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All aboard the magnesium train

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

It’s the eighth most abundant element in the universe and makes up 2% of the earth’s crust. It’s an essential mineral for human health and is found in every cell of the body. Our bodies love it, plants love it, and it’s all around us—this is the power of magnesium.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that plays a number of important roles in the body, from regulating muscle and nerve function to supporting healthy bones. It assists more than 300 enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in the body. Over half (60%) of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones, but you’ll find this essential mineral all over the place, leaving a trail of benefits in its wake.

So not only is magnesium widely available, it also does a lot for us.

7 benefits of magnesium

Word is spreading about magnesium; you’ve probably heard about some of its many benefits from friends. Or your doctor. Or random strangers on the internet.

It’s a pretty cool mineral, as you’ll see in some of the benefits outlined below.

1. Supports restful sleep. Ever tried to fall asleep when you were anxious or tense? Not easy to do. Our bodies and brains need to relax before we can slip off to dreamland. Magnesium can help with this by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for helping you relax and feel calm, and helping to regulate melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Magnesium quiets the nervous system so you can settle in for some good, restful sleep.

2. Supports healthy bones. Magnesium is crucial for maintaining healthy, strong bones, so it’s no surprise most of the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones. In addition to supporting the development and maintenance of bones, magnesium helps regulate vitamin D and calcium levels, both of which are important for bone health.

3. Supports muscle and nerve function. We all know working out is good for us, but the muscle soreness that sometimes comes afterward can be a pain to deal with. Magnesium can help ease muscle soreness because it helps regulate both your blood sugar and lactate levels, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue. Magnesium also helps the muscles contract and relax, which helps to prevent muscle cramps.

4. May improve mood. As previously mentioned, magnesium plays a role in brain function, which can have an effect on your mood—for the better. Its calming effects can help you feel less anxious or depressed and reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol, helping you feel better overall.

5. May help prevent migraines. The mother of all headaches, migraines can cause nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, and temporary blind spots in your vision, in addition to being very painful. Research shows that some people who have a magnesium deficiency are more likely to get migraines, and studies have shown that magnesium supplements can help treat or even prevent migraine headaches, possibly by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow.

6. Supports heart health. One of magnesium’s jobs is to support normal, healthy blood pressure. It does this by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the resistance to blood flow.

7. Involved with hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. Magnesium is found all throughout the body for a reason—so it’s always around to lend a helping hand. It’s involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions, including those that create energy, create new proteins from amino acids, and help create and repair cells.

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get what you need through diet. Make sure you’re getting a good amount of these magnesium-rich foods:

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Leafy greens

  • Whole grains

  • Legumes

  • Dairy

  • Fish

  • Dark chocolate

  • Fruits, especially avocados, bananas, figs, and raspberries

  • Vegetables, especially broccoli, green beans, and peas

Keep in mind that processed foods often strip magnesium from foods, so it’s best to get your magnesium from whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. Magnesium is also available in supplement form.

Magnesium: The efficient overachiever

While magnesium deficiency isn’t common, many people don’t get the recommended daily amount (320–420 mg for adults). Magnesium is vital for every function of the body, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of it, whether through food or supplements. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about your magnesium levels or possible diet changes.

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