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  • Dr Pooja Sharma

Magnesium in the Indian Diet: A Vital Mineral for Your Health

Updated: 2 days ago

Magnesium is crucial for the human body, playing a pivotal role in over 300 enzymatic reactions. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential for good health. Approximately 50-60% of all the magnesium in the body is found in the skeleton, with most of the rest in the muscles, soft tissues, and bodily fluids.


Importance of Magnesium for Overall Health


1. Bone Health:   Magnesium is vital for bone formation as it assists with the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, which promotes calcium absorption. A proper level of magnesium is important for maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis.


2.   Cardiovascular Health:   This mineral is known for its ability to help regulate blood pressure and is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy heartbeat and is sometimes used to treat complications associated with heart disease.


3.   Muscle Function:   Magnesium aids in muscle contraction and relaxation. It acts as a natural calcium blocker to help muscles relax. Inadequate magnesium levels can result in cramps, muscle spasms, and tension.


4.   Nervous System Regulation:   Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the brain and nervous system. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and is sometimes used to combat anxiety and improve sleep.


5.   Blood Glucose Control:   It helps to control insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, which is beneficial for preventing type 2 diabetes. A diet rich in magnesium is linked to a lower risk of diabetes.


6.   Digestive Health:   Magnesium aids in the digestion process by acting as a co-factor for enzymes that facilitate the breakdown of food. It also helps to regulate the movement of food through the intestines and is used to treat constipation as it has a laxative effect.


7.   Prevention of Migraines:   Some studies suggest that magnesium deficiency can contribute to migraines. Therefore, adequate intake of magnesium might help in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.


8.   Mental Health and Mood Regulation:   Magnesium levels are linked to the body’s production of serotonin, which is a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter. Adequate magnesium intake is associated with a lower risk of depression.


9.   Detoxification:   Magnesium plays a role in the detoxification processes of the body, making it crucial for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins.


10.   Energy Production:   It is involved in energy creation as it assists in converting food into energy. A deficiency might lead to reduced energy levels and increased fatigue.


Magnesium is truly a multi-functional mineral that is essential for so many of the body’s systems to function optimally. Regular intake through diet or supplements, when necessary, ensures that all these vital processes are supported.


The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for magnesium vary based on age, gender, and life stage. Here are the general guidelines of average daily magnesium requirement:



- 0-6 months: 30 milligrams (mg) per day (adequate intake)

- 7-12 months: 75 mg per day (adequate intake)



- 1-3 years: 80 mg per day

- 4-8 years: 130 mg per day

- 9-13 years: 240 mg per day


  Adolescents and Adults:  

- Males 14-18 years: 410 mg per day

- Females 14-18 years: 360 mg per day

- Males 19-30 years: 400 mg per day

- Females 19-30 years: 310 mg per day

- Males 31 years and older: 420 mg per day

- Females 31 years and older: 320 mg per day


  For Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women:  

- Pregnant women (19-30 years): 350 mg per day

- Pregnant women (31-50 years): 360 mg per day

- Breastfeeding women (19-30 years): 310 mg per day

- Breastfeeding women (31-50 years): 320 mg per day


It's important to note that these RDAs are guidelines and actual requirements may vary based on an individual's health status, medication use, and overall diet. For personalized advice, it's best to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian. Additionally, many factors, including certain health conditions, the use of diuretics, and gastrointestinal disorders, can affect magnesium absorption and might lead to a need for higher intake.


How to complete your daily Magnesium requirement 


Magnesium is found in a variety of foods, and a well-balanced diet can help individuals meet their daily requirements. Here are some examples of foods rich in magnesium and how they can help fulfil the daily required amount for various age groups and genders:


1.   Dark Leafy Greens  :

   - Spinach, cooked: 1 cup provides about 157 mg.

Eating a serving of cooked leafy greens can contribute significantly to the daily magnesium requirement.


2.   Nuts and Seeds  :

   - Almonds: 30 gm (about 23 nuts) provides about 80 mg.

   - Pumpkin seeds, shelled: 30 gm provides about 150 mg.

   Including a small handful of nuts or seeds in your daily diet can boost magnesium intake.


3.   Legumes  :

   - Black beans, cooked: 1 cup provides about 120 mg.

   - Chickpeas, cooked: 1 cup provides about 80 mg.

   Adding legumes to soups, salads, or as a side dish can help meet daily magnesium needs.


4.   Whole Grains  :

   - Quinoa, cooked: 1 cup provides about 118 mg.

   - Brown rice, cooked: 1 cup provides about 86 mg.

   Consuming whole grains instead of refined grains can substantially increase magnesium intake.


5.   Fish  :

   - Mackerel: 100 gm provides about 82 mg.

   - Salmon: 100 gm provides about 26 mg.

   Including fish in your diet a couple of times a week can be beneficial.


