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Magnesium is a mineral that occurs naturally in the body and has many important functions. Only three other minerals are found in larger concentrations in the body than magnesium. About half of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones. A very small amount of magnesium is found in the blood and the rest is found inside cells in the tissues of the body.
Magnesium is used by the body to carry out a number of critical functions in the body. It contributes to the ability of the muscles to contract and relax, which is necessary for movement. It aids in the function of special proteins called enzymes that cause chemical changes to happen in the body, such as changing starch or sugar into something the body needs for nutrition. Magnesium also helps the body produce protein and helps with the production and transport of energy between cells.
Magnesium is also believed to contribute to maintaining a balance in the systems of the body. There is some evidence that a diet rich in foods that contain magnesium may help lower blood pressure. Studies have also shown that men and women with a lower intake of magnesium may be at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where the body is not able to process sugars effectively. Some studies have also suggested that low levels of magnesium may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis (weak or brittle bones).
The best way to maintain healthy levels of magnesium is to eat a diet rich in the mineral. Magnesium is found in many of the foods we eat. Most dietary magnesium comes from dark, leafy vegetables such as spinach. Other foods that are high in magnesium include:
• Legumes – peas and beans that grow underground
• Seeds and nuts– almonds, cashews, and others
• Whole, unrefined grains – brown rice, unrefined wheat
• Tap water – water that is considered to be “hard” is much higher in minerals including magnesium than “soft” water
Magnesium is also available in supplements as tablets or capsules.