Magnesium is essential for healthy muscles, nerves, bones and blood sugar levels. If you don’t get enough, it can lead to conditions including heart attack, numbness, stroke, fatigue, muscle cramps, migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, over the long term.
Foods high in magnesium include cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. While most people can get what they need from a healthy diet, you can also take a supplement, or get magnesium from certain mineral and bottled waters.
Research suggests that more than one in three Australians don’t get enough magnesium each day. People at particular risk include those with Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, Type 2 diabetics, older people and those with alcoholism.
Diets high in fat (and high levels of zinc supplements) can cause people to absorb less magnesium from food.
How much magnesium?
Children usually get what they need naturally, but older people need more. Men under 30, for example, need 400 mg of magnesium each day, and more as they get older. Women over 30 need 320 mg a day, with pregnant and breastfeeding women needing more like 360 mg.
High fibre foods tends to be the best way to go. Some examples of high magnesium foods are:
- pumpkin seeds (30g/156mg of magnesium)
- chia seeds (30g/111mg)
- almonds (30g/80mg)
- boiled spinach (half a cup/78mg)
- cashews (30g/74mg)
- oats (50g/67mg)
- peanuts (a quarter of a cup/63mg)
- soy milk (1 cup/61mg)
- wholemeal bread (2 slices/46mg)
- avocado (1 cup cubed/44mg)
- brown rice (half cup cooked/42mg)
- milk (1 cup/24mg)
Can you have too much magnesium?
You can’t get too much from food, but it is possible to take too many magnesium supplements, which can cause diarrhoea, nausea and stomach cramps. Extremely high levels can lead to heart issues.
If you’re taking magnesium supplements, it can also interfere with other medications, including antibiotics, diuretics, and medicines for acid reflux, stomach ulcers and osteoporosis medication, so it’s important to get levels right with the assistance of health professionals.
Low levels of magnesium are a greater concern for most people, and can cause including lower calcium and potassium levels in the body over time if left untreated.