What’s all the fuss about magnesium?

Essentially, magnesium is vital for helping to keep your heart and muscles working at their best, your blood pressure in check, and your bones strong, as well as regulating your body’s temperature.

“And it’s instrumental in producing and maintaining energy levels, too,” naturopath and nutritionist Jess Blair says.

Magnesium also plays a crucial role in the active transportation of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes.

This process, GP Dr Dasha Fielder explains, is important for boosting nerve-impulse conduction and muscle contractions.

Without enough magnesium, Fielder stresses that as well as feeling exhausted and achy, you may experience a range of other unpleasant side effects.

“Symptoms of an early deficiency include a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness,” she says. “As it worsens, you may experience numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes and even abnormal heart rhythms.”

Magnesium isn’t naturally produced by your body, so you need to consume the recommended daily intake – 300-320mg for women, 400-420mg for men – ideally through your diet. “Green leafy vegetables like spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are great sources of this mineral,” Fielder says. “Magnesium is also added to some breakfast cereals and other fortified foods.”

In addition to food sources, magnesium comes in a range of easy-to-use forms, which can target specific symptoms of low levels, when used in consultation with a medical professional. Read on to discover the best types of product that can help ease common day-to-day ailments:

If you want to ease sore muscles

If you’re already low on magnesium, exercise can sometimes leave you feeling a little worse for wear. This is where a topical magnesium oil or spray can come in handy. “A transdermal magnesium oil or spray has shown to be an effective method for safely increasing magnesium levels in the body,” says Blair, who adds that a top up of this mineral when you have sore muscles can heal them faster. She says using a magnesium spray is also a good option if you have a sensitive stomach, as the topical formula is absorbed directly through the skin, bypassing the gastrointestinal tract altogether

If you want to sleep better

“Those with low magnesium levels often find they have restless sleep and wake up frequently during the night,” says Blair.

“Magnesium helps promote a more restful sleep by increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid.” She recommends taking a magnesium sleep supplement before bed, specifically one with calming herbs like chamomile and passionflower.

If you want to cut the cramps and calm your frazzled nerves

Naturopathy experts have long championed magnesium sulfate (or Epsom salts) for easing cramps, anxiety and wound-up nerves. To switch things up, Blair suggests trying one with magnesium chloride which is known for its rich mineral content – in a hot bath post-training or before bed.

Add the salts as the tub is filling up to soothe sore muscles and promote calm

“Why are my magnesium levels so low?”

Studies show that lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diet and a lack of vitamin D can deplete your body of magnesium, as can over-exercising, type-2 diabetes and too much alcohol. Ask your GP to check your levels, and find out which form is best, especially if you’re taking other medication, as magnesium supplements come in various strengths. Bioglan, Nature’s Way and new-brand-on-the-block GO Healthy all offer high-strength formulas.

Eat your intake

These magnesium-rich foods will help you hit your daily target of 300-400mg

  • 1 handful almonds (30g) = 78mg
  • 2 tbs smooth peanut butter = 49mg
  • 1/2 cup boiled spinach = 78mg
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice = 42mg
  • 1 cup soy milk = 61mg
  • 1 medium banana = 32mg
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Co-authoring the popular investment book, Property vs Shares.