Magnesium: 1 mineral with many responsibilities

Magnesium: 1 mineral with many responsibilities

Minerals are found in the blood, bones and tissues, and some, like iron, can be found in every living cell. There are 21 different essential minerals needed for a healthy body. Over-the-counter multivitamins and supplements can help supply the need, but they should not be considered a substitute for choosing as good a diet as possible.

Few people realize the value of each mineral. Magnesium is an interesting mineral that is not only used in the body, but also helps plants to be green. It is the secret ingredient in fireworks and flares. It is added to other minerals to produce lightweight materials for aircraft, cars, luggage, laptops and power tools.

Magnesium is frequently overlooked as an important nutrient in the body. It is one mineral with many responsibilities. It regulates the function of hundreds of enzymes, helps build proteins and is a partner to calcium. It supports muscle function, nerve connection and signaling, energy production, and a normal heart rhythm.

Many people do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Before shelling out good money to buy a magnesium supplement, know that just a few servings of magnesium-rich foods can meet your daily need. Deficiency is much more common than toxicity.

The maximum dietary allowance for most adults is around 400 milligrams or less. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables, milk, yogurt and fortified foods are good sources. An ounce of almonds or cashews contains 20% of the daily magnesium an adult needs. Avocados and peanuts supply more magnesium than a medium banana. Even water can provide magnesium.

Perhaps being deficient in magnesium is the cause of a chocolate craving? The darker the chocolate, the more magnesium available. An ounce of 70-85% dark chocolate provides 65 milligrams of magnesium.

Magnesium levels below normal usually do not cause symptoms. But levels that continue to be low can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Too much magnesium from food is not a concern for healthy adults. However, the same cannot be said for supplements. High doses of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. The magnesium in supplements can interact with some types of antibiotics and other medicines.

Certain medical conditions, like kidney problems, diabetes, intestinal disease or heart disease, can increase the risk of serious side effects with any supplementation. Do not start a supplement without first discussing it with a primary caretaker.

The complete benefits of magnesium supplementation are not scientifically clear, but a higher intake has been shown to lower blood glucose because of its effects on the enzyme insulin and how it is used in the cells. Early research has found taking 250-350 milligrams of a Magnesium Glycinate supplement daily can possibly help control blood sugars. It also can delay the onset of prediabetes. Take it with food to improve absorption.

Add dark chocolate to the grocery list. The higher the percentage, less sugar is added to the chocolate bar to affect blood sugars. Now you know.

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes care and education specialist and registered, licensed dietitian. Email her at

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