The Real Deal on Magnesium: Why Magnesium is Important

Do you sometimes crave dark chocolate but aren’t sure why? Well – it’s packed with magnesium, for one. Maybe you are magnesium deficient, and your body is looking for it.

But what is magnesium, anyway, and what does it do for the body?  
It can be acquired through food or supplementation, but make sure you understand how different forms of magnesium might affect you before you start a supplementation routine. Because however you slice it, magnesium is a requirement, and you need it. 

What is Magnesium? 

Magnesium is a mineral, which means it is neither animal nor vegetable and is a naturally occurring inorganic solid. 1 Think quartz, gold, or sulfur. It is an abundant mineral that can be found in the ground, but in the United States, it is mainly sourced from oceans and salt lake brines. 2 It is so abundant that it constitutes approximately 2% of the Earth’s crust. 3 

Despite being absolutely integral to a healthy, functioning human body, magnesium must be obtained through food or supplementation. 

What is Magnesium’s Purpose in the Body? 

Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body. According to PubMed, “it is involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions including energy metabolism and protein synthesis.” It adds that magnesium,“plays an important physiological role particularly in the brain, heart, and skeletal muscles.” 4 It essentially regulates communication with certain nerve cells, stopping them from being triggered too often by inconsequential things. 5  
When magnesium isn’t present in the amounts it should be, those nerve cells can become overstimulated which leads to their death and damage to the brain.  
Magnesium is also essential for a healthy heartbeat. says, “When calcium enters your heart muscle cells, it stimulates the muscle fibers to contract. Magnesium counters this effect, helping these cells relax.” 6 Simply put, calcium and magnesium work together to make your heartbeat.  

If there is not enough magnesium in your system, calcium can overwork your heart, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat – or worse.  

Beyond the heart, magnesium plays an equally important role in the function of the other muscles in your body. Magnesium helps relax the muscles that calcium is constricting, which is why it is a well-known, go-to treatment for muscle cramps. 

With that said, every cell and every organ in the human body needs magnesium. 7 Period. 

Benefits of Magnesium 

  • Scientists are still working out all the scientific benefits of Magnesium, but some studies show it may
  • Lower your blood pressure 8  
  • Reduce risk of heart issues 9  
  • Improve blood sugar control 10 
  • Improve sleep quality 11
  • Help combat occasional headaches 12 
  • Reduce mental health symptoms 13 

Magnesium Deficiency 

The daily recommended allowance for magnesium is 420 mg for males and 320 mg for females. Yet, studies show that nearly two-thirds of adults in the western world are not getting the amount of magnesium daily that their body needs to function, let alone thrive. 14

Why are we, as a population, more often magnesium deficient than not? We live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Shouldn't we be able to get everything we need?  

Magnesium deficiency is often preventable and typically due to three main factors. By understanding these factors, we can take steps to ensure we're getting enough magnesium.  

One of the main reasons for magnesium deficiency is our dietary choices. Whether it's due to malnutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, or medical conditions that limit nutrient absorption, our food intake plays a significant role. Furthermore, various health issues, such as celiac disease or IBS, can hinder magnesium absorption by your GI tract.  

Secondly, you might experience an excessive loss of magnesium through your excretion process. In this case that means losing magnesium through pee via the kidneys and acute or chronic diarrhea via our gastrointestinal tract. Excessive loss of magnesium can happen due to a few reasons, including taking medications like diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, and more. It can also be caused by alcohol use disorder.  

Lastly, pancreatitis can cause magnesium to move from its home in extracellular fluid to locations that make it less accessible. This is not great when you need it where it belongs. 

How to Get Magnesium? 

