Magnesium: The Missing Mineral

Posted On Jun 26, 2017 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Magnesium: The Missing Mineral

We know we should eat less sodium and more potassium and calcium, but what about the mysterious magnesium? Websites and blog headlines would make you believe you'll end up with heart disease, Alzheimer's, insomnia, and cavities without enough magnesium. While it is true that magnesium is an essential mineral, playing an important role in bone health, blood pressure, and keeping our hearts ticking normally that many Americans don't get enough of, jumping to these conclusions is inaccurate.

Although as a whole, we might not be getting optimal levels of magnesium naturally through foods, deficiencies are still very rare. Inadequate magnesium is a contributing factor in osteoporosis, but lack of magnesium alone will not cause osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, or heart disease. Many people who take acid reflux medications long-term, which depletes the body of magnesium, may need to supplement with magnesium, but most of us don't need to despite some claims that 80% of Americans are deficient.

How much do I need?

Women need about 310 mg of magnesium per day and men need about 410mg per day. Children and teens need much less than that: kids age 5-10 require 130mg/day, teens age 10-15 need 240mg/day, and older teens age 15-18 need 360mg day.

I don't recommend taking a magnesium supplement, unless your doctor advises it, because too much magnesium can be harmful, potentially toxic. It also can interact with many medications, including antibiotics and diuretics, and cause cramps and diarrhea. More is NOT always better!

What foods have magnesium?

The following foods are rich in magnesium and you can get adequate amounts of magnesium through eating foods. And now you have another reason to eat small amounts of dark chocolate!

Food Serving Size Amount of Magnesium
Leafy Greens (Spinach) 1 cup, raw 25mg
Nuts and seeds 1oz 80-90mg
Beans, peas, lentils, soybeans 1/2 cup 60-75mg
Whole grains 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 45mg
Fish 3oz 82mg
Yogurt 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 50mg
Bananas 1 medium 32mg
Dark chocolate 1 small square 95mg

By incorporating more of the above whole unprocessed foods in your diet, not only will you get more magnesium for healthy bones and blood pressure, but other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber benefiting your overall health and well-being.

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