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Magnesium: how much do we need and where can we get it?

We often hear about the health benefits of magnesium, like a better sleep pattern, decreased anxiety and increased bone health, but how do we know when we have a sufficient amount in our diets and how can we source more of it?

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that you should generally be able to get enough of from your diet, if it’s healthy and balanced. One of its functions is to convert the food we eat into energy and assisting in the functioning of our parathyroid glands, an important part of maintaining bone health.

Another rumoured health benefit is its ability to give us a solid night’s sleep. We need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to complete 4-5 90-minute sleep cycles. Keeping these cycles uninterrupted is the key to experiencing that ‘good night’s sleep’ feeling, but magnesium can help you as well, reducing fatigue and signs of insomnia.

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According to guidance from the NHS, men aged 19-64 should have 300mg of magnesium per day, while women aged 19-64 should have 270mg. If you don’t think you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet, you can take supplements, but you shouldn’t take more than 400mg as this can cause side effects such as diarrhoea.

There are lots of great sources of magnesium in our food however. All of these foods that are easy to incorporate into our diets contain high levels of magnesium:

  • Spinach
  • Nuts
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Almonds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Non-fat yoghurt
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Cashews
  • Salmon
  • Broccoli
  • Wholemeal bread

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Having high amounts of magnesium in your diet can prevent lots of conditions, such as diabetes, migraines, cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, regulates our sleep patterns and can even help with symptoms of anxiety or stress. However, if you feel you may be experiencing psychological issues with anxiety or stress or cardiovascular issues, you should seek further help from your GP.

Though most of us are getting enough magnesium in our regular diet, if you’re on a restricted diet or have a poor diet low in vegetables, you may not be getting enough of the nutrient your body needs. This deficiency can also be caused by certain health problems such as:

  • Have a gastrointestinal condition such as Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease
  • Have poorly managed type 2 diabetes
  • Have a kidney disorder
  • Have chronic alcoholism
  • Are taking certain medications e.g. proton pump inhibitors, diuretics

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Some symptoms that you may be experiencing a deficiency in magnesium include a loss of appetite or nausea, and fatigue and weakness aren’t uncommon. When the deficiency begins to progress your body will begin to lack in other essential nutrients like calcium and potassium and the symptoms of their deficiency will also begin to show. Some signs of this may be:

  • Twitching and cramping muscles or muscle weakness
  • Pain, tightness or pressure in the chest, an irregular or unusually fast heart rate
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Type 2 diabetes

It’s essential that you see your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of this as soon as possible to address these concerns.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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