Magnesium - Benefits, Food Sources and Nuances Between Different Types of Supplements

Magnesium - Benefits, Food Sources and Nuances Between Different Types of Supplements

We take a look at magnesium, what the benefits are, food you can find it in and the unique properties of different types of supplements.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that’s important to our overall health and well-being. It’s involved in numerous physiological processes, playing a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body - yet many of us aren’t getting enough. Studies show that it can promote restful sleep, contributes to healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and can soothe and support mood. In addition, a key function of magnesium is its involvement in energy metabolism and protein synthesis, so if you’re feeling a bit lacklustre, it’s worth considering your intake, as it’s been shown to help optimise energy levels.

What foods contain magnesium?

Ingesting our nutrients through food is always best, though many people may not get enough of this essential mineral from their diet alone. Supplements should be used to support - and not in place of - a healthy diet. Foods that are naturally high in magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, and oily fish. However, the quantity of magnesium in our food can vary depending on factors including soil quality, and processing and manufacturing methods.

What is in a magnesium supplement?

Magnesium supplements come in many different forms, each with its own properties and benefits. Some types of magnesium are more bioavailable - meaning they’re more readily absorbed by the body.
Some of the most common forms of magnesium found in supplements include:
  1. Magnesium oxide - the cheapest and most common form of magnesium found in supplements. It has a high magnesium content by weight, but is poorly absorbed, and is more likely to cause digestive upset than other types.
  2. Magnesium citrate - better absorbed and tolerated than magnesium oxide, and is a good all-rounder for helping support healthy magnesium levels.
  3. Magnesium glycinate - chelated with the amino acid glycine, which enhances its absorption and reduces its laxative effect. It’s often used for relaxation, muscle cramps, and ease anxiety.
  4. Magnesium threonate - a newer supplemental form, which is unique in that it can cross the blood-brain barrier, and is believed to support cognitive function. It’s also been studied for its potential to help with anxiety and depression. Along with magnesium bisglycinate, it’s the best form to aid relaxation, relieve stress, and support quality sleep.
  5. Magnesium bisglycinate - highly bioavailable and well tolerated by those who find that some other forms of magnesium causes gastrointestinal upset. It is often used for its calming properties, making it another good choice for those suffering from stress and insomnia.
Forms that are more easily absorbed by the body, such as magnesium citrate, glycinate, and threonate may be more effective than those that are less bioavailable, such as magnesium oxide. However, in making a choice, potential side effects and individual health and wellness needs should also be considered.

How do I know if I have a magnesium deficiency?

True magnesium deficiency - which should be diagnosed and managed by a medical professional - is rare, and different from having sub-optimal intake of magnesium.

The latter is more widespread and estimated to affect around 50% of Americans. (UK data is lacking, but we assume it to be similar as we follow a similar diet and lifestyle pattern).

Symptoms of true magnesium deficiency include abnormal heart rhythm, muscle cramps and tremors, numbness and tingling and personality changes.

Given that magnesium is involved in so many different functions in the body, having sub-optimal levels - as opposed to deficiency - can present in a variety of ways, from recurrent migraines and low mood, to cramping, fatigue, poor blood sugar control, osteoporosis and insomnia.

Being mindful to incorporate magnesium rich foods into our diets every day as well as supplementing where necessary can help us maintain healthy magnesium levels.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like "The importance of sleep & how to rest for success".

Post author

Aliza Marogy

Nutritional Therapist, ND & Founder of Inessa

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