What it does:

  • Serves as an important part of more than three hundred body enzymes. Enzymes are body chemicals that regulate all kinds of bodily functions, including producing energy, making body protein, and muscle contractions.
  • Helps maintain body cells in nerves and muscles, and signals muscles to relax and contract.
  • Serves as a component of bones.

If you don't get enough: A deficiency is rare except in diseases where the body doesn't absorb magnesium properly. Then symptoms might include irregular heartbeat, nausea, weakness, and/or mental derangement.

If you consume an excess amount: Consuming too much magnesium from food probably won't do any harm—unless it can't be excreted properly due to kidney disease. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level is 350 milligrams a day; this amount is less than the RDA because it represents only the amount of magnesium in supplements or drugs.

How much you need: The RDA for teenage boys is 410 milligrams of magnesium daily to age eighteen; for teenage girls, 360 milligrams daily. The RDA for adult males is 400 milligrams daily through age thirty, then 420 milligrams daily after that. For females, the recommendation is 310 milligrams daily through age thirty, then 320 milligrams daily after age thirty. Neither pregnancy nor breast-feeding increases the need for magnesium.

Where it's mostly found: Magnesium is found in varying amounts in all kinds of foods. The best sources are legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Green vegetables are good sources, too.

Food Magnesium (mg)

Spinach, boiled (z/2 cup) 80

Peanut butter (2 tbsp.) 50

Black-eyed peas, boiled (z/2 cup) 45

Food Magnesium (mg)

Lima beans, boiled (1/2 cup) 40

Whole-wheat bread (1 slice) 25

Parsnips, boiled (^ cup) 25 Whole-wheat spaghetti, cooked (V2 cup) 20

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