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We need to talk about magnesium

There is a good chance you may be deficient in this vital mineral

Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium

Unless you're a doctor, scientist, or happen to remember your basic biology from high school, you may not have magnesium in the forefront of your mind, but there's a good chance your body is struggling over it daily because it doesn't have enough. If you do remember your biology 101, you'll know that it's a crucial factor in over 300 biochemical functions in the body, such as regulating heartbeat rhythms, helping neurotransmitter functions, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the main source of energy for our cells, must be bound to a magnesium ion in order to be biologically active. All pretty important stuff, it's no wonder we're so easily using it all up, but why are we all running so low? There are several reasons:

Our Food Doesn't Have Enough

Most of the magnesium in our diet comes from plants. Plants get it from the soil. The problem arises when the soil itself becomes deficient. Modern day farming relies on mono-crops, combine harvesting and fertilization because profit is more important than feeding people healthy food. Mono-crops create a problem because it's crop rotation that remineralizes soil, one type of plant adds to the soil what another needs, and vice versa. Combine harvesting is a problem because the fields are stripped clean at harvest time, whereas with traditional farming anything that wasn't considered edible was left behind to compost and feed the soil. And fertilization is an issue because large scale fertilization typically only includes nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the bare minimum to insure the plants grow. With no magnesium (not to mention plenty of other nutrients) being added to the soil, the levels in the plants eventually drop as well.

We Use It Up Quickly

Between plants that are themselves deficient, and the fact that many of us don't eat as many plants as we should every day anyway, we use up what little we're getting in short order. One of the important functions mentioned above that magnesium is involved in is the production of ATP - energy in our body. When we exercise, or even just sweat a lot, we burn through a lot of magnesium. Travel also depletes it, with things like stress, poor diet, poor air quality and air pressure changes all using up extra magnesium. Do you toss back a few more than usual when you're on vacation? Alcohol consumption depletes magnesium as well. So basically all the fun stuff.

How Do You Know You're Low?

There are a few signs that are pretty obvious and mean you are at the point where supplementation is required. Muscle cramps, excessive stiffness after exercising, constipation, insomnia and anxiousness are the big ones. Immediate supplementation will generally alleviate some of these symptoms quickly. So how much to take? The general recommendation is 6 mg per kg or 2.2 pounds of body weight. Using this standard, a 150-pound person would need about 410 mg. Many authorities feel that the RDA should be increased by about 50%, to about 600 to 700 mg daily. An average diet usually supplies about 120 mg of magnesium per 1,000 calories, for an estimated daily intake of about 250 mg. However, most people don't have the digestive abilities to absorb all of it, so levels will still be low. It will come in many forms on the store shelf, with each having different particular benefits, but the most absorbable will be magnesium glycinate. A good calcium-magnesium blend is usually a good idea as these minerals works synergistically in the body.

As always, the best way to get this mineral is through food. Here are some of the top sources of magnesium:

Spinach, cooked — 1 cup: 157 mg (39% DV)

Swiss chard, cooked — 1 cup: 150 mg (38% DV)

Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 mg (24% DV)

Pumpkin seeds, dried — 1/8 cup: 92 mg (23% DV)

Almonds — 1 ounce: 75 mg (19% DV)

Black beans — 1/2 cup: 60 mg (15% DV)

Avocado — 1 medium: 58 mg (15% DV)

Figs, dried — 1/2 cup: 50 mg (13% DV)

Yogurt or kefir — 1 cup: 46.5 mg (12% DV)

Banana — 1 medium: 32 mg (8% DV)

Here is a nice little recipe for a black bean protein bowl that combines a few of those things, along with sweet potato - also a good source of magnesium - and if you add a few almonds and finish off with a little square of dark chocolate for dessert, you've achieved your daily requirement for magnesium in one meal. Thanks to Quite Good Food in New Zealand for the recipe. Love those kiwis!


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