Magnesium – Is it important?

magnesium rich foods, nuts, legumes, grains, oatsYou might have heard that different macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins all play different roles in the body once they are broken down from the food you eat. Carbohydrates provide us with quick, usable energy, fats play a role in ensuring hormones function as they should, and proteins help build and repair muscle and bone.

Less is generally known by the public about the role different micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) play. Magnesium is a mineral that has been creating a lot of buzz recently about its use for insomnia, constipation, and anxiety. People are asking: is this true?

Magnesium is naturally found in many foods and is an important component of over 300 chemical reactions in your body. It works to help enzymes carry out their tasks in these different chemical reactions including helping build muscle and bones, ensuring muscle and nerves function appropriately, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, and even helps make sure the heart beats steadily. Diets low in magnesium are associated with several health problems, specifically related to malfunctions of the above (bone health, cardiovascular health, etc.).

Magnesium is pretty easy to get enough of if you eat a balanced diet. Foods high in magnesium include nuts, nut butters and legumes, whole grains like brown rice, oats, fortified cereals, and fish, beef, and poultry.

Magnesium supplements may be prescribed for a few reasons including if you are constipated (magnesium is often prescribed as a laxative) or if you are not getting enough magnesium in your diet. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you think you may need a magnesium supplement. Like all supplements and medications, seeking medical advice is highly recommended before beginning something new. Taking magnesium supplements when not needed may cause magnesium toxicity (toxic levels in the blood). Toxicity is extremely rare from food sources alone. Signs of magnesium toxicity may include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, depression, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and heart attack.

A balanced diet is the best way to ensure your body gets the right amount of magnesium and other micronutrients that your body needs to thrive.


  • Dietitian Reuby