6.   Bananas  :

   - One medium banana provides about 32 mg of magnesium.

   Bananas are a practical snack and can contribute to magnesium intake.


7.   Dark Chocolate  :

   - 70-85% dark chocolate: 30 gm provides about 64 mg.

   A small portion of dark chocolate can be a rich treat that contributes to your magnesium intake.


8.   Avocado  :

   - One medium avocado provides about 58 mg of magnesium.

   Avocado can be added to salads, sandwiches, or consumed as a healthy snack.


9.   Dairy  :

   - Yogurt: 1 cup provides about 30-50 mg.

   - Milk: 1 cup provides about 24-27 mg.

   Dairy products contribute to magnesium intake and can be part of breakfast or snacks.


10.   Tofu  :

    - Firm tofu: ½ cup provides about 37 mg.

    Tofu can be a great addition to Asian dishes and is versatile in cooking.


To meet the daily requirements, it's essential to consume a variety of these foods throughout the day. Here's how they can fit into various dietary needs:


Children  : A combination of whole grains, such as oatmeal for breakfast, a handful of nuts for a snack, and a serving of leafy greens for dinner can fulfill their requirements.

Teens  : Including legumes in their lunch, a serving of fish for dinner, along with nuts and dark chocolate for snacks, can ensure they meet their daily magnesium needs.

Adults  : A diet inclusive of avocados, bananas, whole grains, and a variety of vegetables can easily meet their magnesium requirements.

Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women  : They might need to focus on magnesium-rich foods more consistently due to their increased requirements. Regular meals that include whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and legumes are particularly important.


A typical day's menu to meet magnesium requirements could look like this:


  • Breakfast  : A bowl of cooked oatmeal with milk or Avocado sandwich with milk

  • Mid-Meal: Banana

  • Lunch  : A salad with lots of leafy greens, chickpeas, and veggie with a side of Jowar/Ragi

  • Snack  : Yogurt with pumpkin seeds n nuts

  • Dinner  : Grilled salmon/Tofu with a side of cooked spinach and red rice/millets.


It's important to vary your food choices to ensure that you get not only magnesium but also a wide range of other nutrients necessary for good health. Remember that while it's important to focus on diet to meet your nutritional needs, some individuals may still require supplements to reach their recommended magnesium intake. This should always be done in consultation with a healthcare provider.


How to identify Magnesium deficiency


Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, can be difficult to diagnose because magnesium levels in blood tests do not always accurately reflect total body magnesium levels. However, there are several signs and symptoms that may suggest a magnesium deficiency:


1.   Muscle Symptoms  :

   - Twitches, tremors, and muscle cramps.

   - Muscle weakness.

   - Spasms, which can be severe and affect your muscles (charley horses), or eye twitches.


2.   Neurological Symptoms  :

   - Numbness or tingling in the extremities.

   - Seizures.

   - Personality changes or abnormal moods.

   - Anxiety and depression.


3.   Cardiovascular Symptoms  :

   - Irregular heartbeat or palpitations.

   - Coronary spasms.


4.   Other Symptoms  :

   - Loss of appetite.

   - Nausea and vomiting.

   - Fatigue and weakness, which may indicate more severe deficiency.


5.   Metabolic Issues  :

   - Elevated blood pressure.

   - Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

   - Osteoporosis.


6.   Symptoms of Severe Magnesium Deficiency  :

   - Hypocalcemia (low serum calcium levels).

   - Hypokalemia (low serum potassium levels).


Confirming a Deficiency


If you suspect a magnesium deficiency, it’s important to see a healthcare provider. They can order a magnesium test, which is typically a blood test, though it may not reflect total body magnesium accurately if the deficiency is mild. Sometimes, a 24-hour urine test may be used, or magnesium levels may be tested in the saliva or through a muscle biopsy, though these are less common.


Risk Factors for Magnesium Deficiency


Certain people are more at risk of developing a magnesium deficiency, including those with gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn's disease or celiac disease that affect absorption, people with type 2 diabetes, older adults, and individuals who consume large amounts of alcohol.


Treatment and Management


If a magnesium deficiency is confirmed, treatment usually involves dietary changes and/or supplements. Foods high in magnesium include nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark leafy greens, and legumes. In cases of severe deficiency, magnesium may be administered intravenously.


Remember, it is important not to self-diagnose or treat a suspected magnesium deficiency without professional medical advice. Too much magnesium from supplements can be harmful and cause symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and arrhythmias. Always consult with a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.


The impact of modern lifestyle choices on magnesium intake among Indians


Modern lifestyle choices can significantly impact magnesium intake among the Indian population, as they do globally. Here are some factors associated with contemporary living that might affect magnesium levels:


1.     Dietary Changes    : The traditional Indian diet, rich in whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, is being replaced by more refined and processed foods that are lower in magnesium content. Fast food, increased consumption of ready-to-eat meals, and reliance on polished rice and refined flour instead of whole grains contribute to reduced magnesium intake.


