Yesterday, I reported on the importance of keeping nuts in your diet, despite what the government warned for decades. As I explained, nuts have a healthy ratio of lower omega-6 to higher omega-3 fatty acids.
More broadly, nuts are like Nature’s original dietary supplements. They’re the plant world’s equivalent of an egg. Just like an egg must include all the nutrients a chick needs to develop and hatch, a nut must contain all the nutrients a plant needs to sprout and grow.
One of those nutrients is magnesium.
This often-overlooked nutrient is just as important as calcium for bones and muscles (including the heart). Doctors inject it directly into the blood, or the heart itself, during an acute heart event.
But many Americans are deficient. In fact, according to some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans do not get enough magnesium.
For one, fruits and vegetables that once had higher levels of bioavailable nutrients and minerals no longer do because of ongoing depletion of nutrients in the soil.
Secondly, Americans consume far more processed foods instead of getting important nutrients from fresh foods.
Of course, your bones store large amounts of magnesium (and calcium). This storage mechanism helps the body carefully regulate magnesium levels in the blood. But it also makes it very hard to detect a deficiency. For example, blood levels may not show deficiency, even when you do have one in your cells and tissues.
So, for most people, I recommend magnesium supplementation.
But you have to be careful when choosing a magnesium supplement, as not all forms work the same way. And if you’re not well-informed, some supplements can even cause serious harm.
Not all magnesium works the same
First and foremost, avoid the ridiculous “once-a-day” pills that purport to have everything, but do virtually nothing for you. They don’t contain the right amounts of magnesium. Nor do they contain appropriate bioavailable forms that your body can easily absorb.
Magnesium must be bound to something else for the body to ingest and digest it. So ⎯ look for these different kinds of combinations. Follow the recommended doses on the particular formulation you choose. I find magnesium citrate, at the top of my list, to be the best place to start overall:
- Magnesium citrate: Magnesium citrate is the most popular supplement form. It’s relatively inexpensive and easily absorbed in the body. Know that citrate also acts as a mild laxative. That being said, you may want to get your magnesium from a different source if you suffer from diarrhea or loose bowels.
- Magnesium taurate: Magnesium taurate is easily absorbed and often used for heart health. It guards the heart from damage caused by heart attacks. It also prevents arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats), which may lead to blood clots or cardiac arrest.
- Magnesium malate: Magnesium malate is a good choice for people with fibromyalgia-chronic fatigue syndrome (FM-CFS). Malate or malic acid is a natural constituent found in fruits, such as apples. It’s also a key metabolite in every cell in the body.In fact, malic acid plays a critical role in energy production and synthesis of ATP — the body’s batteries that store metabolic energy.
- Magnesium chloride: Magnesium chloride is essentially a salt or electrolyte. Instead of a sodium atom bound to a chlorine atom (salt), it has two chlorine atoms bound to magnesium.It’s only 12 percent elemental magnesium. But as a salt, it’s rapidly absorbed from the GI system into blood and tissues. It also functions as an electrolyte (electrolytes are essential to our metabolism) and helps excrete toxins from tissues in the body. The chloride helps kidney function, but without the sodium. This supplement can be taken in oral form or you can use it in the form of bath salts for a warm, detoxifying soak.
- Magnesium carbonate: Magnesium carbonate is another popular form. It helps neutralize the pH of your stomach acid, helping to soothe acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion (as the name “carbonate” implies).
- Magnesium glycinate: Magnesium glycinate is bound to the amino acid, glycine. It’s highly absorbable and bioavailable. It may work best for long-term replenishment of the body’s magnesium supply.
- Magnesium sulfate: Magnesium sulfate, better known as Epsom salts, is a potent remedy for constipation and also provides magnesium. You shouldn’t take this form orally since it’s easy to overdose. Instead, save it for your bath water (add about one to two cups to your tub). It’s a soothing relaxant to your muscles and allows absorption of magnesium through the skin, without risking GI side effects or overdosing, even if you are taking an oral supplement.
These supplements can be found at most local pharmacies, grocery stores, health supplement stores, Amazon, or at The Vitamin Shoppe location nearest you.
Now onto the forms to avoid…
Forms of magnesium you should avoid
- Magnesium glutamate: Glutamic acid is an excitatory amino acid, meaning it helps to cause neurons to fire in the brain. However, when ingested in excess, free glutamic acid doesn’t bind to other amino acids (like a neuropeptide or protein), and causes an overload rise in blood level. This can become neurotoxic and poison nerve tissue. This supplement has also been linked to worsening depression or anxiety symptoms.
- Magnesium aspartate: Aspartate or aspartic acid is a component of the dangerous, neurotoxic artificial sweetener aspartame. I shared with you the dangers of aspartame earlier this month.
- Magnesium oxide: This is the most common form of magnesium, found in the majority of pharmacies. But it’s non-chelated, which essentially means it’s not an “organic” form. Thus, your body has a hard time absorbing it compared to other forms. It’s actually like trying to get nutrients from eating rocks. Clinical research also shows it causes inflammation of the heart membrane.
Don’t forget ⎯ you can also get magnesium from cacao, meat, seafood, and green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach). Of course, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds) are another great source of the nutrient. So, when you start carving your pumpkins next month, make sure to save and roast the magnesium-packed seeds from the pulp.
All in all, magnesium is just too important to your health. I recommend 400 mg daily of any of the magnesium supplements on my recommended list above. If you find that it upsets your stomach, start supplementation at a lower dosage (200 mg and work your way up in 100 mg increments) until you find what works best for you. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor before changing or adding to your current supplementation routine.