Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, can be found naturally in foods and is crucial to a variety of bodily functions.
Why is magnesium important?
The mineral plays a key role in bone mineralization and vitamin D synthesis, making adequate amounts of magnesium vital to building and maintaining healthy bones. It is also involved in energy production and regulation of blood sugar. Lastly, magnesium is critical to muscle and nerve function, acting as an electric conductor to contract muscles and help keep the heart beating steadily.
What happens if you don't get enough?
Magnesium deficiency can result if your diet is too low in magnesium-rich foods. Other factors that influence magnesium intake include how food is grown and processed. Digestive disorders and chronic diseases, like diabetes, can also increase deficiency risk. Early signs of deficiency can include fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle spasms, nausea, and weakness. If the deficiency is left untreated, more severe symptoms, like abnormal heart rhythms and seizures, can occur.
Here are some tips to boost your intake:
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of plants. To increase your intake, aim to include a handful (about ¼ cup) of nuts or seeds per day. Switching from refined grains (like pasta) to whole grains (like quinoa) helps too. Try to eat leafy greens as often as you can and consider adding beans to salads.
Some of our favorite magnesium-containing foods are:
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating. Cleveland Clinic. Published March 2023. Accessed June 2023.
Magnesium. The Nutrition Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Last Reviewed March 2023. Accessed June 2023.
Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Last Updated June 2022. Accessed June 2023.
Razzaque MS. Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients. 2018;10(12):1863.
Signs You May Have a Magnesium Deficiency Cleveland Clinic. Published October 2022. Accessed June 2023.
Volpe SL. Magnesium in Disease Prevention and Overall Health. Advances in Nutrition. 2013;4(3):378S-83S.
By Isabel Balady
MGH Dietetic Intern