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by Christel Swasey

How Does Magnesium Affect My Health?

Swedish scientists just finished up a study that began back in 1998 and included over 240,000 people.  They were comparing the magnesium intake of those who had strokes and those who did not, following each person for 8-15 years.  What they found was that keeping magnesium levels in the body high can help prevent every kind of stroke.  (A stroke is a “brain attack,” which happens when a blood clot blocks an artery, causing brain cell loss, and paralysis, loss of movement, loss of memory, or death.)

The study discovered that ischemic stroke, the most common kind of stroke in older people, was reduced by 9% for each additional 100 milligrams of magnesium an individual consumed daily.  Regularly eating magnesium-rich foods helped reduce the chances of having any type of stroke.   For every 100 additional milligrams of magnesium daily, individuals cut their risk of all types of strokes by 8%.

So, what is magnesium and why are many people lacking this stroke-preventing miracle substance?

Magnesium is a mineral found in many foods.  It activates enzymes, contributes to energy production, and helps regulate levels of calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other important  nutrients.  Foods that supply close to 100 milligrams of magnesium a day include an ounce of almonds or cashews, a cup of beans or brown rice, 3/4 cup of cooked spinach, or a cup of cooked oat bran cereal.  Sadly, most people in the United States  do not get as much magnesium as they should, probably because of the refining of so many of our foods.

Because the refining process takes magnesium and other vital nutrients (and fiber) out of naturally rich foods, avoid white rice, white flour, wheat flour that is not labeled 100% whole wheat, and most boxed breakfast cereals which are refined, and are low in magnesium.

But foods rich  in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, beans, and green vegetables. Green leafy  vegetables are good sources of magnesium, as well.
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If you have magnesium deficiency, you may experience agitation and anxiety, restless leg  syndrome, sleep disorders, irritability, nausea, abnormal  heart rhythms, low blood pressure, confusion, muscle spasms or weakness,  hyperventilation, poor nail growth, or seizures.  Although few people are truly deficient in magnesium, most people don’t get the recommended daily dose.  And, taking too much coffee, soda, salt, or alcohol, as well as having very heavy menstrual periods,  excessively sweating, or experiencing prolonged stress can lower a person’s magnesium level.

The top 5 sources of magnesium suggested by the Institute of Health are: wheat bran, almonds, spinach, raisin bran, and cashews.  A smallish serving of each of these will provide about 20% of your daily required magnesium intake.   (For example, an ounce of cashews, or a cup of raisin bran).

Foods that have moderate amounts of magnesium:   an ounce of dry roasted peanuts ( 50 mg, which is 13% of your daily amount needed), or a baked potato with the skin on (48 mg. and 12% of your daily need).   A half cup of black-eyed peas has about the same amount of magnesium as that skin-on baked potato.

But for the really impressive numbers, look at this website:  You’ll learn that a teaspoon of dried coriander contains 14 mg. per tablespoon, but more intriguingly, a typical chocolate bar provides 63mg of magnesium (16% of your RDA!)  Maybe this is why so many people crave chocolate.  Maybe getting adequate magnesium and other minerals would alleviate those chocolate cravings.

Well, how much magnesium should you take per day?  It depends who you are.  The range starts at 40 – 80 mg daily for children ages 1 to 3, jumps to 310 for female adults, to 360 for pregnant or breastfeeding females, and up to 420 mg daily for males over age 31.  For a detailed chart on magnesium needs according to gender and age, see:

One doctor, Carolyn Dean, MD, who believes magnesium is a miracle cure for many things, suggests that the best way to tell if you are getting enough magnesium is the “bowel test”. You have too much magnesium when your stools become loose. This may be a good thing for people with constipation, which is one of the many ways magnesium deficiency manifests.  (Other people get Charlie horses or heart palpitations when they don’t have enough magnesium.)

So, when you’re trying to decide whether you should buy the 100% whole grain bread or the fluffy white stuff, remember what the Swedes found out: for every extra 100 milligrams of magnesium individuals consumed daily,  they cut the risks of having all types of strokes by 8% .


* But remember not to overdo it:  magnesium competes with calcium for absorption and it can cause a calcium  deficiency if your calcium levels are already low.


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