By Jillian Tuchman, MS, RD
Do you suffer from migraines, muscle cramps, brain fog, unusually intense chocolate cravings, numbness and tingling, or ankle swelling? You might be suffering from a lack of magnesium. Think of it as the unsung hero of minerals. It’s required in literally thousands of biochemical processes, from muscle activation and nerve function to protein digestion, metabolism, bone health and blood pressure regulation.
As important as it is, research shows that many American adults are not getting enough magnesium. (The recommended amount is between 300 and 400 mg for adults.)
Luckily, there are a lot of healthy (and tasty) ways to get magnesium into your diet. Add more of these to your plate:
- Leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens, and kale
- Nuts such as Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews and pine nuts
- Seeds such as pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds
- Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas
- Beans such as edamame, cannellini, and black-eyed peas
- Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur
SHOULD I SUPPLEMENT?
It would be ideal to get all we need from food, but unfortunately, many of us – whether from stress, prolonged antibiotic use, fluoridated water, infections, processed foods, etc. – have impaired digestion, which means that we’re probably not able to absorb all the nutrients in our food. So even if we’re eating a “perfect” diet, our bodies are still not getting what they need. Supplements can help. There are a few different types. As a registered dietician, this is what I recommend to my patients:
When a patient has a deficiency and takes medications known to lower magnesium levels (such as proton-pump inhibitors), or suffer from magnesium-depleting conditions like Crohn’s disease or IBS, I recommend magnesium glycinate–as a chelated form. It has the highest absorption levels.
Magnesium L-threonate (we like Jarrow Formula’s MagMind and Designs for Health) has only been studied recently, but the initial results are very promising. In one study, it was found to enhance short-term memory by 15% and long-term memory by 54%, compared to magnesium citrate. So if you’ve got a case of brain-fog, this is the one to choose.
And speaking of magnesium citrate, this one’s the most commonly used–and least expensive. It has a decent absorption rate and is usually a component of multi-mineral supplements. (Pure Encapsulations makes good versions of both glycinate and citrate.)
There are many more, including magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, magnesium malate, magnesium aspartate, which are fairly well absorbed by the body.
A word of advice with magnesium supplementation: Start at the lower end of the suggested dosage range and work up from there. If you’re visiting the bathroom more frequently than normal, you’ll know you’re taking too much. If that’s the case, just scale back.