Magnesium’s Role

Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in hundreds of reactions throughout your body. It helps your body make fuel for energy and helps relax your nerves and arteries. Recent studies are beginning to show that magnesium may have a much larger impact on your body than we previously thought. Like vitamin D, magnesium may play a role in several different systems throughout your body from making proteins and enzymes, to regulating your central nervous system.

Magnesium is a calcium channel blocker. This means that it counters the effects of calcium in your body. It may sound counterintuitive but your body needs calcium and magnesium to balance each other out. Too much calcium, and your nerves and body functions become too relaxed. Likewise, too much magnesium and your body functions become too energetic. Having the proper amounts of calcium and magnesium in your body promotes a healthy heart, nerves, and digestive tract.

Magnesium is very important for your heart because it can help keep your heart pumping efficiently, which reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. On top of that, magnesium also acts as a natural blood thinner, allowing your blood to flow more smoothly through your arteries and veins. This also helps reduce your risks of heart attacks and strokes. Magnesium causes your arteries to dilate, which reduces your blood pressure. Magnesium is also usually given to people who have just had a heart attack in order to help restore their normal heart rhythm.

Magnesium is also important for your bones. It helps regulate the rate at which your bones and teeth are made. It prevents too much calcium from going into your bones and teeth so they do not become overgrown. It also helps power your body’s detoxification process, helping it flush out toxins and heavy metals. Glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in your body, needs magnesium in order to be made.


Magnesium Deficiency

Some signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting and fatigue. There is no accurate blood test for magnesium deficiency because most of the magnesium in your body is in your tissues and not your blood. There are urine and tissue tests your doctor can perform to check for magnesium deficiency. Along with any symptoms you’re experiencing, your doctor can diagnose whether you have a magnesium deficiency or not.

People who are most prone to magnesium deficiencies include, those with kidney problems, digestive disorders like IBS or Crohn’s disease, diabetics, alcoholics, those taking diuretic medications, cancer medication or antibiotics, and elderly adults. Those who fall into any of these categories should keep a close eye on their magnesium intake. People who suffer with migraines may not have enough magnesium. About half of all people who suffer from migraines are deficient in magnesium.

With long-term deficiencies you may begin to experience numbness or tingling in your extremities, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, heart palpitations, abnormal heart rhythms or seizures.

Magnesium can help keep type 2 diabetes at bay but those who have type-2 diabetes may be urinating out magnesium faster than those who do not have type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you get 100% your daily value of magnesium.


How much magnesium?

It’s very important that you balance your magnesium and calcium intake together because they counter balance each other. It’s also important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D because our bodies need this vitamin present in order to absorb calcium. Here are the National Institute of Health (NIH) recommendations for our daily intake of magnesium.

Age Males Females Pregnant Breastfeeding
0 -3 Years 40 -80 mg 40 – 80 mg
4 -6 Years 120 mg 120 mg
7 – 10 Years 170 mg 170 mg
11 – 17 Years 270 – 400 mg 280 – 300 mg 320 mg 340 – 355 mg
18+ Years 270 – 400 mg 280 – 300 mg 320 mg 340 – 355 mg



Which Foods are High in Magnesium?


Nori seaweed


Seaweed has about 216 mg of magnesium in 1 ounce (28 grams), which is over 50% of your daily value.



jaxzin / Flickr
Pumpkin Seeds

½ cup of pumpkin seeds has over 100% of your daily value of magnesium, which is about 370 mg. You’ll also get over 100% of your DV of manganese, 80% of your DV of phosphorus and about 50% of your DV of copper. Read more about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds here.




Cocoa powder

1 ounce of unsweetened cocoa powder has about 35% of your daily value of magnesium.



Flaxseed and Flaxseed oil


These seeds have almost 82 mg of magnesium in a few tablespoons of ground up flaxseeds, which is about 20% of your daily value.




Nut Butters

These butters include Peanut butter, Sunflower seed butter, Almond butter, and Tahini (sesame butter). All of these nut butters have about 25-30% of your daily value of magnesium in two tablespoons, which is about 100 -120 mg of magnesium.



Almonds Flickr 5604662193_0194b086e9_b


1 ounce or about 22 almonds has about 20% of your daily value of magnesium.



Caviar on two spoons

Red and black caviars can have just over 20% of your daily value of magnesium in one ounce, which is about two tablespoons worth of caviar. What makes caviar special in this case is that it’s one of the few natural foods that’s also a good source of calcium (about 10% of your daily value in one ounce) and vitamin D (over 15% of your daily value in one ounce).


It’s important to note that most of these foods that are rich in magnesium are poor sources of calcium. Many of the foods rich in calcium tend to also be poor sources of magnesium. You should try to include foods that are good sources of magnesium in your diet as well as foods that are good sources of calcium. Click here for more information about calcium.



hitthatswitch / Flickr

Magnesium Supplements

Foods should always be your #1 source for magnesium. However, if you decide to take supplements there are several forms of magnesium on the market. The main forms of magnesium on the market are magnesium carbonate, magnesium citrate, and chelated magnesium (magnesium chelate or magnesium glycinate). Of these three, chelated magnesium is usually absorbed best by the body. Magnesium citrate and Magnesium carbonate are forms that will also be absorbed by your body but they may also have a stool softening or mild laxative effect on some people as well. However, these other two forms are safe to take.

Magnesium hydroxide or magnesium sulfate are forms of magnesium that are used in laxatives like Milk of Magnesia. These two forms of magnesium should not be used as a supplement at all. Take them as directed by a physician.

Note: It’s especially important that the magnesium supplement you take also has calcium and vitamin D as well. There is also some evidence that vitamin K2 is important to have as well because it keeps calcium and vitamin D from depositing in the wrong places like you arteries, increasing he risk for heart attacks or strokes. How much vitamin D and vitamin K2 a supplement should have is still being debated. However, if you are eating a diet healthy in vitamins D and K2 you should be in good shape. Since your body makes vitamin D in the summer months using sunlight, our vitamin D levels tend to be sufficient in the summer/spring months (March/April – September). To keep you vitamin K2 levels up, eat dark leafy greens like Kale and Swiss chard. Foods like Parsley, dried Basil are rich in vitamin K2 as well.



  7. Larsson SC, Orsini N, Wolk A., Dietary magnesium intake and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. February 2012. vol. 95, No. 2, 362-366

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