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What Does Magnesium Actually Do for You?

By Christine Byrne, Outside, 09/19/19, 2:30PM CDT

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Here is how you can tell if you are getting enough of this essential nutrient in your daily diet. 

When it comes to nutrition, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Meal replacements may claim to strike a perfect balance of nutrients, but they taste terrible. Supplements like probiotics and vitamin B are touted as cure-alls for a wide range of ailments, but they’re largely unregulated and most people don’t need them. Now magnesium is getting the silver-bullet treatment. Marketers of magnesium pills, body sprays, and bath salts claim that their products will boost recovery and energy levels and promote all kinds of important-sounding bodily functions like DNA synthesis and bone strength. Here’s what you need to know about getting enough magnesium.

Magnesium Is Not a Health Food, It’s an Essential Nutrient

Unlike trendy (and expensive) health foods like acai and ashwagandha, magnesium is an essential nutrient that’s naturally found in many of the foods you’re already eating. If you remember anything from high school chemistry, you might know that magnesium is technically a metallic element. In nutrition it’s classified as a mineral and falls into the micronutrient category, which includes vitamins and minerals that your body depends on to function. Your body can’t produce magnesium, though, so you need to get it from your diet. Adults require 300 to 400 milligrams of magnesium per day, which is doable if you’re regularly eating good sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, certain fruits and vegetables, and fatty fish.