Most of us know that magnesium is a necessary nutrient to include in our diet, but it is estimated that at least 50% of the population does not get enough magnesium to prevent disease. Current US RDA guidelines suggest that the absolute minimum for magnesium per day is 320 mg. RDA guidelines are quite often the bare minimum of a nutrient that our bodies need, and research on magnesium supports that. Recent studies have found that those who intake at least 400 mg of magnesium per day have a 50% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who intake an average of 240 mg/day. This is across several studies which also accounted for the fact that those who eat more magnesium are naturally healthier eaters. When this factor is taken into account, the result is the same. Magnesium helps to prevent diseases like diabetes.

Medical research is yet unclear as to the exact reason behind this phenomenon. One strong theory is that magnesium helps beta cells in the pancreas produce insulin. Another theory states that magnesium makes your cells more sensitive to insulin so that your tissues and muscles respond more effectively to it. Still another study found that adding magnesium lowered fasting blood glucose as well as A1c levels. The message is clear. When all other factors are taken out of the equation, magnesium makes a significant difference in diabetes risk.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you need to run out to your nearest drugstore and buy a bottle of magnesium. Taking more than 350 mg of magnesium in a day has been shown to lead to diarrhea, and some people are sensitive at far lower doses. The magnesium in food does not have this intestinal side effect, so it is best to get most of your magnesium from whole food sources (though a moderate dose supplement can be helpful in addition.

Increasing magnesium has also been shown helpful in treating migraines, sleep issues (often referred to as the “relaxation mineral”), constipation, heart issues, muscle cramps, high blood pressure, and kidney stones. As you can see, diabetes prevention is just one of the many conditions that can be averted and/or treated by increasing magnesium levels.

Take a look at the list below to see if you are eating enough magnesium on a daily basis. Whether you feel like you are at risk for diabetes, aiming for 400 mg/day mostly from food is a step that everyone can take toward better health and disease prevention.

  • Pumpkin seeds (¼ cup) – 190 mg
  • Almonds (¼ cup) – 95 mg
  • Spinach (½ cup cooked) – 80 mg
  • Spinach (2 cups raw) – 45 mg
  • Swiss Chard (1/2 cup) – 75 mg
  • Beet Greens (1/2 cup cooked) – 50 mg
  • Black Beans (½ cup) – 60 mg
  • Tuna (4 oz cooked) – 50 mg
  • Walnuts (¼ cup) – 45 mg
  • Tofu (4 oz. always organic) – 40 mg
  • Plain yogurt (6 oz) – 30 mg

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  • Based on the list above, you see that your best sources are nuts, beans, and dairy. Look at what you are eating on a daily basis and see if you can get your magnesium up to 400. Consider it a challenge!