I often talk with founders about the basic building blocks of sanity (exercise, nutrition, sleep, and water). These simple things have the power to make or break your physical and mental well-being. It is super difficult to function at a high level if you’re not taking care of the basics.

So today we’re talking about Magnesium. What does magnesium have to do with your business and your life? Read on, my friend.

I’m not one for fad diets, but lots of people have been talking about magnesium levels. And our family pediatrician recently recommended that we pay extra attention to magnesium intake for one of our kids. So I decided to look into the science of magnesium.

Magnesium has a key role to play in your overall health and performance. A deficiency can lead to a range of health problems and it turns out that nearly half of all Americans aren’t meeting their daily magnesium needs. While we can generally get enough magnesium via food, many people simply aren’t eating enough magnesium-rich foods.

Why you need magnesium

Scrolling through academic papers on the role of magnesium blew me away. While it isn’t yet as well-studied as other minerals, such as calcium, there are a number of areas of health in which magnesium has been shown to play a role.

Why do we need magnesium? Here is a quick list of reasons:

  • Magnesium is essential for the regulation of muscular contraction, blood pressure, insulin metabolism, cardiac excitability, and vasomotor tone. (source)
  • Magnesium plays an essential role in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. It has been implicated in multiple neurological disorders. (source)
  • Low magnesium levels have been associated with numerous conditions, particularly those involving chronic inflammation. (source)
  • Every cell in your body contains magnesium and needs it to function! It helps with energy creation, protein formation, and gene maintenance, among other things. (source)
  • Magnesium can boost exercise performance by increasing glucose availability in the blood, your muscles, and your brain. (source)
  • Several psychiatric symptoms, including different types of depression, have been observed where there is a magnesium deficiency. (source)

Why you need magnesium

Phew, and that’s just a shortlist! The bottom line is that everybody needs a healthy level of magnesium for optimum performance and to stave off potential chronic illnesses.

The National Institutes of Health recommends the following average daily doses of magnesium:

Why you need magnesium

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What happens when you have low magnesium?

The National Institutes of Health says there are no obvious symptoms if you have a short-term magnesium deficiency. Our kidneys are good regulators for the body and in healthy people, will work to retain magnesium if there is a deficiency.

However, if you have a long-term magnesium deficiency, this is when you can start to observe symptoms. Sometimes this deficiency may be due to your diet, but in some people, it is due to a medical condition or an interaction with medications.

Symptoms of low magnesium may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite

In people with a severe deficiency, symptoms may escalate to seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythm, numbness, and tingling. Additionally, low levels of magnesium have been linked with chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, and migraines.

How can you get magnesium?

Please don’t make health decisions based on a blog. It’s important that any decision to modify your diet or supplement with magnesium is made in consultation with a physician.

Generally speaking, we get our required daily need of magnesium through a healthy, balanced diet. Among entrepreneurs, making time to eat and eat well is often something that goes by the wayside. You’re busy. I get it. But busy times are when your body most needs the right kind of fuel.

Food is the best way to get your magnesium. Keep a range of magnesium-rich foods on rotation among your meals. Here are some top choices:

  • Spinach and other dark, leafy greens
  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Yogurt and milk
  • Fortified cereals
  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate (my personal favorite!)
  • Black beans and other legumes
Download our quick guide to magnesium-rich foods here

The good news is that many of these foods don’t require a lot of preparation and can be grabbed in a pinch. You can snack on nuts and seeds, quickly slice up some avocado, or sneak in a couple squares of good-quality, dark chocolate. This doesn’t have to be an added stress to your day – many people find they’re already getting enough through what they currently eat.

If you’re wondering how much you need to eat to get the required daily dose of magnesium, it’s really not a lot, especially with some of the particularly magnesium-dense choices. For example, one ounce of pumpkin seeds gives 150 mg of magnesium. It isn’t complicated and won’t require austere measures on your part.

Why you need magnesium

What about magnesium supplements?

Food is always the best source of nutrients. However, magnesium is available in supplements of various strengths if a supplement if recommended by your doctor. As I mentioned above, our pediatrician recently talked with us about magnesium and she recommended a supplement for one of our kids. A blood test revealed that his levels were low and he’s allergic to nuts and dairy so it is hard for him to get enough magnesium through food (although I’m sure he’d be happy to eat dark chocolate every day).

The NIH recommended upper limit for magnesium supplements is shown below:

Why you need magnesium

Don’t overdo it! High intakes of magnesium, specifically from dietary supplements have been linked with abdominal cramps, diarrhea and nausea. In extreme cases, it can lead to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.

It’s important to note the distinction between magnesium from food and magnesium from supplements. The adverse symptoms linked with supplement overdose aren’t usually seen with a high intake of magnesium-rich food because in healthy people, the kidneys will work to get rid of any excess via urination.

Another important reason to consult with a doctor is that magnesium can interact with medications. It has been known to lower absorption of antibiotics, for example. So yes, you can supplement, but proceed with caution. There are actually some very high doses of magnesium supplements available over-the-counter, so it would be relatively easy for an unsuspecting person to grab a dosage that is too high.

8 foods rich in magnesium – get our download here

Final thoughts

It’s important to be aware of the role magnesium plays. Magnesium has been something of a “forgotten” mineral, but it has been receiving more attention lately due to and increased awareness of the relationship between what we eat and our mental health.

A large number of Americans are deficient in magnesium, even though most healthy people can get enough through mindful eating.

Consult with your physician if you think you may be magnesium deficient. Any sort of dietary modification should always be undertaken in consultation with a qualified professional.