AS a child I was a finicky eater.
I recall many a battle at the dinner table over the fact that I would not eat my vegetables, and no matter how many threats I received or bribes I was promised, I simply refused to eat more than a bite or two of the greens placed on my plate.
How ironic that now, as an adult, my meals revolve around greens (most of which are raw), and I have become an advocate of nutrition and healthy eating.
But recalling the days of my childhood, I can’t help but chuckle as I remember the creative ways I disposed of the gruesome greens, thanks to our dog George.
Years later when I learned that I had a shortage of a particular mineral which may have been a contributing factor to the migraines I was experiencing at the time, I did a complete round-about and made peace with the dreaded vegetables of my youth.
But in a world where we routinely partake in high-fat fast foods, sweet drinks and sugary snacks, topped with a sedentary lifestyle, it can be rather difficult to get the daily nutritional values from the food we eat.
To the rescue. For years, nutritional experts have been advising of the benefits minerals contribute to our overall health, and of these minerals they advocate that one in particular trumps the rest. That mineral is magnesium.
Magnesium was once abundant in the soil and absorbed by plants, but thanks to the overuse of agricultural land and the processing of foods, this invaluable mineral has all but disappeared.
Many benefits. At a time when we have the best of medical care, why is it that illness is running rampant? The body cannot function properly without magnesium as its function is crucial for optimum health. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), in fact declares that magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and its lack highly contributes to many health compromises.
The NIH further states that this particular mineral “helps maintain normal muscle and nerve functions, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps maintain blood sugar levels within normal range, promotes normal blood pressure and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.”
Study after study concludes that magnesium may very well be the most important element needed by the body, as it is a co-factor in activating over 350 different biochemical reactions, including the production of energy, the creation of new cells, the contraction and relaxation of muscles, the activation of B-vitamins and the proper function of the nerves, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands and brain.
In another study published by the Stanford University Journal of the American College of Nutrition, it was claimed that an optimum level of magnesium could be just as effective as “Statin” drugs (drugs used to lower cholesterol) without the [harsh] side-effects.
And if all of these benefits are not impressive enough, it was recently reported in a health and medical findings magazine that a highly-absorbable form of magnesium may help neurotransmitters in the brain reverse some stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Health practitioners recommend a relatively small amount of magnesium, usually between 320 to 400 mg/per day, and warn that a deficiency may manifest itself in disorientation, cramping, tingling of the limbs and even seizures, as it is estimated that approximately 95 percent of our North American population is deficient of this mineral.
How to get your fill of magnesium. Most foods we consume on a daily basis have some magnesium value. Among the most popular are nuts, seafood, beans, rice and dairy, but the best sources are – my childhood nemesis – leafy greens such as broccoli, rapini and spinach.
Even though grains in their raw form are a good source of magnesium, it is interesting to note that the process of turning the kernel into white flour allows for the removal of the magnesium-rich germ (so called because it’s the part of the kernel that germinates into a new plant) and bran. Bread made from whole wheat grains has a higher content than its white-bread counterpart.
All’s well that ends well. With all of the knowledge that is available to us by means of reference material and medical data, it is easier than ever to educate oneself on the role of the nutrients needed to maintain our health.
And even though there still are illnesses that baffle both lay folks and medical professionals, one cannot help but observe that, with a bit of common sense and a little knowledge, it is possible to exercise the knowledge made available to us in keeping preventable ill-health at bay.
• Important: Always consult your doctor or health practitioner, as magnesium may interfere with certain medication, and may be harmful to those with kidney disease and failure. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding must check with their doctor prior to taking magnesium.