Why is magnesium so important for our health?

It's thought that magnesium is involved in over 600 enzymatic processes in the body, plus there are a further 200 enzymes that require magnesium to become activated. That's a lot of chemical processes that are vital for optimum health. We should be able to obtain all the magnesium we need through the plants we eat. However, in many areas, this is just not the case. Soil is not as nutrient-rich as it used to be and plant absorption is, therefore, poor.


What are the signs of magnesium deficiency?

Ask yourself if you ever experience any of the following symptoms:

  • cramping
  • hyperactivity
  • problems sleeping
  • eye twitching
  • stress or anxiety
  • high blood pressure
  • tiredness

Or do you enjoy any of the following on a regular basis?

  • caffeinated drinks or sodas
  • alcohol
  • processed foods, cakes, biscuits, ready meals

If you answer yes to any of these, then you may well be low in magnesium. However, blood serum tests showing magnesium levels can be misleading. Only 1% of magnesium is in blood and 3% in blood serum. The majority of magnesium is in our bones (approximately 60%) and cells (approximately 39%).

What are the benefits of magnesium?

Magnesium is an electrolyte and, as such, is involved in maintaining the rhythm of the heart, and the proper function of cells and organs as well as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for energy.

In a trial study, nurses with high dietary magnesium had lower incidences of sudden cardiac death than those with low intake. Another study has proven that having low urinary levels of magnesium is linked to ischemic heart disease. A further study links high magnesium to a longer life, showing a 40% reduction in mortality in both men and women who had high magnesium levels.

Magnesium has been shown to be therapeutic for many conditions, ranging from headaches, asthma, disturbed sleep, chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease and diabetes. It is known to alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), reduce blood pressure and inflammation and prevent migraines.

Magnesium is also attributed to boosting performance, improving blood sugar stability and enhancing the quality of sleep.

Which foods are high in magnesium?

Aim to increase your intake of the following:

  • nuts and seeds
  • almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • cashews
  • flaxseed
  • hazelnuts
  • pinenuts
  • peanuts
  • pecans
  • sesame seeds
  • walnuts


  • asparagus
  • beets and beet greens
  • bell peppers
  • bok choy
  • broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • collard greens
  • cucumber
  • green beans
  • peas
  • kale
  • leeks
  • navy/pinto/black beans
  • spinach
  • squash
  • Swiss chard
  • tomatoes

Herbs and grains

  • barley
  • basil
  • brown rice
  • buckwheat
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • millet
  • oats
  • parsley
  • quinoa
  • wheat


  • cantaloupe melon
  • papaya
  • raspberries
  • strawberries

How much magnesium do we need?

The recommended daily amount (RDA) is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. The percentages of daily value (DV) below are based on 300mg a day:

  • Spinach, cooked — 1 cup: 157mg of magnesium (52% DV)
  • Swiss chard, cooked — 1 cup: 150mg (50% DV)
  • Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95mg (32% DV)
  • Pumpkin seeds, dried — 1/8 cup: 92mg (31% DV)
  • Almonds — 1 ounce: 75mg (25% DV)
  • Black beans — 1/2 cup: 60mg (20% DV)
  • Avocado — 1 medium: 58mg (19% DV)
  • Figs, dried — 1/2 cup: 50mg (16% DV)
  • Yogurt or kefir — 1 cup: 46.5mg (15% DV)
  • Banana — 1 medium: 32mg (10% DV)

The RDA should be obtainable from a healthy whole food diet. However, if you are suffering from any of the conditions mentioned above, you may want to increase the magnesium-rich foods in your diet and note any improvements.

However, if you have a preponderance of processed foods, and not too many green vegetables in your diet, you may want to consult a nutrition professional

Magnesium supplements

Please ensure you take medical advice before taking any supplements as magnesium interacts with many medications including antibiotics, blood thinners, amongst many others. A too high a dose may also cause diarrhoea. A nutrition professional will be able to provide further advice.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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