What Is Magnesium?

By Jill Kohn, MS, RDN, LDN
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Magnesium is an important part of the more than 300 enzymes found in your body. These enzymes are involved in processes that help to regulate many bodily functions, including the production of energy, body protein and muscle contractions. Magnesium also plays a role in maintaining healthy bones and a healthy heart.

Magnesium is a major mineral, meaning higher amounts are needed compared to trace minerals, like zinc or iron. The amount of magnesium required daily depends on a person's age and gender. For example, females who are 19 years and older (and not pregnant) need 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) daily; whereas males of the same age should strive for 400 to 420 mg per day.

It's best to get nutrients, like magnesium, from food sources whenever possible, since they provide other health benefits, too. Many of the foods that are good sources of magnesium are underconsumed by most Americans. Foods rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts. Milk and yogurt also provide magnesium, as do fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals.

Because magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, it's important to discuss the need for a dietary supplement with a health care provider before taking one.

People with certain health conditions, like celiac disease or type 2 diabetes, may have lower levels of magnesium in their diets. Working with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help with the management of those conditions. Plus, an RDN can develop a personalized eating plan that meets your nutrient needs.

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