How much magnesium do we need and what are the best sources? Rob Hobson explains
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body that include converting the food we eat into energy through to the formation of proteins and fatty acids that are required to keep the body working effectively. This abundant mineral is also responsible for maintaining muscle and nerve function, strong bones and a healthy immune system.
Food surveys in the UK have shown that a significant number of women have low intake of magnesium with over 10% shown to have very low intakes. The Recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 375mg (300mg for men and 270mg for women).
It is tricky to spot a magnesium deficiency as very little of the mineral is stored in the blood with the majority found in bones and cells, which makes blood tests unreliable. Symptoms of deficiency could include anxiety, muscle cramps, restless legs, insomnia or loss of appetite. Stress has also been shown to deplete the body of magnesium, which is why its use as a supplement has been implicated in helping with the condition and anxiety. The best way to ensure you are getting enough magnesium in the diet is to include plenty of fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish and whole grains, making this the focus rather than trying to diagnose a deficiency.
There is a growing body of research associating magnesium to diseases related to lifestyle such as heart health and diabetes. It is thought that magnesium may play a role in helping to prevent the onset of diabetes as studies show and inverse relationship between the mineral and risk of disease, which in plain English means an increase in magnesium lowers may lower the risk of diabetes. Magnesium also plays an essential role in the metabolism of glucose (sugar used by the body’s cells) and it has also been shown that low levels may lead to impaired insulin release (hormone that controls blood sugar levels) further implicating magnesium status with the condition.
Magnesium has also been associated with PMS and although the causes of the condition are not fully understood, studies have shown that women with PMS have low stores of the mineral. In some cases magnesium supplementation has been shown to help relieve symptoms. There is a little research looking at a link between low magnesium intake and menopause but mostly this is related to bone mineral density in later life.
The relaxing effect of magnesium on muscles has been associated with its use in exercise and prevention of post training cramping and treatment for restless legs (although this is more associated with lifestyle habits such as smoking more than a lack of magnesium). Magnesium has also been associated with anxiety and poor sleep and some research has suggested supplementation may help but this needs further research (it is most likely anxiety causes a reduction in appetite that results in low intake of magnesium).
Try boosting your magnesium intake using the tips and recipe below or look at supplementing your diet with a magnesium supplement such as Healthspan Magnesium 375mg with Vitamin B Complex 90 tablets £7.95
The best sources of Magnesium
How to get your daily intake of magnesium (percentage of RDA)
Total magnesium = 172% of the RDA
Yoghurt pot with Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds (51%)
Dried apricots (5%)
Quinoa, avocado and spinach salad (63%)
Broccoli with tahini dip (30%)
Salmon with steamed greens (23%)
Breakfast yoghurt pot with white peaches, strawberry, Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds
440 calories per serving
(51% of your daily magnesium intake)
2 small ripe white peaches, de-stoned and cut into chunks
¼ lime, juiced
400g low fat Greek yoghurt (thick set)
10 large Brazil nuts, chopped
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tsp honey
- Place the white peaches, strawberries and a little lime juice in a food processor and blend. You can decide how smooth you want the puree.
- In a large glass or small bowl layer up the pure and yoghurt then top with nuts and seeds.
- Drizzle with honey before serving.
For more healthy recipes, Rob has co-written The Detox Kitchen Bible available from Amazon £17.00