We all know that we are what we eat, that our bodies are made of elements that are required to build and maintain this mortal coil; 99% of our bodies are composed of just six elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen nitrogen, phosphorous and calcium, (made memorable by the acronym CHONPC). Five other elements, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine and magnesium make up the remaining 1%. Yet all of these elements are our clay, and all are essential for life. Miss out on a few of these and suffer the consequences. And there are other trace elements found in our bodies too, some of which are essential in their given role, like fluorine, which seems to only harden tooth enamel. Interestingly, when one considers our evolution, all of these elements are found in the earth’s crust, so they are easy to access, and easy to introduce to our bodies, which are in constant need of growth, metabolic function, maintenance and repair. Our delivery system is both wondrous and mundane, it is often bland and it is often delicious and it is called eating and drinking. We eat and drink all these elements from the earth’s crust when we feed on the plants that grow out of it and the animals that live on it and swim the waters that cover it. As adults we all know this. But when we tell it to our kids, they are understandable cynical. “You’re telling me that my skeleton comes from this glass of milk? You’re kidding, right?” We thought we’d have a look at some of these vital elements and discover what they do exactly for us, what happens to us if we don’t get enough, what the best foods are to deliver them. Some of these we have never given ay thought to, really. Magnesium, for example. Don’t hey make racecar wheels out of magnesium? Isn’t there something called Milk of Magnesia,is that related? What is magnesium exactly? Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal, shiny, bright, hard and light, so yes, they made cool wheels out of magnesium in the sixties known as “Mag-wheels”. Despite that it is also an element that is required daily in up to 300 biomechanical reactions in the body including the synthesis of proteins, in energy transfer systems and for the maintenance and composition of anatomy, specifically in bones, muscle and nerve tissue. Magnesium also helps to maintain a strong immune system and regular heart rhythm. Although we do not require much of it on a daily basis, (around 300-320 mg) magnesium deficiency is common in the average North American’s diet with only an estimated 25% of the population receiving the recommended daily amount. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders and irritability, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction.
It’s pretty easy to get enough magnesium in your daily diet as long as you eat right and keep a balanced diet. Foods high in magnesium include dark leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds, especially squash or pumpkin seeds, fish, beans and pulses like lentils, whole grains, avocados, dairy, bananas and other fruit and chocolate. With such a wide variety of foods giving us ample quantities of magnesium, it seems implausible that most people do not get enough. It is amazing how eating a piece of fruit, or a piece of spanakopita, or indulging in a bit of chocolate can improve your mood, your overall health and your mental disposition, mainly due to the chemical reactions thanks to a little magnesium doing it’s stuff. Are you getting enough magnesium in your diet?