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A mineral juggernaut, magnesium affects 80 percent of the body’s biochemistry and enables hundreds of enzymatic reactions. “Yet as many as eight in 10 Americans don’t get enough,” says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Magnesium Miracle.

Magnesium affects 80 percent of the body’s biochemistry and enables hundreds of enzymatic reactions

The body contains roughly 25 grams of magnesium. It keeps about 60 percent in the bones and teeth and socks away the rest in muscle, tissue cells, and fluids. Because magnesium has a hand in so many processes, including energy creation, membrane stabilization, and protein production, deficiency has an outsized impact on the body.

Take muscles: Every one of the body’s 600-plus muscles, including the heart, relies on magnesium, says Dean. “If magnesium is depleted, calcium floods into the smooth muscle cells and causes spasms, leading to constricted blood vessels, which could lead to higher blood pressure, arterial spasm, angina, and even heart attack.”

Magnesium shortfalls can also make it harder to chill out. “Magnesium is king where stress and anxiety are concerned,” says integrative psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, author of The Chemistry of Calm. The mineral is a relaxant, meaning it can ease muscle tension and anxiety, which nudges the body toward better sleep. “If you wanted to prioritize just one mineral,” he says, “magnesium would be a great choice.”

How much: Most adult men need between 400 and 420 mg of magnesium daily; most adult women need between 310 and 360 mg.

Best sources of magnesium: Seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, and chia), almonds, bananas, black beans, broccoli, brown rice, spinach, and oatmeal. Some mineral waters are also good sources.

Magnesium supplements are safe and available in many forms. For brain health, Emmons likes magnesium L-threonate because it easily crosses the blood–brain barrier to reach the central nervous system. For relaxing muscle tension or relieving constipation, he suggests magnesium glycinate.

How to know if you’re low: Sixty percent of magnesium is stored in the bones, so there’s no real test to measure magnesium levels. Older adults and people being treated for diabetes, heart disease, and heartburn are at greatest risk of deficiency, Dean notes, because the drugs that treat those conditions can deplete magnesium stores.

Worth noting: Magnesium supplements can have a laxative effect. “That’s the body’s fail-safe mechanism to prevent it from absorbing too much,” says Dean. Start with the lowest recommended dose and increase until you find your body’s threshold.

This was excerpted from “5 Essential Minerals to Support Your Mind and Body” which was published in Experience Life.

Catherine Guthrie

Catherine Guthrie is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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