Researchers from Mexico found that higher serum levels of magnesium may support healthy levels of blood pressure while helping to maintain the healthy function of arteries.
Researchers believe that the cardiovascular benefits associated with magnesium could be the mineral’s ability to support healthy inflammation management, which further supports the healthy functioning of the heart’s cells.
The findings are significant, given that heart ailments are responsible for 20 percent of all deaths in America, according to statistics from the American Heart Association.
The study, which appeared in the journal Nutrition and included a cross-section of 1,300 people, echoes previous research that has linked magnesium and heart health.
A 2000 study appearing in the journal Circulation found that daily magnesium supplements not only supported the the healthy function of the heart during exercise, but also helped boost the energy levels of study subjects, allowing them to exercise for longer periods of time.
Researchers also found that magnesium helped maintain the flexibility of the blood vessels, so they were better able to open up to allow extra blood flow when the body needs it.
Why we need it
Magnesium is vital to every cell in our body.
In addition to our heart health, magnesium is important for muscle strength, it works with calcium to ensure healthy teeth and bones, it helps nerve stay on alert and it plays a role in supporting our cells from stress.
In addition, serotonin – the feel-good chemical of the brain that supports against low moods – requires magnesium for production, so low levels of the vital nutrient could be responsible for a low mood.
“Magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety, including muscle weakness, fatigue, eye twitches, insomnia, anorexia, apathy, apprehension, poor memory, confusion, anger, nervousness, and rapid pulse,” according to Carolyn Dean, author of “The Magnesium Miracle.”
Most experts believe that as many as 70 percent of people in the United States are low on magnesium due to a diet that skips good sources including whole grains and leafy greens. (Former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno made it no secret that he skipped veggies altogether, and didn’t eat any for decades until First Lady Michelle Obama encouraged him to try veggie pizza on his show. He is likely not alone.)
A diet high in sugar can also result in low levels of magnesium, because for every molecule of sugar we digest, 54 molecules of magnesium are used in the process.
Signs that you’re not taking in enough magnesium include:
- Low energy
- Muscle weakness or cramps
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Poor nail growth
- Restless leg syndrome
Low on magnesium? Here’s why
While true magnesium deficiencies are rare, there are some reasons why our levels might be low.
Certain medical conditions can upset the balance of magnesium in the body, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease or long bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, which can deplete magnesium stores.
Other factors that can contribute to low magnesium levels include:
- Drinking too much coffee, soda or alcohol
- Consuming too much sodium
- Experiencing heavy menstrual cycles
- Excessive sweating
- Prolonged stress
How can I get more magnesium?
If you want to beef up your magnesium levels, sesame seeds, spearmint, cacao, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, dill, broccoli, okra, flax seeds, spinach and chives are good sources.
Other foods rich in magnesium include tofu, legumes, black strap molasses, wheat bran and whole wheat flour, oatmeal and oat bran and seaweed.
Many herbs and spices are also packed with magnesium. Some good ones to add to your spice cabinet include coriander, celery seed, sage, mustard seeds, basil, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, tarragon, marjoram and poppy seeds.
A classic Italian pesto is a perfect way to take advantage of two magnesium-rich ingredients.
To make it, pulse 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, ¼ cup pine nuts and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, then add another 1/3 cup olive oil and process until the oil is incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the food processor and add ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese just before serving.