What it is
Magnesium is an essential mineral.
What it does
Magnesium is a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes. Those enzymes are involved in things like protein synthesis, nerve function, bone development, endogenous antioxidant regulation, blood pressure regulation, the transport of calcium and potassium ions, and glucose metabolism.
The recommended intake for magnesium is 420mg per day for men and 320mg per day for women who aren’t pregnant. Pregnancy can increase intake requirements for magnesium.
The safe upper limit for supplemental magnesium intake is 350mg per day, in addition to the magnesium consumed from natural food sources.
Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very low
Magnesium is not a nutrient that food manufacturers are required to disclose on nutrition labels. The vast majority of food and beverage manufacturers do not voluntarily list magnesium content on nutrition labels, so most branded products in the MacroFactor database lack information on magnesium. So, if you’d like to accurately track your magnesium intake, you’ll need to make a point of mostly tracking “common foods,” which come from research-grade databases that have full nutrient reporting.
For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.
Likelihood of insufficient intake: High
Insufficient magnesium intake is common in developed countries, especially among people who don’t consume magnesium supplements.
For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.
Signs of deficiency
The early signs of magnesium deficiency include nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. More serious deficiencies can cause numbness and tingling, mood swings, muscle cramps, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables like chard and spinach, rhubarb, okra, soy products, whole grain products, and many nuts and seeds.
There are occasionally concerns that a plant-based diet will contribute to magnesium deficiencies, because many plants also contain compounds (oxalates) that hinder the absorption of magnesium (along with iron, zinc, and calcium). However, because most magnesium in the diet comes from plant sources in the first place, that concern is largely unfounded in the case of magnesium. Zinc, calcium, and iron are larger concerns.
If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.