Magnesium is an important nutrient needed for the proper functioning of the human body. So get to know the signs of a deficiency, your daily recommended intake, and the foods that can give you a boost of the mineral.

What is the importance of magnesium?

"Magnesium is a mineral that our bodies rely on to feel fit, healthy and full of vitality," said Australian nutritionist Fiona Tuck, noting that it is essential for over 300 biochemical reactions in the human body.

In addition to keeping bones strong and healthy, it plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels, energy production, nerve function, and muscle function. 

How much magnesium do we need on a daily basis?

The National Institutes of Health recommends 310 to 320 milligrams of magnesium per day for women and 400 to 420 milligrams for men. People with certain conditions like diabetes or celiac disease may have to take particular care as they are more prone to deficiencies.

"People who abuse alcohol, have poor diet, gastrointestinal problems, or vitamin D deficiency also have a higher risk of magnesium deficiencies," said New York City-based dietitian Amy Shapiro.

What are the signs of a magnesium deficiency?

There are no clear short-term signs, experts say, pointing out that most symptoms only start appearing after a long period of deficiency. Over time, bones can become weaker due to the deficiency as it lowers the levels of calcium in the blood.

Given its important role in muscle function, you may experience muscle twitches and cramps due to low levels of magnesium. Changes in mood, often resulting in numbness and a lack of emotion, can also occur. Some studies have suggested that low levels can also increase the risk of depression.

What foods can be included in a diet for a magnesium boost?

1. Leafy greens

Spinach, cooked in a single cup serving, can offer up to 157 milligrams of magnesium. Other green, leafy sources include kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, etc.

2. Nuts and seeds

Flax, pumpkin and chia seeds are rich in both magnesium and fiber. Snacking on almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts can also help in alleviating the deficiency.

3. Legumes

These include lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas, and soybeans, all of which are important sources of nutrition for people who follow a plant-based diet.

4. Bananas

Consider this for a fruity boost — In addition to vitamin C and fiber, a medium-sized banana offers 32 mg of magnesium which makes up 9 percent of the daily recommended intake.

Can magnesium supplements also be used?

Many studies strongly support a healthy diet as the most efficient way of obtaining nutrients. But if you want to consider supplements, it is best to speak to a registered dietitian. One should take care with the dosage as diarrhea can be a side effect of taking too much magnesium.

"Aim to include at least two servings of vegetables with every meal and a couple of pieces of fruit daily. Reduce sugar, alcohol and processed foods to help up your magnesium intake," Tuck added.