Did you know that you’re made up of stardust? When stellar explosions occur, the dust that drifts to earth contains many of the major minerals that are essential to life on earth, making up the building blocks of the cells that form your body. One of these elements, is magnesium.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an element and can be found everywhere from stars to seawater, soil and your body’s cells. In fact, magnesium is essential for cell health.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, magnesium is essential to over 300 of the body’s biological processes. It plays a vital role in the production of energy and numerous other biochemical reactions inside our cells.
Why does our heart need magnesium?
Magnesium is crucial for heart health. Together, the heart and blood vessels, also known as the cardiovascular system, pumps and transports over 1 million barrels of blood in the average lifetime.
This relentless pumping requires a large and “always on” stream of energy, so that the heart can circulate enough blood to meet our body’s needs and the blood vessels can maintain normal blood pressure.
Because the heart requires large amounts of energy to function, it stands to reason that our heart and blood vessels rely heavily on high-performing cells. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and second most abundant element inside our cells. It is involved in over 600 cellular reactions in the body, including the enzymes that convert the food we eat into energy and helping your muscles contract.
Since we cannot make it ourselves, our diet is our only source of magnesium.
It’s as simple as this – if our cells don’t get the energy they need, they can’t do all the jobs they’re tasked with.
Magnesium’s other important job
Magnesium also keeps our calcium levels in check. Calcium is essential for your bones, muscles, nerves, and other systems in the body, but too much calcium in the wrong place can lead to numerous health issues. Coronary artery calcification (CAC) describes the build-up of calcium deposits on the inner wall of the arteries surrounding the heart. Patients with CAC are more likely to suffer from health conditions associated with the cardiovascular system.
The association between dietary magnesium intake and CAC was the focus of an article, published in JACC Cardiovascular Imaging. Participants in the Framingham Heart Study – a long-term population study started in 1948 tasked with identifying cardiovascular risk – were asked to quantify their magnesium intake (both diet and supplements). People with a higher magnesium intake had lower levels of CAC. In fact, those with the highest magnesium intake were 50% less likely to have any detectable CAC. This suggests that magnesium keeps the amount of calcium inside our cells at safe low levels and is protective against CAC in addition to its anti-inflammatory, blood pressure-lowering and cholesterol-lowering properties.
How much magnesium should I take?
Despite its importance, up to 68% of American adults don’t meet the recommended daily magnesium intake.
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following daily intake of magnesium:
- Children 1-3 years: 80 mg
- Children 4-8 years: 130 mg
- Children 9-13 years: 240 mg
- Teens 14-18 years: boys 410 mg and girls 360 mg
- Adults 19-30 years: men 400 mg and women 310 mg
- Adults 31+ years: men 420 mg and women 320 mg
What food is highest in magnesium?
As our diets change and the amount of processed foods we are consuming increases, most people aren’t getting enough of this important mineral as they should. Although magnesium deficiency is rare, the average adult may only get 66 percent of their daily recommended magnesium in their normal diet.
Magnesium is found naturally in many different foods. The top ten best sources are:
- Whole wheat: this good source of magnesium offers 160mg of magnesium per cup
- Nuts: particularly almonds, cashews and peanuts
- Spinach: nutrient rich spinach contains 157mg magnesium per cup (boiled)
- Black Beans: black beans contain the highest level of magnesium of all beans
- Quinoa: packed with protein and minerals, quinoa has 118mg magnesium per cup (cooked)
- Avocado: the ultimate heart food, avocado contains high levels of magnesium as well as healthy fats, vitamin B, vitamin K and potassium
- Cultured yoghurt: containing 30mg magnesium per cup, cultured yoghurt also aids in supporting gut-health
- Tofu: 8mg of magnesium per cup and a great meat substitute
- Edamame: steamed, boiled or eaten plain, soybeans contain 100mg magnesium per cup
- Dark chocolate: you can even get your magnesium quota for dessert, just make sure it’s at least 70% cocoa solids
If you are having trouble meeting your daily requirements or prefer to supplement your diet, consider taking a supplement which contains magnesium.
+ Learn more about magnesium supplements here
Is too much magnesium bad for your heart?
It is very uncommon for an otherwise healthy person to overdose on magnesium as the kidneys work hard to clear excess magnesium from the body. Getting too much magnesium from the diet is not typically a cause for concern.
Occasionally, a high dosage of magnesium from supplements or medications can cause mild symptoms of an overdose, including diarrhoea, nausea, and stomach cramps.
Rarely, a very high dosage of a supplement or medication provides more than 5,000 mg of magnesium per day. This can cause magnesium toxicity. The medicines involved are typically laxatives or antacids.
Because the kidneys clear excess magnesium from the body, people with renal problems or kidney failure are more likely to absorb too much magnesium. Doctors usually advise people with this risk to avoid supplements and medications that contain magnesium.
As always, it is a good idea to discuss with your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.
What makes magnesium so great for the heart?
In today’s busy world, it’s often impossible to slow things down and catch your breath, so you need your heart and cardiovascular system to be powered up and performing at its best. Therefore, if you’re looking for sustained levels of energy, investing in the cellular health of your heart and blood vessels is going to play a big role in helping you achieve this. Magnesium is crucial for our health and well-being, especially for cardiovascular health. While there are many delicious foods that contain magnesium (see above), if you find it hard to include magnesium-rich foods in your diet, there are many magnesium supplements that can help.