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Magnesium is almost as important as calcium, that is why is considered one of the major minerals.

Magnesium is another mineral that's classified as a Major mineral. Even though it isn't as prominent as some of the other major minerals, magnesium plays a role in about 300 biochemical processes that take place inside the body.

Processes that need magnesium

Roughly one-half of the body's supply of magnesium can be found in the bones. The cells that make up the body's organs and other body tissues store the balance, except for the small amount that's found in the blood. Like calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is needed to properly develop and maintain the skeletal system. Specifically, magnesium is crucial to the body's ability to absorb calcium and it also helps regulate calcium levels.

Where the heart is concerned, magnesium is just as important. It helps to regulate the heart's rhythm which reduces the risks of developing arrhythmias. Magnesium also helps to reduce blood pressure, greatly lowering the risks associated with heart disease. Studies centering on magnesium's ability to lower cholesterol levels are ongoing and show promising results.

Magnesium plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and it's believed to be involved in the way insulin is released and the way it behaves in general. Magnesium's role in diabetes is also being studied and it seems there is a link between diabetes and a magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium helps keep the blood's pH levels in balance by controlling the amount of acid in the blood.

Magnesium helps keep muscles relaxed and it also helps relax the mind. Muscle tension, anxiety and even headaches and migraines can all be kept under better control when the body has sufficient levels of magnesium.

Without magnesium, the body would not be able to produce serotonin, the 'feel good' neurotransmitter. If you're looking for a natural way to control such conditions as hyperactivity, post traumatic stress disorder or anxiety you may benefit by ensuring you are providing your body with the recommended daily allowance of this multi-purpose mineral.

For adult men, the recommended daily requirement for magnesium is 350 mg/day. Women should get 280 mg/day. Pregnant women should increase their magnesium intake to 300 mg/day. Children, on the other hand, require 200 milligrams per day.

Sources of magnesium

The foods which contain the most magnesium are dark leafy greens. Dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and avocado are excellent sources of magnesium. Whole grains, legumes, black beans, brown rice, lentils, almonds, cashews, peanuts and peanut butter, bananas, soybeans, wheat bran and bran flakes, lean meats, dried figs, halibut, crab and sardines are other good sources. Wheat germ and potatoes also contain larger amounts of this vital mineral than average. There also is a significant amount of magnesium in hard tap water. By definition, hard water contains a lot of minerals. If you have hard water where you live, be sure to take advantage of this source!

When magnesium deficiency is suspected

The first signs of a magnesium deficiency include nausea, vomiting, a loss of appetite, fatigue and a feeling of weakness. As the deficiency progresses, a person can develop an irregular heartbeat, heart spasms, changes in personality, tingling and numbness and muscle cramps. There may even a decrease of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.

As mentioned above, magnesium deficiencies may also lead to heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.

How to combat magnesium deficiency with food

Include food that is source of magnesium in your diet. As with many minerals found in foods, it is best to get them in foods which are unprocessed or cooked. Cooking and processing food can break down the vitamins and minerals in the foods until they no longer benefit the body. For instance, if you cook navy beans they will lose about 65% of the magnesium they once held. Blanching spinach will lead to a 33% loss of magnesium. Therefore try to eat foods as close to their natural state as feasible. This will ensure you get the most magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals, as possible from the foods you eat.

Be careful to keep your calcium levels up along with magnesium, as the two minerals work in conjunction with one another. Magnesium and calcium together help maintain the body´s metabolism. Calcium causes muscles to contract and magnesium causes them to relax again, which may explain why cramping is so common with magnesium deficiency.