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Mineral spotlight: Magnesium is highly underrated and deserves more credit

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Like an underrated professional athlete who works his or her tail off and receives little or no recognition,magnesium may be the most unappreciated mineral. It rarely makes headlines, usually reserved for more popular nutrients such as calcium, sodium, iron, and vitamin C. Everyone should know that magnesium is a multitasking workhorse and must one day earn its place on all food nutrition labels.

Magnesium is an important mineral for tissues and organs such as the muscles, heart, and kidneys. The adult human body contains roughly 25 g of magnesium with about 60% of it contributing to the structural makeup of the bones. It is also important for the structural development of the teeth.

Some of the main functions of magnesium include:

* Blood glucose control
* Protein synthesis
* Energy production
* Blood pressure management
* Maintains a normal heart rhythm
* Nerve impulse conduction
* Muscle contraction
* Transports calcium and potassium ions across cell layers

In total, magnesium helps regulate over 300 different biochemical reactions in the body. It has attracted the attention of some researchers for its presumed ability to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Some studies have shown that people with diabetes have lower levels of magnesium while people with higher magnesium levels do not acquire diabetes. This may be attributed to magnesium’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

Magnesium is not difficult to find, it is present in many foods of both plant and animal origin. Generally, foods containing fiber provide the best sources of magnesium. These include plant-based foods such as whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Sadly, most dietary surveys of Americans diets consistently show that magnesium intake is too low for what is needed for optimal health. Food processing is likely a significant contributor to this as it strips grains of much of its nutritional content. Only about 40% of dietary magnesium is absorbed in the digestive tract, which makes it even more important to follow a plant-based diet as much as possible.

Here are some food sources of magnesium, measured in milligrams (mg)/serving:

Almonds: 80
Spinach: 78
Peanuts: 63
Whole wheat bread: 46
Cooked brown rice: 42
Banana: 32
Salmon: 26
Chicken breast: 22

Help give magnesium the recognition it deserves by eating plenty of magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium works hard for you and also helps you invest in your health.

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