Life after 50 should be fabulous – a time in our lives when we finally gain emotional clarity and balance. The daily stresses of raising children, climbing the corporate ladder and keeping up with the neighbors a distant memory. Unfortunately, chronic disease, diminishing bone health, fatigue and sleep issues can take their toll on our happiness and ability to enjoy these wonderful years. One source of those issues can be a magnesium deficiency. Eating foods rich in magnesium, a fatigue-fighting mineral that I consider nature’s muscle relaxer, is a simple way to help energize the body and settle the mind while offering protection against the most pressing age-related ailments.
Magnesium Deficiency Can Play a Leading Role in Health
Move over calcium and Vitamin D — there’s a new nutrient taking center stage and rightfully so. An adequate level of magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, is needed for more than 300 bodily functions many of which provide us with energy. It’s also necessary for bone health, steady heart rhythms, blood sugar regulation, healthy immune systems and blood pressure control.
This often-overlooked mineral can help protect you against osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, ischemic strokes, Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a term used to describe a cluster of risk factors that can lead to heart disease and diabetes). A recent Italian randomized trial also reported that 300mg of daily magnesium supplementation boosted physical performance in older women, including significant improvement in gait speed – a predictor of future adverse health events.
Who’s at Risk
Despite being plentiful in the food supply, magnesium can be scarce in our diets. Some estimates suggest that 70% to 80% of Americans fail to consume the daily-recommended amount, which for women over 50 is 320mg. Unfortunately, as we age, the risk of magnesium deficiency increases, in part because dietary intake decreases and we become less efficient at absorbing this critical nutrient from food.
Furthermore, certain medications commonly taken by women in their prime, such as diuretics, antibiotics and drugs used to treat cancer can interfere with magnesium absorption. The FDA has long warned that long-term use of prescription Proton Pump inhibitors (PPI) used to treat ulcers and GERD can cause magnesium deficiency. Individuals that suffer from malabsorption conditions, poorly controlled diabetes and alcoholism are also at greater risk for deficiencies.
Signs of Deficiencies
Loss of appetite, muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, cramps, irritability, anxiety and irregular heartbeats can be signs of insufficient magnesium levels. Of course, a variety of medical conditions can result in these symptoms so if you’re experiencing any of the signs, consult your doctor for an appropriate diagnosis.
Thankfully, some of the most delicious and healthiest foods in the world are foods rich in magnesium. The best dietary sources include:
- Dark leafy greens – spinach and Swiss chard
- Fruits – bananas, papaya and avocado
- Seeds – pumpkin and sunflower
- Nuts – almonds and cashews
- Legumes – soybeans, peas, peanuts and black beans
- Whole intact grains – quinoa, brown rice and oatmeal
- Low- or no-fat dairy – cow’s milk and yogurt
- Fish – Pollock, halibut, cod and salmon
Eating these foods rich in magnesium also provides a host of other necessary nutrients and much needed fiber.
Women in their prime looking to consume 320mg of magnesium, while being mindful of their caloric intake, could enjoy the following:
Breakfast: 1 container of no-fat plain yogurt mixed with ½ cup thawed blueberries and 2 TBSP toasted pumpkin seeds, 12oz of coffee.
Lunch: Large mesclun mix salad (2 cups) topped with 1/3 cup edamame or black beans, 1 egg, ¼ of an avocado and an additional 1.5 cups of mixed vegetables.
Snack: An apple or banana and either 1 TBSP of almond or peanut butter or 10-12 almonds
Dinner: 4oz of baked halibut, 1 cup sautéed spinach and 1 cup cooked broccoli
Attempt to get the recommended daily allowance of all vitamins and minerals from a whole foods diet. Use the NIH guide in order to find foods rich in magnesium to assess your intake.
Anyone with kidney disease who might struggle to excrete excess magnesium should not take a supplement without the consent of her doctor. Side effects of taking too much supplemental magnesium include diarrhea and abdominal cramping. You’ll know if you’ve overdone it!
Feeling lethargic, having trouble sleeping, struggling with high blood pressure, diminishing bone health, or blood glucose levels? “Treat” yourself with some spinach!
This article is for informational purposes only, is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is not a substitute for medical advice.