Off the top of your head, do you know which foods are high in magnesium? Do you know how much you should be consuming on a daily basis?
I know I didn’t.
It wasn’t until recently that I made a comparison chart. For curiosity’s sake, I wrote down what I ate for two weeks and then compared those nutritional values to my recommended daily values. I was surprised to find that I was not eating enough fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium (which I later found out was a common deficiency).
Could you be one of the many individuals who are deficient in magnesium? Without being consciously aware, your body may be trying to tell you everything you need to know.
You need magnesium — here’s why
Luckily, my two-week magnesium deficiency wasn’t anything major. However, if I continued depriving my body of enough magnesium for the coming weeks, months or even years, minor warning signs could become major symptoms.
Overall, a low consumption of magnesium has been linked to everything from type-2 diabetes and hypertension to asthma and colon cancer. Considering approximately half of America does not currently eat the required amount of magnesium, the prevalence is overwhelming (some estimate this number to be as high as 72 percent).
Some experts agree that magnesium is one of the most overlooked minerals, yet it may be the single most important nutrient. Required for more than 300 unique chemical processes in the human body, it is shocking how common this deficiency is.
Signs you are not consuming enough magnesium
It can be tough to tell whether or not we’re giving our body everything it needs. We all try to eat a balanced, clean diet — but is it enough?
If you are an adult female, for instance, you require around 320 milligrams of magnesium daily. To put this in perspective, one cup of cooked quinoa provides around 118 milligrams — so it’s completely achievable. Once you begin to acknowledge the nutrients you need, it’s easy to adjust your diet accordingly.
If you have not been giving your body enough magnesium, there’s no better time than the present. This is particularly true if you’re experiencing any of the following six symptoms.
1. Muscle cramps and twitching
Magnesium is a key element of muscle relaxation. If you are deficient, you may find that your muscles remain in a constant state of contraction. This may not just lead to muscle cramps, but also muscle spasms and facial tics.
It is also important to note the role that calcium plays in relation to magnesium. If magnesium levels are low, higher levels of calcium will flow into cells. This will lead to hyperstimulation and in turn, cramping and twitching.
2. Increased feelings of anxiety
Many can relate to anxiety-related conditions, as they are the most common affective disorders within the general population. Magnesium has long been associated with such conditions and unfortunately, this can become a vicious cycle. Stress can magnify a deficiency, and a lack of magnesium can worsen stress.
The overall process is complex, based on key neurotransmitters and associated receptor activity in the brain. However, when it all boils down, these effects are based on an imbalance. When magnesium levels are imbalanced, this impacts GABA and glutamate levels, leading to neuronal hyperexcitability — a.k.a. feeling anxious!
3. Cravings — specifically for chocolate
When you crave something, this is often your body’s way of telling you that you are in need of certain nutrients. Some experts believe that chocolate cravings may actually be based on magnesium deficiencies. And no, that does not mean that you should go and eat a chocolate cake by yourself.
Even if you feel like chocolate cake, your body isn’t telling you to go and eat that. It’s telling you that you may need to increase your magnesium intake — a mineral found in dark chocolate. Believe it or not, just one square of dark chocolate can provide you with nearly one-quarter of your recommended daily intake.
Top tip: Opt for quality dark chocolate that is at least 75 percent cocoa.
4. Poor sleep
Tossing and turning lately? You may need a big ole helping of magnesium. As discussed, a deficiency may impact stress levels, which in turn, impact sleep quality. In fact, chronic insomnia is one of the core, central symptoms when dealing with a magnesium deficiency. If you do not get enough on a day-to-day basis, you will prevent your brain from “winding down” at night.
Sensing a theme here in terms of magnesium and relaxation? Well, if you are struggling to go to the washroom, a lack of magnesium may be the underlying issue. If you do not consume enough magnesium, your digestive tract will contract more than normal. As you would expect, this can lead to constipation. Combine this with another common issue in the U.S. — dehydration — and you’ll really struggle to pass waste.
6. An irregular heartbeat
Although you may feel as though your heart has a mind of its own (think back to your first heartbreak), your heart is a muscle. As discussed, low magnesium levels will impact muscle contractions. This can result in irregular heartbeats as your heart battles to contract and relax in harmony.
From acid reflux to migraines, there are so many tell-tale signs — you just need to be willing to listen. If you believe that you are deficient in magnesium, focus on incorporating more spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, dark chocolate and figs into your diet.
After all, spiritual leader, Sonia Choquette said it best, “To listen to your body and respect how it feels is a powerful act of self-love.”
It’s time to love yourself!
— Krista Hillis