The superhero of the mineral world, magnesium benefits so many areas of our overall health, from brain function, to muscle movement via DNA protection. In fact, pretty much every single cell inside your body, from your bones to your heart, needs magnesium to work to its full capacity. "Magnesium is an essential dietary mineral responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including energy metabolism, DNA replication, protein synthesis, and detoxification," explains nutritionist Sarah Flower. As soon as your magnesium levels go off-kilter, your body just can't work as efficiently as it usually would. Frustratingly, it would seem that most of us just aren't getting enough magnesium through our diets: The National Institute of Health found that most of us are deficient in magnesium, and Flower is keen to remind us that the body can't make this mineral on its own.
But it isn't that hard to rectify: You can find magnesium in plenty of foods, including leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach as well as many nuts and seeds. Ensuring your diet is rich in these sources will help restock magnesium levels and allow it to do its thing supporting regular bodily functions, but you can also take magnesium supplements and topical treatments, which you can find in tablet, oil and salt form—more on that later. But as it turns out, magnesium has a whole host of more specific benefits that can aid everything from depleted energy stores to sore post-workout muscles.
Keep scrolling to read about eight magnesium benefits you need to know about, and how you can soup up your intake of this miracle mineral.
1. Soothe Tired Muscles
After any form of exercise, whether that be a marathon training run or strenuous Pilates class, lactic acid builds up in muscles, which is what can so often give you that weird heavy-limbed sensation. But magnesium has the ability to shift some of that lactic acid, gently massaging away pain far better than even an hour with the foam roller. "It has also been found to improve a variety of joint and muscle problems including fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, restless leg syndrome and other inflammatory conditions," reveals Flower. To reap the benefits, simply run yourself a warm bath with a handful of Epsom salts. Flower notes that your skin is excellent at absorbing its relaxing power—you'll emerge from the tub feeling a whole lot lither.
2. Raise Energy Levels
If you're feeling a bit sluggish, despite feeding yourself with plenty of healthy energy-boosting foods, it could be a sign that you're lacking magnesium. It plays a key part in how the body processes energy, and without it, your metabolic systems may struggle to convert glucose (food) into chemical energy the body can use, which is called ATP (aka adenosine triphosphate).
This energy is then distributed throughout the entire body and is what your organs use to function, so it's vital to keep magnesium levels up. It's definitely worth trying to introduce more magnesium-rich foods into your diet (hello there, broccoli) but taking a daily magnesium supplement will help too. Flower suggests looking for a magnesium citrate tablet like these dissolving tissue tablets by New Era 8 and taking two to three times a day after you've had a meal.
3. Relieve Constipation
"Magnesium, especially in citrate form, has been found to help improve symptoms of constipation due to its laxative effect when taken in high doses," explains Flower. "If you suffer from constipation, try to incorporate foods into your diet that can help to improve bowel health, particularly a probiotic. However, as a short-term measure, magnesium could really help you."
4. Ease Period Pain
In a similar vain to its ability to knead away muscle aches, magnesium is also brilliant at dissolving period pain. As the muscles cramp, magnesium acts as a natural relaxant—you can either try the tried and tested Epsom salt bath mentioned above, or try spritzing a magensium oil spray directly onto the abdomen.
5. Help You Fall Asleep
Now, this is no miracle cure but some doctors do claim that magnesium can benefit those of us who have trouble sleeping. Not only is it brilliant at relaxing muscles (and we all know that a chilled out body is vital in actually being able to fall asleep) but it can also support levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter that deals with thoughts of anxiety, thus easing stresses that might be stopping your mind from sleeping. If you're really struggling with your sleep cycle, perhaps you should try a pillow spray?
6. Support Heart Health
"Magnesium is also considered to be very important and beneficial for heart health, as the highest amount of magnesium within the whole body is found within the heart," reveals Flower. "Magnesium is essential for the healthy control of blood vessel function, blood pressure regulation and normal heart contractions, so a deficiency is incredibly dangerous." She recommends combining magnesium supplements with krill oil and co-enzyme Q10: "This will also help to elevate the support package that magnesium brings to the heart," she adds.
7. Fend Off Depression
Magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining brain function and mood stabilization, and studies have found a strong correlation between low levels of magnesium and a higher risk of depression. It doesn't help that our modern diets are lower in magnesium than ever before, with one study noting how magnesium has been fulling removed from drinking water, and that magnesium is often lost from foods through modern day processing—in fact, refined flour contains only 16% of the magnesium found in whole wheat. But in randomized trials, doctors noted that supplementing the diet with magnesium can be beneficial in warding off mental illnesses such as depression, which is likely linked to magnesium's ability to regulate the nervous system and keep neurotransmitters (the things that send messages throughout your body) in check.
8. Protects Against Type 2 Diabetes
While of course diabetes is a serious condition, and you should definitely follow the advice of your doctor, magnesium has been found to have huge benefits for diabetics. "Evidence suggests that magnesium can lower your risk of developing the illness and studies have also found that around 48% of diabetics have low levels of magnesium in their blood, which can affect insulin's ability to keep blood sugar levels under control," explains Flower. "Along with this, there is also evidence that diabetics who regularly supplement their diet with magnesium can improve their blood sugar levels."
Up next: the five supplements that will help you feel well this winter.