This Mineral is Magic for Your Muscles and Mind

Want strong bones? A healthy heart? Fast muscle recovery after workouts? A cure for migraines? Good digestion? Lots of energy? How about great sleep and a happy mood?

Magnesium is a wonder mineral that does all of these incredible things for us. In fact, Medical News Today reports that it is involved in over 300 reactions within our bodies. It’s also known as a natural laxative, and to help with the management of diabetes.   

Magnesium is critical for our energy production. Breaking down the science, the National Institute of Health reports that it “plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.” 

To put it simply, magnesium is critical to human life at the cellular level.

An ounce of prevention

The really interesting thing about magnesium is that it shines a spotlight on the power of preventative medicine. While it can be an antidote to many health issues once we’re out of balance, getting enough magnesium is essential to our health.

To explain, take a look at what magnesium can do for us:

  • Strengthen bones

  • Boost mood

  • Restful sleep

  • Regulate digestion

  • Cure migraines

  • Manage diabetes

  • Boost Energy

  • Healthy heart rhythm

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Rapid muscle recovery

  • Fight depression 

So, instead of looking at magnesium is a magical cure, when we flip things around, it’s clear that magnesium is a baseline component of vibrant health. With it, our bodies function as they are supposed to, and we feel happy and healthy. Without it, we run into all kinds of problems. Our cells struggle to function, and that sets up a cascade of issues. We sleep poorly, have low energy, and possibly end up experiencing chronic illnesses like heart disease, depression, or even Type 2 diabetes.

When food isn’t enough medicine

Of course, the best way to get enough of anything our bodies need is to include it in our diet. However, today nearly half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium. In Psychology Today, Dr. Emily Deans explains why: 

“We get most of our magnesium from plants (almonds, black beans, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate are all good sources), but it’s the bacteria in the soils that enable plants to absorb magnesium, so all sorts of environmental influences can deplete magnesium in our food, from pesticides that kill off bacteria to potassium-based fertilizers (that can be taken up by plants in lieu of magnesium and calcium).”

Given that a lot of magnesium moves from the earth into plants, it’s obvious that plants are good sources of this essential mineral. The best sources of magnesium are nuts and seeds, as well as dark green vegetables and legumes. Here are some of the best foods for getting more magnesium into your diet:

  • Oats

  • Quinoa

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Chia seeds

  • Almonds

  • Black beans

  • Edamame

  • Spinach

  • Avocado

  • Dark chocolate

Should you supplement?

Even though modern farming might be getting in the way of us getting enough magnesium through food, if you’re eating a healthy diet with lots of the foods listed above, you’re probably fine. If you tend to eat more processed foods, a supplement might be a good idea. Magnesium needs calcium to be absorbed though, so keep that in mind if you decide to add a supplement. Mother nature wins again here, as many of the foods high in magnesium are also great non-dairy sources of calcium, including seeds, nuts and plant milks.

While I eat lots of the magnesium-rich foods listed above, I sometimes take magnesium when my body feels like it needs a little extra help to recover from working hard. If you’ve ever taken an Epsom salt bath to soothe sore muscles, you’re bathing in magnesium, which is absorbed through your skin.

At the drug store, you’ll notice a few different options for supplementing with magnesium. Interestingly enough, we don’t seem to absorb huge amounts of any of the supplement options. In her Psychology Today report, Dr. Deans notes that magnesium citrate is the most bioavailable for us. [Pro tip: I bought this exact same magnesium supplement at the drug store for $23, while Amazon sells it for $14. Learn from my mistakes!]

Remember that there can be too much of a good thing, though. If you decide to supplement, pay attention to your digestion. If you end up in the bathroom more than usual, you’re probably taking in more magnesium than your body needs. Remember, it can have laxative properties. Of course, a doctor is always the best person to ask for advice if you want to evaluate how magnesium could help with any chronic issues.

In the meantime, we should all probably eat a little more dark chocolate. Just to be safe.