Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body, yet deficiency of this vital mineral is common nowadays. This is primarily due to depleted soils from commercial farming practices: Crops can only take up what is available in the soil they’re growing in – so if that soil is depleted, then the vegetable and other crops growing in them will be, too.
Selenium is another example of a mineral that is vastly depleted in our soils (probably more so even than magnesium). These soil deficiencies can lead to an associated deficiency in our bodies unless corrected with adequate intake (foods, supplements).
A deficiency of magnesium can contribute to muscle tension, spasms, foot and leg cramps, and constipation. It helps keep our muscles relaxed – if you’ve ever had one of those annoying little eye ‘twitches,’ it may be that you were running low on magnesium.
Along with calcium (and other factors), magnesium plays an important role in regulating bone metabolism. It’s also involved in over 300 other biochemical reactions including activating many of the body’s enzymes, converting blood sugar into energy, and helping to regulate vitamin C, phosphorous, sodium and potassium metabolism – that’s a lot of work, for one little mineral!
A unique and interesting feature about magnesium is its centrally-located position within the chlorophyll molecule, the “green” molecule of plants. This position is analogous to the iron in the center of hemoglobin, the “red” molecule in our red blood cells. Chlorophyll and hemoglobin resemble each other structurally – perhaps a reflection of our shared journey on this planet.
To help ensure that you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet, eat plenty of leafy greens such as spinach, collards, and chard (preferably organic, for their higher soil content of minerals). Other magnesium-rich foods include beans, peas, nuts, seeds and whole, unrefined grains.
For the magnesium content of a wide variety of foods, here’s a great chart (PDF).