Nutrition Basics

Magnesium-Everything you need to know

7 Mins read

What is magnesium?

Similar to calcium magnesium is a very vital mineral for the human body. It helps you sleep properly, increase performance, boost mood, improve heart health etc. Low levels of this nutrient are associated with depression, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes and inflammation in the body. More than half of the magnesium (about 60%) is stored in our bones, the remaining is stored is muscle tissues, cells and other organs of the body while only 1% is present in our blood.

Why magnesium is essential?

Energy production: Magnesium is very crucial for the production of ATP in the body. Your body does not use glucose or any other nutrient directly for energy production but it needs to be converted to ATP first. ATP is like the most fundamental currency of energy in the human body. If you constantly experience fatigue and weakness chances are that you lack magnesium in your body.

Bone health: You need magnesium to allow the release and working of parathyroid hormone and vitamin D in the body both of which are necessary to maintain strength of the bones. On top of that most of the body’s magnesium(60%) itself is present in bones where it maintains the structural integrity of them.

Brain function: Magnesium plays crucial role in transmission of nerve signals, memory, perception and learning. All of which support a healthy brain function.

Anti stress: Magnesium is responsible for the proper functioning of parasympathetic nervous system which helps you rest and relax. It is very widely used to treat anxiety, depression, restlessness and poor sleep. Taking magnesium also helps you sleep like a baby at night.

Muscle function: Magnesium is pivotal for muscle contraction and relaxation. It helps relieve tight and sore muscles and at the same time it also increases physical performance such as during weight lifting or sports activity.

Heart health: Magnesium is a key mineral in heart health. It is essential for proper functioning of cardiac muscles and it prevents you from getting heart attacks by decreasing the development of plaque in your arteries.

Regulates calcium: Magnesium has a very important function of preventing the calcium buildup in places like kidneys, arteries, joints etc. Without magnesium calcium may end up in these places and will cause problems such as kidney stones, heart attack and even arthritis.

Other Benefits of magnesium 

Helps you sleep: As discussed above magnesium helps you rest, relax and sleep like a baby. If you’re deficient in this mineral you will experience restlessness and sleep troubles at night.

Helps with depression: Magnesium has been shown to successfully treat and reduce depression and anxiety.

Relieves Migraine headaches: If you’ve been diagnosed with migraine your doctor might have prescribed you a magnesium supplement. This is because magnesium is strongly recommended in the treatment of migraines.

Helps with constipation: People suffering from constipation get a relieve when they take a magnesium supplement. This is because of two reasons. One being that magnesium in the form of supplement has laxative properties meaning that it helps you poop and second being that constipation happens when you are stressed out, magnesium calms you down and decreases stress which ultimately results in relieve from constipation.

Relieves Asthma: Magnesium is very useful for lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Studies have shown that administration of magnesium reduces breathlessness and severe acute asthma.

Muscle spasms/cramps: Magnesium is one of the key regulators of calcium and calcium is a key component of muscle function. If you are low in magnesium muscles contraction and relaxation do not take place properly and you may experience muscle cramps and restlessness.

Type 2 diabetes: Magnesium has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity significantly in individuals with type 2 diabetes. thereby improving the condition of type 2 diabetes.

Helps lower blood pressure: Magnesium supplementation has been reported to lower blood pressure. This blood pressure lowering effect becomes much more effective when magnesium supplements are taken with taurine supplements.

Magnesium deficiency and it’s symptoms

Magnesium deficiency is characterized by following symptoms.

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Restlessness
  • Hyperirritability
  • Poor sleep or insomnia
  • Pins or needles sensation in feet and hands
  • Decreased memory
  • learning disabilities

What causes magnesium deficiency?

1.Depletion of magnesium from the soil

Before the times of food processing magnesium intakes were far higher than today. Modern agricultural practices use a lot of chemical based fertilizers which deplete the soil of its natural mineral balance. The way modern fruits and vegetables are raised no longer contain enough magnesium and other vital nutrients simply because the soil itself is depleted of those nutrients. Unfortunately, It is nearly impossible to get enough magnesium through food alone and supplementation in some form is required.

2.Prolonged physical and mental stress

Magnesium is a key nutrient in stress management. As stated above it helps you relax and get rid of anxiety/depression. If you’re constantly stressed either physically or mentally the loss of magnesium from the body increases and if you do not have enough magnesium in the diet to compensate you will get deficient in this nutrient.

3.Excess sugar

Eating a diet high in processed junk foods which contains loads of sugar will deplete the body of it’s adequate magnesium stores. This can cause magnesium deficiency.

