getting enough of it should be a priority, but are you? Research shows up to 40% of people don’t consume enough magnesium-rich foods, and not doing so has health consequences. But have you ever wondered why magnesium is such an important dietary player? Read on, and you might be surprised at how vital this mineral is for health and wellness.
Magnesium Keeps Your Heart and Blood Vessels Healthy
Magnesium plays a crucial role in your body as an anti-stress agent. It helps maintain a healthy heart and functions as a vasodilator, thereby reducing “stress” within your blood vessels. One way it does this is by improving endothelial function, the way blood vessels respond to physical stress.
Ideally, you want your vessels to expand and let blood and oxygen flow through, not tighten up, or, even worse, form a blood clot. Magnesium helps blood vessels do that. Poor endothelial function is a predictor of future heart attacks and strokes, so getting enough dietary magnesium may protect against these health issues.
If you have a family history of hypertension, you may want to increase your magnesium intake to prevent clogged arteries and a stroke. A magnesium-rich diet also protects again blood pressure spikes, which can lead to high blood pressure and strokes. Some studies even show that magnesium supplements modestly lowers blood pressure in people with hypertension. In addition, magnesium helps reduce inflammation, another factor that damages the inner walls of arteries and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Magnesium Supports Bone Health
Did you know that over half the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones? Your skeletal bones take a lot of hits every day. Constant use and impacts lead to micro-fractures in the bone that may never fully heal. Plus, osteoporosis is a threat to most women after menopause, and can lead to bone fractures that lead to loss of independence and frailty.
Magnesium is an essential building block for stronger bones. This mighty mineral activates enzymes that help repair and build bone tissue. Magnesium is also involved in the activity of two important proteins, osteocalcin, and osteopontin, which help form new bone cells. Magnesium deficiency can lead to thinning of the bones or osteoporosis later in life.
Further highlighting the importance of magnesium for healthy bones, a study linked a diet higher in magnesium in post-menopausal females with a lower risk of osteoporosis. Plus, chronic inflammation can interfere with bone remodeling. Magnesium also positively affects bone health by reducing inflammation, another contributor to bone loss.
Magnesium for Muscle Health
Magnesium plays a key role in muscle contraction, down to the level of the muscle cell. Muscle cells need magnesium to produce ATP, the energy that allows muscles to contract. Plus, magnesium helps muscles relax, thereby preserving flexibility. There’s also evidence that getting enough magnesium lowers the risk of muscle cramps. For healthy muscle function, eat more magnesium-rich foods!
Magnesium for Metabolic Health
One of the benefits of magnesium is it improves insulin sensitivity, how your cells respond to insulin. Better insulin sensitivity is associated with improved metabolic health and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and weight gain. If you’re diabetic, you’re also at greater risk of magnesium deficiency. Diabetics tend to lose more magnesium in their urine when their glucose levels rise, meaning their tissues may be depleted of magnesium even when their blood tissue levels are low.
Magnesium for a Healthy Nervous System
Magnesium is a crucial component in maintaining the proper function of your nerves and nervous system. According to some studies, it helps relieve muscle tension that contributes to anxiety and insomnia. Many people get more calcium than they do magnesium, and the ratio of magnesium to calcium is vital for many biochemical processes in the body, including those related to relaxation and sleep. Based on current data, the optimal calcium to magnesium ratio is around 2 to 1; you should get twice as much calcium as magnesium. Calcium and magnesium are a dynamic duo, and you don’t want to be deficient in either.
Best Sources of Magnesium
Magnesium is a powerhouse nutrient that you would be hard-pressed to leave out of your daily diet, but how can you get more of it? Some stand-out sources of magnesium include whole grains, pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin seeds. However, you’ll get a healthy stash of magnesium by eating more green, leafy vegetables, including spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, snow peas, Bok choy, and Swiss Chard. Dark chocolate is another luscious source of magnesium. About 70 percent cacao dark chocolate contains 50 mg of magnesium per ounce.
How Much Magnesium Do You Need?
Sources often cite 400 milligrams of magnesium daily as the recommended amount. However, a better way to adjust the dose is by body weight. According to a study in the journal Nutrients, 4 to 6 milligrams of magnesium per kilogram of body weight is a healthy dose. You don’t necessarily have to meet your body’s magnesium needs through supplements. If you eat a whole food diet rich in nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains, you may get enough without taking a supplement. Before taking a magnesium supplement, talk to your physician.
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