Magnesium is an essential mineral with a crazy-important job. It takes part in at least 300 different enzymatic reactions in the body and plays a role in energy production, the relaxation of muscles, nerve transmission, insulin sensitivity, dilation of blood vessels, the body’s stress response, sleep, and more.
The bad news: Most people don’t get nearly enough magnesium in their diet. Studies show that approximately 50% of Americans consume less than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for magnesium, which means you need to take extra care to get this nutrient in your diet[*].
Here’s why magnesium is so important for physical and mental health, plus ways to boost your levels with foods, supplements, and more.
Why are we so low in magnesium?
There are a few potential reasons that so many people have suboptimal magnesium intake. In general, experts believe people aren’t eating enough magnesium-rich foods, which include things like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains—staples of a nutrient-rich, minimally processed diet. Instead, Western diets are loaded with things like refined grains (think: white bread, cereal, white rice), which have actually been stripped of their naturally occurring vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, levels of naturally occurring minerals in the soil have become depleted due to modern agricultural practices. This means that we’re seeing lower levels of minerals like magnesium in fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods than ever before. In fact, scientists estimate that in the U.S. and the U.K, the magnesium content of vegetables (e.g. cabbage, lettuce, spinach) have dropped by 80-90%.
Why adequate magnesium intake is key for physical and mental health?
Here are some key ways magnesium impacts your health, and why you want to make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet.
Magnesium and balanced mood
Magnesium is an essential mineral that relaxes your body and plays a vital role in healthy nervous system functioning. By activating receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA, ensuring you get enough magnesium in your diet may help support a calming effect on your mind and body.
Magnesium, energy, and athletic performance
Magnesium plays a role in the production and utilization of ATP—a molecule used to store energy and drive many cellular processes. Getting enough magnesium in your diet helps ensure optimal energy levels and athletic performance.
How to increase your magnesium intake?
1. Magnesium-rich foods
Even though foods contain less magnesium than they used to, it’s still possible to hit your daily quota from food alone. Here are some of the best sources to incorporate into your diet. Try to aim for around five servings of magnesium-rich foods every day:
- Brown rice
- Bran cereal
- Pili nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Collard greens
- Swiss chard
- Black beans
- 70% dark chocolate
Several ingredients in Ka’Chava such as kale, spinach, and cocoa naturally contain magnesium, and one serving of Ka’Chava contains 48-60% of your daily recommended magnesium intake.
2. Epsom salt baths
Soaking in a tub with Epsom salts a few times a week is another way to get a dose of magnesium since Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, which is absorbed directly through the skin. It’s also a great way to quickly feel the muscle-relaxing effects of magnesium. Add about 300 grams (or 1 ½ cups) of Epsom salts into a bathtub of warm water—you should start to experience its soothing effects on muscles and headaches within about 15 minutes, according to the Cleveland Clinic. No tub? You can always just soak your feet!
It’s hard to measure exactly how much magnesium you’re absorbing through your skin, so you should still aim to get plenty of this mineral through your diet as well.
3. Magnesium supplements
If you’re getting several servings of magnesium-rich foods per day and consuming Ka’Chava, you’re probably already hitting your magnesium quota. But this may not be possible every day, so magnesium supplements can still have their place (of course, ask your doc before adding a new supplement to your routine).
Generally, magnesium is well tolerated at supplemental levels of 350-400 mg per day, but your doctor may have you take more if you’re using it to alleviate a particular health condition. For maximum absorption, spread your magnesium intake throughout the day and take magnesium supplements with meals.