Magnificent Magnesium

By Susan M. Piergeorge, MS, RDN, Nutritionist

Did you know that 78% of Americans consume insufficient quantities of magnesium? What makes this mineral so important?

Magnesium plays multiple roles in our bodies. It is a cofactor that regulates over 300 enzyme systems which regulate biochemical reactions in our bodies. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) some of these include “…protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.” Magnesium is required for energy production, along with supporting bone development and the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the powerful antioxidant glutathione. “Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm,” states the NIH.

Symptoms of deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, muscle cramping, numbness, tingling, seizures and personality changes. Additional symptoms that may occur include abnormal heart rhythm, coronary spasms and electrolyte disturbances.

Magnesium is found in a variety of food sources. These include dark green leafy vegetables, legumes/starchy beans (including soymilk), nuts, seeds and whole grains. According to the NIH, foods containing dietary fiber are often a source of magnesium. Some dairy products such as milk and yogurt are also sources. As far as supplements, the better absorbed forms of magnesium include citrate, aspartate, glycinate or threonate.

Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium [1]
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
19–30 years 400 mg 310 mg 350 mg 310 mg
31–50 years 420 mg 320 mg 360 mg 320 mg
51+ years 420 mg 320 mg    

Source:,  Accessed June 2015.

Ideas to include magnesium in your diet:

Whole grain cereal with dairy milk or yogurt or soymilk

Bowl of minestrone soup

Mixed greens salad (spinach, baby kale, arugula) with nuts and quinoa

Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with avocado

Excerpted in part from Susan’s book “Boomer Be Well! Rebel Against Aging through Food, Nutrition and Lifestyle”

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