Magnesium Magic

Magnesium, is the most important element needed by our body after oxygen, water and basic food

Food with nutrition of magnesiumMagnesium is a vitally important mineral for wellbeing. If calcium wins the title of Mr. Mineral, the award for the first runner-up would definitely go to magnesium.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It is essential for good functional health and vitality. Although just one per cent of magnesium is found in blood, the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.

The adult human body contains approximately 20-28 gm of magnesium of which 60 per cent is found in bones. On an average, the daily requirement for an adult would be around 350 mg per day;for infants and children 30-80 mg per day. For the elderly the requirement increases to 400 mg.

Sources

Good sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds, legumes [beans and peas], pulses and whole grains. Refining causes loss of magnesium in food products made of whole wheat flour, jowar, bajra, ragi, maida, pasta, biscuits and basmati rice.

Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, betel leaves [pan] are good sources of magnesium. Other moderately good sources include milk, ripe mango, plum and spices, like nutmeg and turmeric powder.

Whole wheat bread contains more magnesium than white bread.

Magnesium acts as a stress buster and is also called nature's tranquilliser. People facing a lot of stress,tension, or anxiety at work, should consume more of whole grains and green leafy vegetables in their diet. A powdered mixture of almonds, walnuts and elaichi with sugar [for taste] may be prepared and stored in an air-tight container.

One tablespoon of this mixture can be consumed daily with a glass of milk.

Food Product Quantity Magnesium [mg]
Chapattis[whole wheat flour] 2 [30gm] 40
Chana 1 katori [30g] 51
Cowpea[chawli] 1 katori [30g] 63
Soybean 1 katori [20g] 48
Spinach 1 katori [50g] 32
Almonds <4-5 pcs [15g] 56
Walnuts 2-3 pcs [15g] 45
Cashew nuts 4-5 pcs [15g] 52

Deficiency issues

Millions suffer from magnesium deficiency without even knowing it. What are the common symptoms?

  • Insomnia [lack of sleep]
  • Lethargy/fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Muscular tension/cramps
  • Backache
  • Constipation
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Depression

Things to know

  1. Large doses of magnesium can cause central nervous system [CNS] depression and paralysis
  2. If you are on medications commonly used in the treatment of high blood pressure, there can be an increased loss of magnesium in the urine.
  3. In case you are consuming excessive antacids and laxatives [to improve digestion and control acidity]that contain magnesium, you need to elevate magnesium levels in the blood
  4. Too much of calcium consumption can pull magnesium out of your body; therefore, avoid consuming excess milk or products or magnesium-rich foods and/or magnesium supplements
  5. Alcoholics beware! Excess consumption of spirits can lead to magnesium depletion
  6. Consumption of large amounts of fat can also reduce magnesium absorption.

Handy tips

  • Rice has a special problem with regard to loss of nutrients during cooking,since its normal nutrient content itself is low. Since rice forms a major component of the diet in many parts of the country, we need to take special care while cooking. Rice must be washed - if washing is necessary - with minimum amount of water. It's also a good practice to cook rice in just sufficient amount of water, so that all the nutrients are absorbed
  • Cook leafy vegetables for shortest minimal time
  • Do not cook leafy vegetables in an open pan
  • Avoid "pressure-cooking" vegetables
  • Do not wash vegetables after cutting them.

Mag Register

  • Magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body
  • It plays an important role in bone formation. Magnesium is vital for post-menopausal women and the elderly. Studies have suggested that magnesium deficiency can alter calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium.Magnesium helps to maintain bone mineral density and aids in the prevention of osteoporosis
  • It helps to reduce and dissolve calcium kidney stones
  • It helps to prevent cardiovascular [heart] problems. Studies suggest that a higher magnesium intake reduces the risk of having a stroke. A diet low in magnesium, on the other hand, can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, and possibility of complications after a heart attack
  • It helps in the management of high blood pressure [especially, during pregnancy]. Studies have suggested that high blood pressure could be significantly reduced by a diet that lays emphasis on fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Such a diet is essentially high in magnesium, potassium and calcium, and low in salt and fat
  • It boosts your immune system
  • Magnesium plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism. It may influence the release and activity of insulin, the hormone that helps control blood glucose [sugar] levels. Low blood levels of magnesium are frequently seen in individuals with Type 2 diabetes
  • It reduces blood cholesterol levels
  • It maintains normal muscle and nerve function
  • It helps to prevent colon cancer
  • It helps to reduce PMS [premenstrual syndrome] symptoms and distress.

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Payal Ahuja
Payal Ahuja is a Mumbai-based dietician and consultant. She conducts workshops on lifestyle management and weight management programmes on TV. Ahuja is also IPC-certified auditor for ISO-9001:2000, and author of the book, Combating Childhood Obesity.

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