Magnesium: A Healing Nutrient Profile

What does magnesium do?
You may know that you need magnesium for healthy bones—in fact, roughly half of your body’s magnesium is stored in your skeleton. This mineral also aids in the function of more than 300 enzyme systems in the body. Magnesium influences the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contractions and has a strong role in controlling blood pressure; it is thought to be an important factor in preventing heart attacks. The mineral is also essential for the proper functioning of the hormone insulin. Because magnesium is involved in the production of the brain neurotransmitter dopamine, it may help prevent or treat PMS, depression and other mood disorders.

How much magnesium do you need?
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium is:

  • 320 mg for women ages 31 and older
  • 420 mg for men ages 31 and older

Both younger women and men need slightly less (310 mg and 400 mg, respectively), and women need more when they’re pregnant (350 mg).

Many people have a magnesium deficiency due to poor eating habits, stress and medical conditions such as gastrointestinal problems. One reason may be our increased consumption of refined, processed foods, which contain little magnesium.

Sometimes it may be helpful to supplement with magnesium. Doses of 100 mg to 400 mg may be recommended depending upon your individual case.  It’s always best to start with a low dose and see if that is adequate.  If you’re choosing a supplement (with your doctor’s OK), keep in mind that magnesium glycinate is least likely to cause diarrhea at higher doses, and magnesium oxide is the most likely to promote diarrhea.

Where can you get magnesium?
The richest sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts, followed by meat and dairy.

Some of our favorite foods that contain substantial amounts of magnesium are:

Spinach, cooked 1 cup 158
Pumpkin seeds 2 Tbsp 151
Tofu 4 oz 117
Sunflower seeds 2 Tbsp 100
Almonds 1 oz 10
100% bran cereal  cup 95
Broccoli, cooked 1 cup 94
Wheat germ, toasted ¼ cup 93
Blackstrap molasses 2 Tbsp 84
Cashews 2 Tbsp 74
Millet, cooked ½ cup 69
Black beans ½ cup 60
Peanut butter 2 Tbsp 50

You can look up the magnesium content of other foods by referencing the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.