Winter is the season when some of us feel less energetic and more depressed. Living in California our winters are mild but our family in the Midwest has to cope with snow, sleet and crazy cold. Last week it was a shockingly 40 degrees below zero!!! I don’t miss that! Shorter days, extreme weather and not eating as well can cause the winter blues, however, consuming more magnesium can help!
Magnesium deficiency may be one of the reasons for feeling that way, (not just the cold). This extremely important nutrient plays a crucial role in elevating our mood. It is essential for the stability of cell function, RNA and DNA synthesis, and cell repair, as well as antioxidant function. All of these body functions are important for overall wellness.
Why The Winter Blues
Check this out, when there is a magnesium deficiency, neurons in the brain can not function well, causing damage which could manifest as depression. Magnesium deficits can be induced by stress hormones and excessive dietary calcium. (1)
Deficiencies of magnesium in the diet, coupled with excess calcium and stress may cause other related symptoms including agitation, anxiety, irritability, confusion, asthenia, sleeplessness, headache, delirium, hallucinations and hyper-excitability.
In other words, we are a little grumpy.
Nerdy Facts About Magnesium
- Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It is the ninth most abundant element in the universe.[
- Hundreds of enzymes require magnesium ions to function.
- Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D. All of the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seem to require magnesium, which acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidneys. (2)
Why The Shortage of Magnesium?
The magnesium consumption from food has decreased in the past few decades, because of industrialized agriculture and changes in our eating habits.
The standard diet in the United States contains about 50% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium, and as much as three-quarters of the total population is estimated to be consuming a magnesium-deficient diet.
Further more, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium for adults is 310 to 420 mg. It is estimated that more than 50% of women of a reproductive age do not consume the RDA for magnesium.5
The Top Food Sources of Magnesium
According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the top food sources of magnesium per average serving size are:
- shredded wheat cereal
- soy milk
- black beans
- peanut butter
- whole grain bread
The good news, magnesium can help the winter blues because it is widely distributed in plant and animal foods and in beverages. Green leafy vegetables, (that thrive in cooler temperatures) such as spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, are good sources.
Some types of food processing, such as refining grains in ways that remove the nutrient-rich germ and bran, lower magnesium content.
What and How Much
|Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce||80||20|
|Spinach, boiled, ½ cup||78||20|
|Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce||74||19|
|Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup||63||16|
|Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits||61||15|
|Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup||61||15|
|Black beans, cooked, ½ cup||60||15|
|Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup||50||13|
|Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons||49||12|
|Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices||46||12|
|Avocado, cubed, 1 cup||44||11|
|Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces||43||11|
|Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup||42||11|
|Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces||42||11|
|Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% of the DV for magnesium||40||10|
|Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet||36||9|
|Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup||35||9|
|Banana, 1 medium||32||8|
|Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces||26||7|
|Milk, 1 cup||24–27||6–7|
|Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces||24||6|
|Raisins, ½ cup||23||6|
|Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces||22||6|
|Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan broiled, 3 ounces||20||5|
|Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup||12||3|
|Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup||10||3|
|Apple, 1 medium||9||2|
|Carrot, raw, 1 medium||7||2|
**chart taken from the National Institute Of Health website
*DV = Daily Value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet.
The DV for magnesium used for the values in table above is 400 mg for adults and children age 4 years and older. This DV is changing to 420 mg as the updated Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels are implemented. So, start amping your intake up now! (3)
Body, Brain and Magnesium Moods
Magnesium Can Help
One way magnesium counters stress is by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter, one that puts the brakes on brain activity. When GABA is low, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position and it becomes impossible to relax.
If you are easily overwhelmed, disorganized, always find something new to worry about, or lay awake with racing thoughts, you likely have low GABA levels.
Magnesium Is Anti-Inflammatory
One of the most significant anti-anxiety properties of magnesium is that it is anti-inflammatory. Chronic inflammation can take hold anywhere in the body, even in your brain. Brain inflammation is linked to anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
Magnesium Increases Brain Plasticity
Your brain’s ability to heal itself, create new brain cells, and make new neural connections throughout life is known as brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity.
Magnesium is one of the few nutrients known to increase neuroplasticity. (4)
Magnesium Lifts Depression
In fact, 90% of those with an anxiety disorder experience depression and 85% of those with major depressive disorder are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Seems like, magnesium can help with both.
Not surprisingly, changes in dietary habits from whole food without preservatives to processed fast food has also added to the reduced magnesium intake. Wow, right here in black and white, life unprocessed is good for you!
Cure Those Winter Blues
Surprise, surprise another essential nutrient provided to us directly from the earth. In conclusion, Magnesium can definitely help the winter blues and is vital to our overall health. It is crucial for optimizing brain function. It supports enzyme activity for various organs and regulates our mood.
The best part is our food, the stuff grown from the earth, supplies us with this vital nutrient. So, let’s clean up our diets in 2019. Choose whole, organically grown foods and feel happier this year!