Magnesium is a mineral present in many foods and plays an important role in our body; it contributes to the nervous and muscular activities, to the constitution of the skeleton, to the regulation of blood pressure, and to the metabolism of fats and protein synthesis.
It is a macronutrient, present with 60% in our bones, for a good part in the muscles and only 1% in the blood. Magnesium is absorbed by the small intestine and filtered through the kidneys. We expel it mainly by means of urine, but also by means of feces and sweat.
“Magnesium is a fundamental mineral, so the body tends to keep cell levels constant by compensating for deficiencies with the reserves in the bones and liver,” explained Dr. Manuela Pastore, dietitian in Humanitas, in an interview with Corriere della Sera.
The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are not specific and can be caused by many other disorders, so for the actual diagnosis you need to undergo blood tests to measure the values of magnesium circulating in the plasma.
In general, attention should be paid to the presence of symptoms such as: general malaise, fatigue, nausea, low appetite, muscle weakness, abdominal cramps, tremors and lack of coordination, tachycardia but also depression, irritability and insomnia.
“If necessary, a reinforced diet of magnesium or supplementation will be prescribed. It is better to avoid DIY supplementation and seek medical advice,” recommends Dr. Pastore.
Foods rich in magnesium
Ensuring a varied and balanced diet is generally sufficient to introduce the right amount of magnesium into our body. The foods that contain this macronutrient are: green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and chard), as well as artichokes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
“The other major source of magnesium is whole grain cereals such as whole meal pasta and rice. It is important to underline the adjective “whole”: the refining of cereals, in fact, does nothing but eliminate the bran and the germ, therefore about 80% of the magnesium is lost,” says the specialist.
Also important are legumes, in particular peas, beans (especially black), lentils and chickpeas; and dried fruit, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts. Magnesium source is also bran, as well as cocoa and dark chocolate and waters rich in minerals.
Fruit, on the other hand, is not rich in magnesium, except for bananas, figs, peaches and avocados. There are also few foods of animal origin, such as meat, fish, milk and dairy products.
“Unfortunately, all foods rich in fiber, oxalates and phytates can reduce the bioavailability of magnesium because they bind to the mineral and limit its absorption, so a quota introduced may not be fully available to the body,” emphasizes Dr. Pastore.