One way to get the amount of magnesium that you need for your body to function at an ideal state is through magnesium enriched foods – and there are a lot of them! 17 

  • Nuts and seeds have a good amount of magnesium. For example, 1 oz of pumpkin seeds, hulled and roasted, contain 150mg of magnesium and 1 oz of dried roasted peanuts have about 49mg.
  • Legumes are another excellent source of magnesium with ½ cup of black beans containing around 60mg of magnesium, and ½ cup of edamame holding 50mg.
  • As far as grains go, quinoa packs a punch with a ½ cup equaling about 60mg of magnesium. Shredded wheat is just behind with 56mg per cup.
  • Your best bet for dairy is yogurt. 8oz contains 42mg of magnesium.
  • Our favorite green, spinach, comes in at 78mg per ½ cup cooked. ½ cup of Swiss chard has 75mg.
  • When it comes to fruit, avocados are rich in magnesium with 58mg of magnesium per serving. Bananas trail behind with only 32mg each.
  • Potatoes lead the veggies on our list, with one medium potato cooked with the skin, dishing out 48mg of magnesium.
  • And don’t forget dessert. 1oz of 70-85% cocoa dark chocolate has 64mg of magnesium. 

Registered dietitian Anna Taylor, RD, LD’s motto is “Food First,” in hopes that her patients will do their best to obtain magnesium through their food before attempting to supplement the intake. Her advice: “Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. At least three servings of whole grains per day. One ounce or 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds per day. One serving (about 1/2 cup cooked) of legumes most days of the week.” 17 That sounds realistic and achievable, doesn’t it…for the sake of your beating heart? 

But here’s what you need to know if you want to take a magnesium supplement. 

Different Types of Magnesium 

There are many different types of magnesium too, each with their own purpose. The top 10 types are:  
Magnesium Citrate – Has a laxative effect and can be used to treat constipation. 

Magnesium Oxide – May be helpful in relieving symptoms of poor digestion and might prevent headaches. 

Magnesium Chloride – Well absorbed with few negative side effects, if any. 

Magnesium Lactate – Easily digested, used as a food additive. 

Magnesium Malate – “Occasionally recommended to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. But while some studies have found there may be benefits, more high-quality studies are needed.” 15 

Magnesium Taurate – May promote healthy blood sugar levels. 

Magnesium L-threonate – Potentially beneficial to the brain, could help manage some brain disorders. More research is needed. 

Magnesium Sulfate – Commonly called “Epsom Salt.” Yes, THAT Epsom salt! Can be dissolved in bathwater for relaxing muscles and soothing stress.  

Magnesium Glycinate – According to, “Glycine influences sleep in a number of ways. Studies show that higher levels of this amino acid may: 

  • Help you fall asleep more quickly 
  • Increase your sleep efficiency 
  • Reduce symptoms of insomnia 
  • Improve sleep quality and promote deeper more restful sleep. 16  

Magnesium Orotate – May positively benefit heart health but is considered one of the most expensive forms of magnesium. 

Supplementing with Magnesium

Disclaimer: You should speak with a healthcare professional anytime you want to begin a new supplement.  

Now then, we know you might have found this article because you’re wondering if you can use magnesium for leg cramps? Yes, you certainly can!

As we mentioned, there are people who manage their muscle cramps with magnesium – you could be one of them! You might have also found us by Googling, “is there a relationship between magnesium and sleep?” Of course there is! I’ll get to that in a little bit. 

Ultimately, you won’t know if a magnesium supplement is going to work for you until you try it.

Perhaps the most vital thing to consider when exploring whether to supplement is to ensure you are consuming only top-tier ingredients that have been sourced mindfully and rigorously tested for quality. 

Will magnesium make you sleepy? 

Magnesium may make you sleepy.18 The mineral works with neurotransmitters, helping relax the mind for sleep, and it regulates melatonin, which helps to control your sleep/wake cycle. Talk to your physician about whether this is the right choice for you. 


Everybody needs magnesium, there’s no way around it. It is a crucial mineral in every human body, and you cannot live without it. Making sure you know the different forms of magnesium available, and the ups and downs of supplementation, is essential before starting a regime. Don’t be on the wrong side of the magnesium deficiency stats – get your healthy dose today! 



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