Magnesium is one of the biological elements essential for optimal human health, found in abundance in the human body alongside potassium, sodium, and calcium.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy cell growth and development. Without adequate amounts of magnesium, cells will die, and over 300 enzyme systems will be severely affected, including protein synthesis, nerve function, and DNA production.
Also, magnesium is necessary for the activation of vitamin B1 (thiamine), intracellular homeostasis, and the utilization of essential nutrients (e.g., calcium, zinc, and iron). These are reasons why magnesium is crucial to children’s overall growth and development.
Unfortunately, the number of children with magnesium deficiency continues to increase. If left untreated, it can lead to dysfunctional metabolism and other physical and mental health concerns.
But don’t worry; there’s a spray, gummy, and transdermal patch for kids that may help maintain healthy magnesium levels. Of course, it’s best to consult a doctor before trying any of these, especially when taking other medications.
Keep reading this post to learn more about the role of magnesium in your child’s growth and development.
The Importance Of Magnesium In Growing Children
Parents typically focus on teaching their kids the importance of iron and calcium in growth and development. But they don’t pay as much attention to magnesium despite being an essential mineral in over 300 bodily functions and reactions.
Here are the benefits for children magnesium offers:
- Promotes Bone Development
Did you know magnesium is as essential as calcium in bone development? Yes, although you may not hear it as much as calcium.
Magnesium is necessary for healthy metabolic activity and calcium absorption. It helps convert vitamin D into its active form and regulates hormones vital for bone growth and development.
Healthy magnesium levels are essential for children because it helps increase their bone mass in their early years. That way, by the time they reach their adolescent years, their bone mass will be at its peak.
- Makes Kids Calm And Happy
Low magnesium levels are associated with attention issues, irritability, and mood swings. Children under physical or mental stress are more likely to exhibit symptoms of magnesium deficiency. This is because the body needs magnesium to respond effectively to stress.
In addition, optimal magnesium levels are linked to healthy neurological functions and the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, particularly GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA promotes relaxation and sleep, helping kids be happier, calmer, and more focused.
- Supports Energy Production
Magnesium plays a crucial role in a child’s energy production, particularly cell growth, cell regeneration, enzymatic activities, muscle strength, and protein synthesis. So, if your kids seem listless, it might be because of low magnesium levels. But why?
Adenosine triphosphate is the source of the body’s energy supply. It’s an essential molecule that converts food into energy to fuel bodily functions and reactions. Can you guess what this process needs? You’re right; it’s magnesium.
The energy mineral can also reduce the pain felt during growth spurts. It helps relieve muscle contraction, because without magnesium, kids will be prone to muscle cramps and weakness.
- Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Low magnesium levels are associated with diabetes because the body needs optimal amounts of this mineral to regulate blood sugar levels properly. Also, research states that those with higher magnesium intake are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
In addition, a 2016 review states that magnesium supplements may help boost insulin sensitivity, an essential factor that controls blood sugar levels.
This is another reason why kids should maintain optimal magnesium levels. This way, they’ll reduce the risk of developing diabetes as they age. However, this will depend on the food they consume growing up.
So, to help kids prevent diabetes, make sure they take enough magnesium daily and be mindful of what they eat. It’d be best to train your kids not to consume too many sweets as early as possible. This way, it’ll be easy for them to control their sugar intake.
- Promotes Heart Health
Help kids avoid cardiovascular diseases as they grow up with optimal magnesium levels.
Magnesium is essential to keeping kids’ hearts healthy and strong. Experts believe magnesium supplements may help regulate blood pressure levels, which can cause heart disease. In fact, a 2018 review associated healthy magnesium levels with reduced risks of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart complications.
On top of that, another review showed that magnesium supplements might help improve risk factors associated with heart disease. These include low- and high-density lipoprotein (LDL and HDL) cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.
Other benefits magnesium may offer to your child’s growth and development include the following:
- Promotes the production of antibodies, strengthening kids’ immune system
- Supports protein synthesis, which is crucial in building strong muscles
- Helps kids concentrate and focus
- Helps regulate healthy bowel movements by acting as a mild laxative
- Supports the nervous system and promotes healthy nerve function
- Helps the body absorb the nutrients it needs, such as zinc, potassium, and vitamin D
- Helps manage mental health issues, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety
These benefits might be enough to convince parents about the importance of magnesium in their children’s growth and development. Without it, it’ll be difficult for kids to grow healthy and strong.
The Risk Of Low Magnesium Levels
Low magnesium levels can lead to magnesium deficiency. It may not be as common as other micronutrient deficiencies. But because of the increasing consumption of processed foods among children, magnesium deficiency is becoming more common.
Children with digestive problems (e.g., chronic diarrhea, celiac disease, etc.) may also develop magnesium deficiency. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, hyperactivity, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, and weakness.
As the deficiency progresses, other symptoms may develop, including irregular heartbeat, seizures, muscle spasms and cramps, tingling, and numbness.
Can magnesium deficiency affect the behavior of a child? Unfortunately, it can, and it may cause symptoms like moodiness, irritability, inability to focus or concentrate, and anxiety. High magnesium levels may help improve these behavioral issues.
