Like most people who are concerned about their health, you might find yourself standing in the supplement aisle of your drug store contemplating a baffling number of pills or tablets to head off problems and keep ourselves healthy. Ah, yes, it so easy just to take a pill and avoid the challenge of changing diet or lifestyle.
Supplements can play a role in maintaining our health. Within the past five years, magnesium, an essential mineral naturally found in many foods and active in many body functions has gained the interest of the public and the supplement industry. Nutrition research shows about half of the public may be moderately deficient in magnesium for a variety of reasons including diet or chronic health conditions.
What Magnesium Does
About half of our magnesium contributes to bone structure and the rest of it is found in cells functioning in over 300 enzyme systems that regulate protein synthesis, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation. It is involved in energy production in muscle cells that convert sugar (glucose) and fat into energy. Magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus act in tandem to support bone structure. Magnesium along with potassium and calcium promotes precise nerve impulse conduction and muscle contraction, and helps maintain normal heart rhythm.
Sources of Magnesium
If your diet is rich in plant-based foods you should not have a magnesium deficiency.
Food: Plant-based foods with fiber, especially nuts, seeds, grains, beans, lentils, and dark green leafy vegetables, yogurt and low-fat milk are good sources of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are a great source.
Supplements: Magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate are the most common forms of magnesium while other forms include aspartate, lactate, gluconate, and chloride. Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia©, used to relieve constipation, has magnesium as the primary ingredient in a dose greater than recommended in magnesium supplements Not much magnesium is absorbed because of the laxative effect.
Over time a poor diet or chronic disease may cause a deficiency. Severe deficiency symptoms include GI distress, loss of appetite, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures.
People at risk for deficiency include:
- People with severe alcohol dependence experience poor nutrition and complications like pancreatitis, cirrhosis or kidney disease all which cause magnesium deficiency.
- Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease cause poor nutrient and magnesium absorption because of frequent diarrhea.
- Type 2 Diabetes with chronic high blood sugar causes the kidneys to flush magnesium along with excess sugar.
- Osteoporosis. Because magnesium is part of bone maintenance and structure, a magnesium deficiency may be a risk factor contributing to osteoporosis.
- Migraines. There is some evidence that a lack of magnesium may contribute to migraine headaches and that a supplement may be a prevention option.
- Older people are at risk if they have a diminished appetite, poor diet, or take medications that interfere with magnesium availability.
- Muscle cramps? Evidence is weak that a magnesium supplement would help. More likely cramps are due to dehydration or low potassium.
Determining a magnesium deficiency is difficult because half of it is in our bones and the other half is in cells so measuring it in a blood sample doesn’t reveal possible levels. A diet history could be used to assess and estimate how much someone is eating and/or taking as a supplement.
Magnesium supplements may interfere with some antibiotics, diuretics, proton pump inhibitors, and bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist. Dietary magnesium does not interfere with medications.
For the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium: CLICK HERE.
RDA: Average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrition requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy individuals; often used to plan nutritionally adequate diets for individuals. (Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies)
Cannellini Bean and Vegetable Soup
Simple, tasty recipes, especially soups, are a staple in my cold weather meals. My secret to keeping things simple and quick is to have the ingredients ready in my pantry and fridge. Canned beans, broth, assorted fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables, and leftovers including meat and chicken make spontaneous versions of soups. This soup recipe can be modified in many ways. Make it your way.
In a 1-1/2-quart saucepan, sauté 1 diced medium onion and 1/2 cup diced red pepper in 1 tbsp. olive oil until both are soft. Add 2 cups chicken broth, 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans. Cover, bring to a light simmer. Stir in 1 cup diced carrots, 1 cup corn, 1 tsp Mrs. Dash Original, 1/4 tsp garlic salt. Cover, lightly simmer for 30-45 minutes.
Written by: Mimi Cunningham MA, RDN, CDCES
Mimi is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and diabetes care specialist helping people learn to manage their diabetes and achieve good health. She believes food definitely is good culinary medicine.
Magnesium: CLICK HERE
Source: National Institutes of Health
Magnesium: CLICK HERE
Source: Harvard School of Public Health
Magnesium Oxide in Constipation: CLICK HERE
Source: National Library of Medicine
2019 Ingredient Trends to Watch for Food, Drinks, and Dietary Supplements: Magnesium: CLICK HERE.
Source: Nutritional Outlook