2.     Decreased Nutrient Density in Foods    : Soil depletion from over-farming and modern agricultural practices can lead to lower levels of magnesium in fruits, vegetables, and grains than in the past.


3.     Increased Consumption of Sugar and Phosphates    : High intake of sugary beverages and foods with added phosphates can increase the excretion of magnesium through the kidneys, thereby lowering body stores.


4.     Stressful Lifestyles    : Chronic stress can deplete levels of magnesium. Stress hormones increase magnesium elimination from the body, and a low magnesium level can, in turn, amplify the stress response, creating a vicious cycle.


5.     Alcohol Consumption    : There’s a growing trend of alcohol consumption among certain demographics in India, which can significantly affect magnesium levels since alcohol increases the excretion of magnesium through urine.


6.     Medication Use    : Many modern medications, including diuretics, antibiotics, and chemotherapeutic agents, can reduce magnesium levels by affecting absorption or increasing excretion.


7.     Chronic Health Conditions    : With a rise in lifestyle-related health issues like type 2 diabetes and hypertension, there’s an increased risk of magnesium depletion. High blood sugar levels can increase urinary magnesium loss.


8.     Physical Inactivity    : Sedentary lifestyles may lead to decreased magnesium requirements but can also affect the body's ability to regulate magnesium properly.


9.     Water Quality    : Consumption of soft water, which is low in minerals, or water that's been through certain types of filtration, can reduce magnesium intake, compared to hard water which typically contains more minerals, including magnesium.


10.     Cooking Practices    : The prevalent use of high heat and water for cooking can cause magnesium (and other minerals) to leach out of foods. Traditional slow-cooking methods may preserve nutrients better.


To mitigate these impacts, there's a growing movement in India advocating for a return to traditional dietary practices, organic farming, and mindfulness about lifestyle choices to ensure adequate nutrition, including magnesium intake. It's essential to be aware of these factors and make conscious decisions to include magnesium-rich foods in the diet, manage stress effectively, maintain an active lifestyle, and where necessary, use supplements under medical guidance.



Maintaining adequate  level of Magnesium could be challenging, here’s how you can overcome them


Maintaining a magnesium-rich diet can be challenging for several reasons, especially within the Indian dietary context. Here are some common solutions to ensure adequate magnesium intake:


1.     Incorporate Whole Grains    : Replace refined grains with whole grains such as whole wheat, bajra (pearl millet), ragi (finger millet), jowar (sorghum), and brown rice which are naturally high in magnesium.


2.     Use Traditional Cooking Methods    : Indian cooking offers many dishes that require minimal water, such as stir-frying, sautéing, and steaming. These methods can help retain magnesium content in foods.


3.     Plan Balanced Meals    : Ensure meals include a variety of magnesium-rich foods. Legumes, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables should be a part of daily meals.


4.     Opt for Organic    : Whenever possible, choose organically grown produce, which may have a higher magnesium content due to better soil quality.


5.     Educate Yourself and Others    : Learning about the importance of magnesium and recognizing sources can help in making informed dietary choices. Share this knowledge with family and friends.


6.     Limit Processed Foods    : Reduce the consumption of processed and convenience foods and opt for fresh, whole foods.


7.     Snack Wisely    : Choose snacks that contribute to magnesium intake, such as nuts, seeds, and fruits, instead of chips and sweets.


8.     Budget-Conscious Choices    : Leafy greens and certain seeds and legumes are not only rich in magnesium but also generally inexpensive. They can be purchased in bulk and stored for long periods.


9.     Supplement If Necessary    : If it’s difficult to get enough magnesium from the diet alone, consider using supplements after consulting with a healthcare provider.


10.     Mindful Eating    : Be conscious of the daily intake of different nutrients, including magnesium, and plan your diet accordingly.


By being mindful of these challenges and implementing the solutions, one can overcome obstacles to maintaining a magnesium-rich diet. For the Indian population, leveraging traditional foods and cooking practices can be especially beneficial in ensuring adequate magnesium intake.



Now, we turn to you, our readers. Have you found creative ways to pack more magnesium into your meals? Any family recipes that are particularly rich in this essential mineral? Or perhaps you’ve noticed a difference in your well-being after upping your magnesium intake? Share your stories and tips in the comments below; let’s learn from each other and enrich our community’s health!


And if you're looking to tailor your nutrition even further, Dr Pooja Sharma is at your service, ready to craft a personalised diet plan that caters to your unique needs and palate. Because just like the perfect blend of spices can transform a dish, the right balance of nutrients can revitalize your life. Get in touch to begin your journey towards a healthier you, with every meal and every mouthful counting towards your wellness.

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