Magnesium 101 | Food Confidence
As an integrative dietitian and empowerment coach with 20+ years of experience, my main goal is to help women age well, feel confident in their bodies, and create the healthy lifestyle they desire and deserve.
danielle omar

Magnesium 101, everything you need to know!

What do pumpkin seeds, leafy greens and avocado have in common?


Magnesium is a powerful mineral responsible for over 300 different functions of the body. In fact, every organ in the body needs magnesium. It helps regulate your blood pressure, keeps your bones strong, powers up your immune system, and affects your heart rhythm. It’s kind of a big deal!

Some studies estimate that up to 70% of the population is deficient in magnesium. In fact, many health experts believe that magnesium deficiency is one of the largest health concerns facing our nation today. That said, it’s important to optimize your intake to make sure you’re getting enough magnesium in your diet and learn to recognize the symptoms that may indicate a deficiency.  

Are you getting enough in your diet?

The answer is likely a big fat no. Dietary surveys of Americans consistently show intakes of magnesium are lower than the DRI. And while magnesium is prevalent in many foods, soil erosion, farming practices, herbicide use, and food processing (such as refining grains) actually deplete our food of magnesium.

There are also certain health conditions and medications that decrease absorption from the food we’re eating. Those with Type 2 Diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases (IBS, gastritis, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc), and liver damage are at a higher risk for magnesium deficiency.

Other factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency:

  • Drinking too much coffee, soda, or alcohol
  • Eating too much sodium (salt)
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive sweating
  • Prolonged stress

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency are:

  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Heart palpitations
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Anxiety & depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Hormone problems
  • Sleep issues
  • Low energy
  • Bone loss

Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, legumes/beans, and green leafy vegetables.  

What type of Magnesium should you take?

Magnesium supplements need to be combined with another molecule to stabilize the compound. It’s the molecule bound to the magnesium that affects absorption (and other biological effects) – not the magnesium itself. These “effects” can help guide you in selecting the appropriate magnesium formulation for your needs. Each one has a different size, absorption rate and varied bioavailability.  Chelated minerals (like glycinate) have been chemically combined with amino acids so the body can use them better.

The most common forms and their benefits are listed below:

Magnesium citrate: In this form, magnesium is combined with citrate. I recommend this form of magnesium for constipation because it helps relax bowel spasms and is an osmotic laxative. Take up to 200-600 mg twice daily until you achieve loose stools, then dial back to the lowest dose that allows for normal bowel movements.

Magnesium glycinate: Glycinate is the most bioavailable and absorbable form of magnesium, and the least likely to induce loose stools. It’s the best option for correcting a deficiency and to drive up stores. It’s also the form that relaxes muscles and has a calming response. Take daily before bed to induce sleep and to relieve restless leg syndrome. You can also take 600-1200 mg daily to relieve migraines and muscular tension, especially for women who get headaches around their periods.

Magnesium malate: Malate is best known for pain relief and energy due to its effect on ATP production. There’s also evidence that it may reduce muscle pain and tender points in those with fibromyalgia. Take 200-600 mg per day.

Magnesium oxide: Magnesium Oxide is bonded to oxygen, which has little effect on the body. Magnesium oxide is considered the least absorbed form, but has one of the highest percentages of elemental magnesium per dose, so it actually may be the highest absorbed per milligram. Oxide is okay as a general purpose choice if magnesium itself is all you need. It can serve as a simple muscle relaxer and gentle laxative if taken at a high dose.


There is potential for some medications to cause interactions with magnesium, so you should take dietary supplements under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider. Because magnesium helps to lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor about supplementing magnesium if you’re on blood pressure medication or have kidney disease.




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