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You know you need magnesium for healthy bones. But this important mineral — the fourth most abundant in the human body — plays a key role in many other crucial physiological processes. The majority of your body’s magnesium is stored in your bones, while the rest is distributed in muscles, tissues and bodily fluids, where it takes part in hundreds of enzymatic reactions. In addition to bone health, this mineral is essential for energy production, nerve transmission, regulating muscle contraction and relaxation, blood pressure and more.
In a mood? Magnesium might help
If you find yourself irritable, stressed or downright depressed, this critical mineral may help you get out of your funk. Studies suggest adequate magnesium intake can calm stress, improve mood and enhance sleep. Here’s how it works:
- Stress and anxiety: Magnesium plays an important role in regulating the body’s response to stress. Chronic physical or mental stress depletes your body of magnesium, and low magnesium levels intensify stress — creating a vicious cycle. Magnesium modulates activity of the body’s stress-response system, and studies suggest increasing magnesium intake may reduce anxiety, ease stress and minimize the response to fear.
- Mood and depression: Magnesium is important for many of the pathways, enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation; it’s also associated with inflammation, known to play a part in symptoms of depression. Studies link low magnesium intake with a higher risk for depression and suggest that increasing magnesium can significantly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety — in some cases, as effectively as an antidepressant drug.
- Sleep: Magnesium interacts with GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces the activity of neurons in the brain, quieting and calming the nervous system and encouraging sleep. It also impacts melatonin, the hormone that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycles, and relaxes muscles to induce deeper sleep. Studies suggest magnesium improves total sleep time and quality and shortens the time it takes to fall asleep.
As important as magnesium is, many of us don’t get enough — an estimated 56 to 68% of Americans fail to meet the recommended daily intakes of 310 to 320 milligrams for women and 400 to 420 mg for men. Make sure you’re getting what you need, especially during the stress-filled holiday.
Need to increase your intake? Fill your plate with these seven food sources for a more peaceful season.
Chard is abundant in magnesium as well as calcium, antioxidants and other important nutrients; just one cup of cooked chard has 150 milligrams of magnesium, about half of the recommended daily value (DV) for women. Spinach, kale and other dark, leafy greens are also excellent sources.
- Blanch whole chard leaves and use as a wrapper for cooked red lentils and quinoa.
- Purée cooked chard with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic for a magnesium-rich dip.
Black beans are an excellent source of magnesium as well as protein, fiber and polyphenol antioxidants. One cup cooked contains 120 mg.
- Purée black beans with salsa, heat until bubbly and top with jalapeños and cheese for a warm, spicy dip.
- Sauté black beans, onions and cooked cubed sweet potato in olive oil with garlic and cumin and top with cilantro.
Avocados contain about 67 mg of magnesium per cup. And they’re rich in healthy monounsaturated fats as well as fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin K.
- Mash avocado with garlic and minced rosemary and spread into endive leaves.
- Make bruschetta with sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes, shallots, basil and toasted whole-grain baguette.
Almonds are one of the highest sources of magnesium among nuts, with about 97 mg per one-quarter cup.
- Combine almonds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds in a high-powered blender or food processor and grind into flour.
- Sauté slivered almonds with edamame, shredded spinach, leeks and garlic.
Pumpkin seeds contain 162 mg magnesium per one-quarter cup.
- Toss pumpkin seeds, finely chopped kale, shredded carrots and sliced radishes with an Asian vinaigrette.
- Purée pumpkin seeds, spinach and garlic into a paste and toss with veg or regular noodles.
Flaxseeds are rich in magnesium, with 120 mg in just three tablespoons.
- Mix ground flaxseeds with almond butter, almond milk, honey, cinnamon and raisins; form into cookies and bake.
- Make vegan burgers with puréed black beans, flaxseeds, minced onions, garlic and spices.
Edamame provide 100 mg of magnesium in one cup. They’re also high in protein, fiber, iron and vitamin C.
- Purée edamame with white beans, spinach, cashew butter, garlic and lemon juice for a hummus-inspired dip.
What kind of magnesium is best?
Think all forms of this mineral are the same? There are actually different varieties, and each offers slightly different benefits. Here are four types you should know:
Magnesium citrate, one of the most common forms, is made from magnesium bound with citric acid, a naturally occurring component of fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest it’s easily absorbed and one of the most bioavailable forms. It’s an excellent choice for easing stress and promoting sleep.
Magnesium oxide is formed by a chemical reaction of oxygen and magnesium. It’s the least absorbable form but also has a higher percentage of elemental magnesium per dose. This form has been used for hundreds of years, commonly in the form of milk of magnesia, to treat digestive discomfort, heartburn and constipation.
Magnesium glycinate is magnesium bound to glycine, an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter and can promote sleep. This form tends to be well absorbed, and glycine may enhance magnesium’s natural calming and relaxation properties.
Magnesium L-threonate, also called magnesium threonate, is formed by combining magnesium and threonic acid, a metabolite of vitamin C. Studies suggest it increases magnesium concentrations in the brain and may have cognitive benefits.
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