Other signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency may include the following:
- Teeth grinding (bruxism)
- Sensitivity to noise
- Panic attacks
If your child shows any of the symptoms mentioned, you may consult a pediatrician. They can give your kids a supplement they can take to increase their magnesium levels. Or, you may visit a dietician to create a diet plan that will help restore your child’s magnesium levels to normal.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Magnesium For Growing Children
Here are a few dos and don’ts you might want to consider when giving magnesium to your kids:
- Do Ask A Doctor Before Giving Magnesium Supplements: This is a no-brainer. Parents should consult a doctor before giving their kids supplements, especially if their kids take other medications that may interact with magnesium.
- Don’t Forget To Visit A Dietician: Dieticians can create a diet plan that will help optimize the magnesium levels of your kids. Usually, the diet will focus on whole foods, such as spinach, rolled oats, almonds, chia seeds, etc.
- Do Follow The Right Dosage: When giving magnesium supplements to kids, make sure to follow the dosage prescribed by the doctor to prevent overdosage. Magnesium overdose may cause symptoms like vomiting, low blood pressure, and fatigue.
- Don’t Let Kids Take Supplements If They Have Kidney Problems: If your child has kidney problems, it’s best not to give them magnesium supplements. It may only worsen their condition.
Follow these simple tips to ensure your kids are safe when giving them magnesium supplements.
How Much Magnesium Should Your Kids Take?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the right amount of magnesium for kids depends on age and gender. Here’s a simple guide showing the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for magnesium:
- Infants Six Months Or Less: 30 mg of magnesium
- Seven To 12 Months Old: 75 mg of magnesium
- One To Three Years Old: 80 mg of magnesium
- Four To Eight Years Old: 130 mg of magnesium
- Nine To 13 Years Old: 240 mg of magnesium
- 14 To 18 Years Old: 410 mg (boys), 360 mg (girls), 400 mg (pregnant), and 360 mg (lactating) of magnesium
For reference, a medium-sized banana contains 32 mg of magnesium, while a tablespoon of peanut butter contains 49 mg. Additionally, a quarter cup of roasted pumpkin seeds (about an ounce) contains 156 mg of the essential mineral.
What Are The Best Sources Of Magnesium?
Magnesium can be found in a wide range of nutrient-dense foods, such as nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Help your kids meet their daily magnesium requirement with these healthy foods below.
- Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, with approximately 65 mg per ounce or 28-gram serving. Also, it’s rich in manganese, copper, iron, and prebiotic fiber, an essential food for good gut bacteria.
On top of that, dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants. These are compounds that can reduce free radicals, which can cause cell damage, leading to diseases (e.g., cancer).
Furthermore, dark chocolate is good for the heart. It contains flavanols that can prevent LDL levels from sticking to the cells that pass through your arteries.
When giving dark chocolate to kids, always go for ones that contain higher cocoa solids (65%, 70%, 80%, etc.). The higher percentage, the better. But if your kids don’t like its bitter taste, try feeding them with a bit lower cocoa percentage (e.g., 50%).
Avocado is a highly nutritious fruit and an excellent source of magnesium. A medium-sized avocado can provide 58 mg of magnesium. Plus, it’s rich in potassium, vitamin K, and B vitamins. And it’s high in fat, particularly the healthy one—monounsaturated fat.
Aside from that, avocados are a great source of fiber. Most carbs are derived from fiber, making them less digestible than simple carbs (e.g., white rice, table sugar, candies, etc.).
Furthermore, a study in 2019 showed that avocados might help reduce inflammation, increase satiety, and improve good cholesterol levels.
Nuts aren’t just tasty; they’re nutritious as well. However, not all nuts may contain good amounts of magnesium.
Some nuts that are rich in magnesium are almonds, Brazil nuts, and cashews. For example, an ounce or 28 grams of cashews may contain around 83 mg of the essential mineral.
In addition, most nuts are high in monounsaturated fat and fiber. They also improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Plus, they’re anti-inflammatory and good for the heart.
Legumes include soybeans, chickpeas, peas, beans, and lentils. They’re rich in plenty of nutrients, including magnesium. For example, a cup (172 g) of cooked beans contains 120 mg of magnesium.
In addition, legumes are high in iron and potassium and are one of the best sources of protein among vegetarians and vegans.
Since legumes have a low glycemic index, they may help reduce harmful cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart problems and improve blood sugar levels.
However, feeding kids legumes might be difficult. If that’s the case, consider incorporating it into some hearty dishes they usually enjoy.
Tofu is a popular alternative to meat due to its high protein content. It’s made by pressing soybean milk, which extracts the water leaving white curds, also known as bean curd.
A 100-gram serving of tofu contains 35 mg of magnesium and 15 g of protein. It’s also high in manganese, selenium, calcium, and iron.
In addition, some studies indicate that tofu and other soy-based products may help protect the cells around the arteries and reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
Like legumes, seeds are healthy and full of nutrients. Seeds like flax, chia, and pumpkin contain an impressive amount of magnesium. For example, a 168-gram serving of pumpkin seeds offers a whopping 168 mg of magnesium.
In addition, seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats, and iron. Plus, they’re extremely rich in fiber. In fact, most carbs in various seeds can be derived from fiber.
Other excellent sources of magnesium include whole grains (e.g., rolled oats), fatty fish (e.g., salmon), bananas, and leafy greens (e.g., kale and spinach).
Magnesium is one of the essential minerals your child needs to grow and develop properly. Low magnesium levels, if left untreated, can lead to magnesium deficiency. You can help your child increase their magnesium intake by feeding them dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, and the like.
If you think your child has a magnesium deficiency, consult a doctor for supplements that may help restore normal magnesium levels. Or, visit a dietician to give for a diet plan your child needs.