4.Eating processed refined foods

Refined foods such as refined flour, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, breads etc. deplete the body out of magnesium. eating such foods occasionally in small amounts may be fine but if you eat them on regular basis in large quantities you are at a risk of magnesium deficiency or already deficient in it.

5.Low stomach acid

You require a strong stomach acid to absorb many vital vitamins and mineral including magnesium. If you have low stomach acid or acid reflux or acidity you will not be able to absorb magnesium from your food.

6.Eating lots of raw vegetables, nuts and seeds

Green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds contain something called oxalates, phytates, and other anti nutrients which bind to magnesium and prevent it’s absorption in the digestive tract. A solution to this is to cook the vegetables and soak the nuts for 24+ hours. this is because soaking and cooking inactivates most of the oxalates and phytates in these foods.

Food sources of magnesium

Magnesium is primarily found to be rich in

Nuts: Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts etc.

Seeds: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds etc.

Leafy greens: Spinach, Swiss chard

Fruits: Banana, Kiwi, Guava Dried figs

Legumes: Black eyed peas

Milk and milk products are somewhat fair sources of magnesium

Dark chocolate and especially raw cacao are even richer than foods mentioned above. 

Keep in mind that oxalates and phytates in leafy greens and nuts decrease the absorption of magnesium. Cooking and fermenting will disable these anti nutrients and will make the magnesium more bioavailable. As already mentioned above that it is very hard to get enough magnesium through food alone since the soil itself is lacking magnesium.

What is the best form of magnesium supplement?

There are many forms of magnesium supplements available in the market. Some are better than other and some are used for specific purpose. Here’s what you should know.

  • Magnesium Citrate: Magnesium citrate is one of the most absorbable form. It is good for constipation because of it’s laxative effect, Headaches, and muscle cramps especially those that occur at night.
  • Magnesium glycinate: Magnesium glycinate also has high absorbability. This one is great to increase calmness, improve sleep and anxiety and also support blood sugar levels. Unlike magnesium citrate it does not have laxative effect.
  • Magnesium Taurate: This one is great for blood pressure and to maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Magnesium threonate: This is the only form of magnesium which is known to promotes cognitive/brain function. However, this form is very expensive.
  • Magnesium orotate: This form of magnesium goes deeper into the cells thereby assisting in energy production. It is great for athletes.
  • Magnesium malate: This form of magnesium supplement is used to treat conditions related to fatigue such as chronic fatigue syndrome and is also highly bioavailable.

Magnesium supplements you should avoid

Magnesium oxide, hydroxide, carbonate, stearate, aspartate, glutamate are the forms of magnesium supplement you need to avoid because some of these are very poorly absorbed and even have sever side effects. Read the label of your supplement and make sure it does not have any of these forms of magnesium.

What are the other ways to get magnesium?

1.Magnesium bicarbonate water

There’s one more form of magnesium which we did not talk about and that is magnesium bicarbonate. Out of all this one is the most absorbable by the body and it is only found to be present in natural mineral water or hard tap water. However, In many areas tap water is added with toxic chemicals such as fluoride and pharmaceuticals, not a very wise option to get magnesium.

You can easily make magnesium bicarbonate water at home simply by mixing natural sparkling mineral water and magnesium hydroxide together. There are many good tutorials on the internet to look for. Mg bicarbonate water provides you enough magnesium for the day.

2. Magnesium sulphate a.k.a Epsom salt 

Another way to obtain magnesium is to take an epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are also known as magnesium sulphate. When epsom salt dissolves in water it releases it’s magnesium into it and when you take a bath in that water the magnesium is absorbed through your skin. Epsom salt bath is great to relive muscle aches, joint pain even in arthritis and to get a calming effect as well.

3. Swimming in the sea

Sea water is a natural source of magnesium. Similar to epsom salt bath the magnesium from sea water absorbs through your skin into your body. If swimming in the sea is a regular thing then you don’t need to take magnesium supplements.


Magnesium is vital for proper functioning of brain and nervous system. It helps you to stay calm, relieves depression and anxiety and has many other health benefits. It is almost impossible to get enough magnesium from food alone as the soil itself is depleted. Therefore, some form of magnesium supplementation is worthy. There are many different magnesium supplements with glycinate, citrate and malate being the best ones. Besides supplements magnesium can be obtained through magnesium bicarbonate water, Epsom salt bath or simply by swimming in the sea.

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About author
Hey, I am Chetan and i am the author of “The Primitive diets” I hold a degree in Nutrition sciences and create content around health and nutrition. My principles are centered around primitive and holistic values which have been used since hundreds and thousands of years to treat diseases and improve health.
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