While it’s not as widely used as many other healthy minerals, magnesium supports a number of vital health functions in your body.
Support the health of the heart, bones, brain and more with this crucial mineral

There is an important mineral often left out of the supplement discussion magnesium. According to the National Institutes of Health, magnesium plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including supporting healthy blood pressure levels, muscle and nerve function, and blood glucose levels, among others.

Yet research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that less than 68 percent of adults consumed the recommended daily intake of the nutrient, with 19 percent receiving less than half the recommended amount. That’s a huge portion of Americans not receiving enough magnesium for their cells to function properly. While symptoms usually don’t show up immediately, chronically low magnesium levels eventually wear down the cells and can lead to a number of health concerns. Add other common deficiencies like low levels of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, and the risk of degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes increases significantly.

Adequate magnesium intake is crucial for total wellness. In fact, the nutrient has incredible implications in several areas of health, including:

Metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Healthy levels of magnesium support factors that impact metabolic syndrome and diabetes, including healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, along with insulin sensitivity. Compelling research published in Diabetes Care found that increased magnesium intake may decrease the risk of diabetes. Additional findings from Northwestern University suggest that young adults who consume higher levels of magnesium are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome.

Cardiovascular health

The nutrient helps support normal heart rhythm and is even sometimes used intravenously in hospitals to help regulate heartbeat. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have shown a modestly reduced risk of coronary artery disease in men with increased magnesium intake, and one study found a correlation between higher magnesium levels and lower risk of cardiac death in women.

Brain health and memory function

As you age, your brain and memory function naturally decline; that’s due to a decrease in synaptic plasticity, which affects learning and memory. Recent research published in the journal Neuron suggests that magnesium can improve synaptic function, and that an increase in magnesium levels in the brain can support memory and learning.

Bone health

About 50 to 60 percent of magnesium in the human body is found in the bones; the nutrient is critical to bone growth and development. Magnesium also helps regulate calcium levels and levels of other nutrients like vitamin D and potassium that support bone health. In fact, research conducted just last year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that magnesium intake may be even more important than calcium in supporting bone health in children.

Increase your intake

It’s no secret that the modern American diet is high in fat, sugar and other not-so-good-for-you calories and low in nutrients, including magnesium. Processing can also remove the mineral from naturally healthy food sources. Refined grains found in white bread, white rice and white pasta go through a process that removes the germ and bran, the nutrient-rich parts of the grain that also happen to be the main source of magnesium. This results in lower magnesium content. While water can be a good source of the mineral, its magnesium content varies widely, and filtering can lower both calcium and magnesium levels; you would need to have your water tested to know the content.

Even if you’re eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods, cooking can lower levels of the mineral. A study done in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology found that cooking removes an average 60 to 70 percent of mineral content. Plus, the human body only absorbs about 30 to 40 percent of dietary magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health. So, not only are standard diets poor in the nutrient, but the body only absorbs a percentage of the already-low levels of magnesium in these diets.

While some genetic conditions may contribute to low magnesium levels, most people can easily increase their consumption of this critical mineral. Like with most nutrients, getting adequate magnesium starts with a healthy diet. Opt for fresher, less processed foods and choose whole, raw foods when possible. Great sources of magnesium include almonds, cashews, yogurt, spinach, black beans, avocado, potatoes (with the skin), brown rice and salmon, among other delicious and nutritious options. See the chart to determine the appropriate magnesium intake for you. The recommended daily intake (RDA) accounts for the body only absorbing a percentage of dietary magnesium.

If you’re part of the 68 percent of the population who struggles to get enough magnesium in their diets, a supplement may be a great option. In addition, many magnesium supplements are combined with zinc, vitamin D or other critical nutrients, making them even more effective. Magnesium might not be popular in the media, but it’s just as necessary to the body as more publicized nutrients. Giving your body adequate magnesium helps deliver the nutrients the cells need to perform those more than 300 biochemical reactions that support total wellness.

For more on magnesium content in foods, visit the National Institutes of Health website at http://www.ods.od.nih.gov As always, consult your health care provider before starting or stopping a supplementation regimen.

Dr. Andrew Myers, an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of Health Is Wealth: 10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds of Living to 100 and Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition. Visit healthiswealth.net for more information.