Magnesium is probably not a mineral you think much about, but it’s involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the human body that are important for good health. Now, there’s another reason to eat a magnesium-rich diet. A new study published in the journal Atherosclerosis shows that adding more magnesium to your diet could reduce your risk of dying of heart disease.
Dietary Magnesium: Natural Protection for Your Heart?
Researchers analyzed data from a large trial called the Japan Collaborative Cohort Study to look at the effects dietary magnesium has on the risk of heart disease. They made a surprising discovery. Participants who ate diets that contained the most magnesium were 50% less likely to die from heart disease compared to those who ate the least. Other research shows that magnesium-rich foods help to lower the risk of another common killer, stroke.
Why is magnesium so beneficial for heart health? It may help to reduce inflammation inside blood vessels that can lead to a stroke or heart attack and reduce the risk of fatal heart rhythms. Magnesium also helps to control blood pressure. As you know, high blood pressure is a risk factor for both stroke and heart attack. In addition, magnesium research suggests that it may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing the sensitivity of cells to the hormone insulin. It also lowers the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the transport of calcium into bone cells. Adding more magnesium to your diet could give you added protection against some of the most common diseases people experience as they age.
Should You Be Getting More Magnesium in Your Diet?
Unfortunately, research suggests as many as 80% of people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. How much do you need? Men need between 400 and 420 milligrams of magnesium in their diet each day while women need around 320 milligrams. If you eat lots of processed foods, you’re more likely to be magnesium deficient since processing strips away magnesium. People who have low stomach acid or who take certain medications are also at higher risk for low magnesium levels.
Another reason magnesium deficiency is so common is that so many people take calcium supplements. Too much calcium can interfere with magnesium absorption and alter the balance between the two minerals. Getting enough magnesium is just as important as calcium in your diet, and most people get far more of one than they do the other.
The Best Sources of Magnesium
Some of the best sources of magnesium are unrefined grains, nuts, and legumes. Lentils, tofu, split peas, cashews, almonds, and bran are especially rich in this mineral that’s essential for good health. Green, leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and spinach are other good sources. Unfortunately, some magnesium is lost when foods are prepared at high temperatures. That’s why it’s a good idea to get some magnesium from raw foods like nuts. Caffeine-containing beverages and alcohol can also cause a loss of magnesium.
The Bottom Line?
Adding more magnesium to your diet has a variety of health benefits and may lower your risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Cut back on the processed foods, and eat more nuts, whole grains, lentils and green, leafy vegetables. You’ll be glad you did.
Nutraingredients-USA.com. “Dietary Magnesium May Lower Risk of Death from Heart Disease”
Atherosclerosis. Volume 221, Issue 2, April 2012.