Is Magnesium the New Iron Deficiency?

If you’re lacking energy, easily annoyed, and generally feel sort of off, look to your diet. While iron deficiencies may get all the ink, it’s not the only mineral that could be missing from your meals.

Why are so many Americans magnesium deficient?

“The Standard American Diet doesn’t bode well in terms of avoiding deficiencies of magnesium,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, the manager of nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. That’s because processed foods and refined grains don’t provide the magnesium our bodies need and may even contribute to a decrease in the absorption of the mineral.

And while it may be fairly easy to get magnesium through whole foods — nuts and seeds, dark green vegetables, fish, soybeans, avocado, bananas, dark chocolate, whole grains, and legumes are all rich sources — other common factors increase your chances of being deficient, says Ilyse Schapiro, RD, a nutritionist based in the New York City area. Everything from stress (it causes your body to use more of the mineral) to birth control pills, diuretics, drinking more than seven alcoholic drinks a week, and even carbonated beverages can up your risk of too-low levels, says Schapiro.

Another big factor: being active. In fact, one 2006 study found that all female tennis players tested failed to meet daily magnesium requirements. That’s because exercise can lead to mineral depletion — magnesium can be lost when you sweat. “Blood magnesium levels can decrease as much as 5 percent from just walking on a treadmill for 90 minutes at 3 miles per hour,”nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD, says. “Intense exercise can increase magnesium needs by upward of 20 percent.” But research shows that magnesium supplementation improves exercise tolerance when you haven’t gotten enough sleep and cardiovascular function during exercise, he notes.

It’s smart to also monitor where your food and water comes from. Keri Glassman, MS, RN, CDN, founder of Nutritious Life adds,“Many foods are also depleted of their natural magnesium levels because our water supply is lacking in magnesium and minerals in the soil just aren’t what they used to be, affecting how the food is grown,”

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