Athletes use it to fight post-workout muscle soreness. Insomniacs use it to nod off more easily. Could magnesium be the “chill pill” you’ve been waiting for?
Did you say it could help me sleep? We’ve all been there — staring at the ceiling, jaw grinding with worry about next month’s work conference or whether the dog really needs $5,000 worth of surgery. While magnesium isn’t exactly Xanax when it comes to KO’ing anxiety, research shows that the nutrient — which helps control your body’s stress hormones — can be calming, helping to loosen worry’s grip on your brain as you’re trying to drift off.
What else can it do? There are a ton of reasons to get more magnesium in your diet. It acts as a mild muscle relaxant, which is why some workout fiends pop it to soothe aches and pains. Magnesium is also super-important if you’ve got a history of osteoporosis in your family; along with calcium and vitamin D, it’s one of the key nutrients your body needs to build strong bones. Grinding migraines are more likely to occur in people who are low in magnesium, and it could even help women who suffer from menstrual migraines.
Okay, I’m sold. So how do I get more? Dieticians agree that the best way to get nutrients like magnesium is from food rather than supplements. But some of the best food sources are lacking in many Americans’ diets, so there’s a good chance you might not be getting enough. To increase your intake, load up on foods that are high in fiber (leafy greens, brown rice, oatmeal, beans) plus healthy fats (avocados, nuts, nut butters) and fortified cereals. Some people may also benefit from a magnesium supplement, but talk to your doctor first and look for one that contains magnesium citrate, which is one of the most absorbable forms.
Illustration by Allison Turi
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