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All about Magnesium

magnesium-rich foods

Today we’re talking about a marvelous magical mineral called magnesium. 

According to statistics from the WHO, up to 75% of the population of the U.S. does not get the recommended daily intake of magnesium. And while there are blood tests to measure your level of serum magnesium, they don’t really tell the whole story, as only 1% of the magnesium in our bodies is in our blood and the body generally manages to regulate our blood serum level of magnesium even if we’re deficient overall. The other 99% is in things like our bones and muscles, including our hearts. So it’s hard to tell from a simple blood test if you’re lacking in this important mineral, and important it is! Among causing other problems, research has shown that low magnesium levels are currently the best known predictor of heart disease, which is something you don’t really hear about.

So let’s look at what magnesium does for the body and mind, why it’s especially important if you’re doing a ketogenic or other low-carb diet or fasting, signs of magnesium deficiency, some low-carb sources that you can incorporate into your daily life, if supplements can help, and what not to spend money on when it comes to magnesium.

So first of all what does magnesium do? Well it does a lot.

In fact, magnesium has been identified as playing a role in over 600 different enzymatic reactions in the body. We need magnesium for our hearts to work properly, for our skeletal muscles to relax, for our bodies to produce energy, to have good restful sleep, and on and on. Studies have shown that magnesium may even be an effective treatment for depression.

Now let’s talk about why magnesium is particularly important if you’re fasting or on a low-carb diet.

Magnesium can be especially important for people following a fasting protocol or those who are on a ketogenic diet. If you have done either of these diets, or even both of them at the same time as many people do, myself included, you’ve probably noticed that in the beginning stages your body excreted a lot of water and the number on the scale went down quickly. Along with that water goes a fair amount of magnesium, so it’s important to replenish it, because your body is dumping more of it than usual, especially when you first start these kinds of diets.

Okay, as I mentioned, blood tests for magnesium don’t always paint a clear picture of what’s going on. There is another test available which is considered the gold standard in magnesium testing. If you’re interested, look for it online by typing in EXA test for magnesium. Unfortunately it’s a difficult test to get your hands on, not very well known by most doctors, can be expensive, and your insurance might not cover it. So then how can you know if you’re deficient in magnesium? Well, statistically speaking, there’s a decent chance that you are. However, here are some possible symptoms of a magnesium deficiency:

-Muscle stiffness, muscle weakness, muscle cramps or even muscle spasms
-Irregular heartbeat
-Metabolic syndrome
-Decreased metabolization of vitamin D and therefore vitamin D deficiency
-Poor sleep, and even twitching eyelids

Hmm. Good times.

Of course, these symptoms can all be caused by other issues, so just because you have one of these symptoms doesn’t mean you’re necessarily deficient in magnesium.

All right, so how much magnesium do we need?

The current U.S. guidelines recommend that men over 30 aim for 420 mg a day. For women over 30, 320 mg, or 360 mg if lactating. If you’re under 30 it’s just a little bit less.

So, where can we get this vital nutrient from? If you know me, you know I love living a low-carb lifestyle, so here are some low carb options:

Macadamia nuts
Brazil nuts
Pumpkin seeds
Chia seeds
Collard greens
Mustard greens
Turnip greens
Meat in general doesn’t have too much, but turkey, chicken, and pork do have some magnesium as well.
And my personal favorite is cacao nibs! You can sprinkle them on yogurt, eat them mixed in with nuts, and even make tea out of them. They’re delicious and a good way to kill your chocolate cravings, as sometimes those are really just magnesium cravings in disguise. Sorry y’all, no one’s ever been diagnosed with a chocolate deficiency. So if you’re craving a Snickers bar, maybe it’s magnesium!

Now of course you can supplement with magnesium too. There are a variety of different types of magnesium pills on the market and I’m not going to say that one is better than the other, so don’t stress about which kind to get, experiment and see which one you like best. There are also electrolyte powders and drops available that contain magnesium, usually along with potassium and sodium. Look for ones with no sugar or artificial sweeteners. Please don’t overdo it on the supplements, guys. If you ingest too much magnesium through your food, your body will take care of it, but in terms of supplements, mega doses are not the way to go. Stick to the daily recommendations as a max when supplementing. Of course, nothing beats food so before you run out and buy a bunch of pills, try seeing if you can get enough magnesium through diet alone. Eating is more fun than gulping down tablets, don’t you think? 

What about creams, sprays, and other topicals?

Now you may have seen magnesium creams and sprays or products like Epsom salt and wondered if they are good ways to get your daily dose of magnesium. Unfortunately there is no strong evidence that the body absorbs them, so in order to hit your magnesium goals, stick with food and supplements if necessary. Topical magnesium can, however, help sore muscles, so if that’s something you’re dealing with you could always try a topical form of magnesium as a potential remedy for that, but for every other issue, really, just get through your food or supplements. 

Last but not least, I want to share a personal story. Story time! During the height of the pandemic, I, like many people, didn’t leave the house very much. I live in Colombia, and we had one of the strictest lockdowns in the world and for several months were only allowed outside once a week, and yes, the police were checking to make sure we obeyed! After being inside for so long, I realized I wasn’t really feeling that great. I talked to a doctor, who ran some tests and diagnosed me with a vitamin D deficiency and put me on an ultra high-dose vitamin D supplement. Almost immediately, I began getting heart palpitations that were quite scary and lasted for nearly an hour each time. I asked the doctor about it but she told me it was because I was taking a dance class. Thanks, Doc. So, I started doing my research and discovered that when you’re taking vitamin D, you should also be taking a vitamin called vitamin K2, and you should also be taking – you guessed it – magnesium. I began supplementing magnesium right away and the palpitations stopped instantly. So, if you’re taking vitamin D, you know what to do!

So I hope this information has been helpful for you. If you know anyone else who might benefit from it, please share it with them. Have a happy and healthy day!






This content is for general informational purposes only. It must never be considered a substitute for the advice provided by a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with questions you may have regarding your health or medical condition.