18 Jan 2023

7 best natural sources of magnesium

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In this article we’ll discuss the significance of magnesium for regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and building protein. All while looking at the best vegan sources of magnesium.

What is magnesium

Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the human body that is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes and many other important bodily functions. This is because magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. These include:(1)

  • Helping to create and repair DNA and RNA
  • Building new proteins from amino acids
  • Regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout our brains and nervous system
  • Converting food into energy
  • Assisting in muscle contraction and relaxation

An adult body contains roughly 25g of magnesium, 50-60% being present in the bones and the majority of the rest in soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is located in blood serum. In addition, magnesium homeostasis, i.e. a state of balance, is largely controlled by the kidney. To give an idea, in one day the kidneys typically excrete about 120mg of magnesium into the urine.(2)

Due to magnesium's importance, adequate intake can even reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So, what are the best vegan sources of magnesium? Before we get into that, let’s quickly cover magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium deficiency

Studies show that almost 50% of people in Europe don’t get enough of magnesium.(3)

Also known as hypomagnesemia, magnesium deficiency, is an often-overlooked health problem. Often, cases of deficiency are underdiagnosed because the signs don’t commonly appear until magnesium levels become severely low. However, here’s some to look out for:

  • Muscle twitches and cramps; and in more serious cases, people can experience seizures and convulsions.(4) Research suggests that this occurs due to there being a greater flow of calcium into nerve cells, which over-stimulates the muscle nerves.(5) Although twitches are common and can arise from stress or excessive caffeine intake, you should see your doctor if symptoms persist.
  • Mental health conditions are another sign of deficiency. Extreme cases of deficiency may even lead to delirium and coma. (6) Additionally, observational studies link low magnesium levels with an increased risk of depression.(7)
  • Magnesium deficiency is also a risk factor for osteoporosis. Deficiency can weaken bones directly, but it can also lower the blood levels of calcium, which are the main building block of bones(8).
  • In individuals with asthma, magnesium levels tend to be lower than in people who do not have this condition.(9) A lack of magnesium can cause the buildup of calcium in the muscles lining the airways of the lungs. As a result, the airways constrict, making breathing more difficult.(10) Often, an inhaler with magnesium sulfate is given to people with severe asthma to help relax and expand the airways.
  • Irregular heartbeat, or heart arrhythmia is among the most serious possible effects of magnesium deficiency. Researchers believe that an imbalance of potassium levels inside and outside of heart muscle cells (a condition associated with magnesium deficiency) is to blame.(11) Symptoms to look out for include: lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting, dizziness and fatigue.

Now, let’s take a look at the best vegan sources of magnesium, how much magnesium they contain and how that translates to our daily value (DV).

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