Healthy Eating: 'Magnesium – The magical mineral'

Healthy Eating: 'Magnesium – The magical mineral'

ONE of the most overlooked nutrients that most of us are deficient in due to processed diets and stress is Magnesium.

Even if you have a good diet, unfortunately magnesium is depleted from soil. A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we're lucky to get 200 milligrams.

Magnesium is crucially important for optimal health, performing a wide array of metabolic functions, including energy production, digestive support – both enzymatic and motility, and it is also a precursor to some neurotransmitters, like our happy hormone; Serotonin. Research shows that when magnesium in our diet is low, we have increased risk of depression and anxiety. It also allows our muscle cells to relax, helping cramps, aches and pains and supports the cardiovascular system. Evidence from Harvard has shown that increasing magnesium levels in the blood may reduce the risk of ischemic heart attack by 22 percent.

About 50 to 60% of our magnesium is stored in the bone, and as such, it plays a key role in bone metabolism. Existing research, together with the frequency of magnesium-deficient diets, suggests that low magnesium may be an underappreciated contributor to bone loss. Part of the way that this occurs is that when magnesium intake goes too low, levels of parathyroid hormone go down. This leads to a reduced absorption of calcium in the intestines, as well as increased loss of calcium and magnesium in the urine. Another effect here is the availability of Vitamin D through several enzymes which are dependent on magnesium. This way it not only benefits bone health, but overall immunity as well.

Testing whether we need more magnesium in our diet is not widely available - since most of our stores are locked up in our bones and the rest is inside our cells, a simple blood test does not give indication of our magnesium levels. Red blood cell membrane levels can give a good idea, but if you suffer from muscle twitches or cramps, constipation, osteoporosis, fatigue, anxiety, cluster headaches, hypertension - these clinical signs show that you are seriously deprived of this important element and your cells are struggling.

Magnesium is found mostly in green vegetables; the greener the veggie, the more magnesium it contains in its chlorophyll structure - which is interestingly very similar to the structure of our haemoglobin that carries oxygen in our blood. The only difference is that instead of an iron it has magnesium in its core.

Include cabbage, kale, broccoli, spinach, dark salad varieties and fresh herbs in your dinners and lunches daily. Sea vegetables are so packed with chlorophyll they can be so dark green they seem black. A tablespoon a day is a wonderful addition to any soups and casseroles. Other great magnesium sources include nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds. Make sure you add these to your breakfasts, salads and munch on them as snacks with a piece of fresh fruit.

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