You’ve heard magnesium being praised for everything from helping with a better night’s sleep to anxiety relief and even boosting energy levels. But are these claims actually backed by science – or are they just unsubstantiated hype?

Here’s your dietitian-approved answer.

The basics

Magnesium is a mineral that’s mostly stored in your skeleton, muscles and soft tissues. It’s classed as an electrolyte (along with other minerals like sodium and potassium), which regulate most of your body’s biochemistry.

Magnesium plays a key role in muscle and nerve function, and is crucial for the proper functioning of many different enzymes. It also has a vital role in the formation and structure of bones.

So, as you can see, it’s pretty important!

What’s more, magnesium has been associated with stress relief and improved mood and brain function. It can also naturally relax your muscles.

How much do you need?

To get you up to speed, women between the ages of 19 to 30 are recommended to have 310mg of magnesium per day. From the age of 31, that jumps up to 320mg a day. To put that into perspective for you, a cup of cooked quinoa contains 107mg, a handful of mixed nuts and seeds contains 74mg and a cup of spinach contains 31mg.

The good news is that magnesium is widespread throughout the food supply, so it’s pretty hard to be deficient if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet. Some of the richest sources of magnesium include:

  • Rice and wheat bran
  • Nuts, like almonds, cashews and peanuts
  • Seeds, like pumpkin seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds
  • Legumes, like lupin beans, soya beans and lima beans
  • Wholegrains, like buckwheat, rolled oats and quinoa
  • Seafood, like tuna, oysters and sardines
  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Dark chocolate (#winning)
  • Liquorice

If you’re not getting enough, though, weakness, loss of appetite and biochemical abnormalities can occur over time. Low magnesium intake can also lead to muscle cramping and has even been associated with depression and insomnia.

Is supplementation necessary?

As a dietitian, my philosophy is always real food, first – and it’s certainly possible to get enough magnesium through a healthy diet alone. Having a variety of plant-based foods in your diet is the best thing you can do to ensure you’re getting enough of this all-important micro-nutrient.

That’s not to say that supplementation is never called for – but for the average healthy Joe, it usually isn’t necessary. If magnesium supplementation is required, it’s important to do so under the guidance of a medical professional. Just like the saying goes, you can have too much of a good thing – and having excess magnesium from supplements could result in side effects like diarrhoea or even heart problems.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au, or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.

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