Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth, sea, plants, animals and humans. In fact, every cell in your body contains it and needs it to function.
One of magnesium's main roles is acting as a cofactor or "helper molecule" in the biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes.
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in your body, including:
- Energy creation: Helps convert food into energy.
- Protein formation: Helps create new proteins from amino acids.
- Gene maintenance: Helps create and repair DNA and RNA.
- Muscle movements: Is part of the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
- Nervous system regulation: Helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system.
Magnesium also plays a role in exercise performance by moving blood sugar into your muscles and disposing of lactic acid, which can build up in muscles during exercise and cause pain.
Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can boost exercise performance for athletes, the elderly and people with chronic disease.
Magnesium is absolutely essential for good health. The recommended daily intake is 400–420 mg per day for men and 310–320 mg per day for women and you can get it from both food and supplements.
The following foods are good to excellent sources of magnesium:
- Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDI in a quarter cup (16 grams)
- Spinach, boiled: 39% of the RDI in a cup (180 grams)
- Swiss chard, boiled: 38% of the RDI in a cup (175 grams)
- Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa): 33% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Black beans: 30% of the RDI in a cup (172 grams)
- Quinoa, cooked: 33% of the RDI the in a cup (185 grams)
- Halibut: 27% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Almonds: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (24 grams)
- Cashews: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (30 grams)
- Mackerel: 19% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Avocado: 15% of the RDI in one medium avocado (200 grams)
- Salmon: 9% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
Though these are generally well-tolerated, they may not be safe for people who take certain diuretics, heart medications or antibiotics.