From soothing meditation sessions to challenging, sweaty workouts, everyone has their own ways of dealing with stress and anxiety. Many people say that eating a healthy and balanced diet has the power to seriously shift your mood, too, and there's one nutrient in particular that you might want to pay more attention to here. Magnesium can help relieve stress, and it's found in a variety of foods that you probably already eat on the reg. But considering its awesome benefits, I'm sure you're wondering now how you can go about getting more of it on your dinner plate.
First of all, let's break down what exactly magnesium is. Put simply, it's a mineral that everyone naturally has in their body, and without it, you basically wouldn't be able to produce enough energy to make it through your usual day, and your muscles would be permanently tensed and flexed — which, quite frankly, sounds super uncomfortable.
Now, even though you already have magnesium naturally in your body, it's important to try to get a lot of the nutrient into your diet, given the significant benefits it can have for your quality of life. Moreover, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, a physician who focuses on alternative medicine, roughly 80 percent of Americans aren't getting enough magnesium. So yeah, we could all stand to include the mineral more in our diets, whether that be via eating more magnesium-rich foods or taking actual supplements.
Magnesium plays a role in a lot of things happening inside your body, and yes, it does have some influence over how much stress you feel or hold onto.
According to Calm Clinic, an online resource for information about anxiety, magnesium is at least partially involved in regulating more than 300 chemical reactions within your body, many of which have to do with feelings of anxiety and stress. If you're a more wound-up person in general, and you tend to joke that you're literally always stressed out, that could translate to depleted magnesium levels in your body. Basically, when you feel stressed out, your body tries to combat those feelings with certain chemical changes and reactions, and in the process, it uses up some of that natural magnesium stored in your body. It appears that, the less magnesium in your body, the harder it is for you to fight off feelings of stress.
On a slightly related note, there's an amino acid in the body called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). You may have heard of it in passing as something people take as a supplement to help reduce anxiety and increase the "happy hormones" in the brain, so to speak. The reason you should know a thing or two about GABA, in addition to your new nutrient friend magnesium, is because magnesium actually stimulates the GABA receptors in your brain, which in turn creates an incredibly calming effect that quells the stress and restlessness you would otherwise feel if your GABA levels were low.
OK, this technical talk about how powerful magnesium can be is great and all, but the real question is, how do you get more of it into your body?
It's actually not all that hard to get more magnesium in your diet, and it's usually not necessary at all to supplement it in pill form. Magnesium is typically found in beans and nuts, whole grains, and green leafy veggies — so basically, things that are already healthy for you in other ways, and are naturally part of any well-rounded nutritious diet. A whole-grain sandwich with almond butter and honey? Magnesium central, fam. A huge spinach salad with all the toppings? Oh yeah, hit me up with that heaping dose of magnesium.
Of course, keep in mind that magnesium isn't a cure-all for any and all cases of stress or anxiety. It's always in your best interest to speak with your doctor if your anxiety feels like it's negatively affecting your everyday life in any way, and if other coping strategies you've tried don't seem to be working.
But it certainly doesn't hurt to know which foods will do your brain and body some good, so you can make it a point to treat your body to those delicious nutrients. Eat up, fam!