If I had to choose a favorite mineral, it would be Magnesium. Magnesium is an essential nutrient most often thought of in regard to bone health. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Magnesium is a wonderfully soothing nutrient, as it calms the nervous system and relaxes muscles, both skeletal and smooth muscles. These qualities make Magnesium effective for nervousness and anxiety, as well as muscle tension and cramps. Insomnia? Tension headaches? High Blood Pressure? Menstrual cramps? Magnesium to the rescue! Because the typical modern diet doesn’t contain sufficient amounts of Magnesium, it is one of the minerals most often found deficient.
Back to bone health. This is a subject that’s dominated by the mineral Calcium, which certainly plays a large role in bone density. However, Magnesium is an important player as well. If the body lacks sufficient Magnesium, there will be a tendency to draw minerals from the bone to the blood. Homeostasis in the blood is of utmost importance to the body. So when there’s not enough minerals in the diet, the body will deplete the bone to bring the blood into balance. By taking Calcium supplements or increasing Calcium rich foods in the diet that are low in Magnesium, such as dairy foods, the body’s ideal balance of Calcium to Magnesium is thrown even further off.
Magnesium-rich foods include legumes such as black beans, navy beans, white beans; nuts and seeds including almonds, brazil nuts, sunflower, flax, sesame and pumpkin seeds; and leafy greens such as spinach, beet greens and swiss chard. Many herbs are rich in Magnesium as well. Yet another reason to enjoy nutrient rich herbal infusions as a daily beverage (see November blog for details). Magnesium is water soluble, so when preparation methods such as blanching, boiling or steaming will decrease the Magnesium content. In general, heat does not reduce the mineral content. Sauteeing or roasting are good preparation methods, or if you are cooking with water, use just enough to prepare the food, so you don’t have to pour off the excess and watch those nutrients escape down the drain. I recommend soaking all storage foods, i.e. nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, in lots of water with a pinch of sea salt overnight, as a general rule. Some foods may require more or less soaking. Then drain the water off and enjoy! A note on water and mineral loss prevention: soaking water is to be discarded whereas the water used in cooking foods is full of nutrients, so work with incorporating that water into the dish (i.e. a sauce or used in preparation of another component of the meal). You can eat the nuts and seeds as is, or dehydrate them (low temp.). You can cook the legumes or grains as usual. Soaking neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors, eliminates or reduces phytic acid and tannins (which chelate to minerals inhibiting absorption), increases the bioavailability of proteins, and increases the amounts of certain vitamins such as the B-complex vitamins. The list goes on! And I just might “go on” in another blog post, check back later!
If Magnesium supplements are a better option for you, look for either Magnesium glycinate or Magnesium citrate, or a food form in a supplement, such as algae. Steer clear of Magnesium oxide and carbonate. Take no more than 200mg per dose and if possible, seperate from any Calcium supplements for the best absorption. The side effect of too much Magnesium is loose stools. The glycinate form is less likely to cause this effect, at higher doses. Magnesium is great on an empty stomach an hour before bed (it will help you sleep more soundly by relaxing nerves and muscles!) and in the morning or afternoon. Magnesium won’t sedate you, so no worries about taking it in the morning. In fact, Magnesium is one of the nutrients needed by the adrenal glands, which support proper energy levels and stress management among other functions.
My favorite way to take in nutrients is from food. See what you can do to incorporate more Magnesium rich foods in your diet, perhaps including an infusion of Stinging Nettles, Oatstraw, Alfalfa, etc.
As always, please check with your practitioner or with me to consider any possible contraindications before beginning a new protocol. For more information regarding the best diet, supplement or herb choice for you, contact me via email to set up an appointment for a consultation.