Parents have a challenging job ensuring their kids get enough essential nutrients from foods.
Part of the challenge involves knowing enough about various vitamins, minerals, and how they work together. Magnesium, for example, works closely with calcium. Here’s why kids need it.
Magnesium for Mental Health
First of all, kids who don’t consume enough magnesium experience the same symptoms as adults: muscle twitches, muscle spasms, constipation, trouble sleeping, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, and irritability. These unpleasant symptoms can make it difficult for children to learn, play, and engage in everyday activities.
Children are under-diagnosed when it comes to magnesium deficiency. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), juvenile delinquency, and childhood depression are associated with magnesium deficiency, and some experts say these conditions can be caused by the deficiency.
Magnesium is involved in more than 600 biochemical processes in the body. Therefore, lacking sufficient magnesium has the potential to impact dozens of bodily functions.
On the plus side, magnesium has been shown help prevent and manage mental challenges that are common to children.
Sufficient magnesium is associated with reduced behavior problems, including ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
Magnesium also plays a big role in boosting brain function, which is critical for learning.
Stress is a big part of our lives, and the lives of our children. Magnesium is important for regulating the nervous system and helping to prevent anxiety, nervousness, stress, and irritability, as well as support better sleep. Magnesium can help with insomnia.
Magnesium for Bone Health
Magnesium is also a critical mineral for bone health, and it is essential for children to consume enough magnesium to work in sync with calcium and other minerals to establish a strong bone infrastructure early in life.
When a child is taken off dairy for allergies, constipation, bowel upsets, or frequent infections, parents will often ask, “How can my kids get calcium for their bones if I don’t give them dairy?” But it is unlikely they ask about magnesium.
They should, and here’s why.
A 2013 study showed that the amount of magnesium consumed and absorbed by the body is a key predictor of a child’s bone health. The researchers found that intake of dietary calcium was not significantly associated with the total bone mineral content or density.
This 2013 study presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington validates magnesium’s vital importance. It confirms that magnesium works synergistically with calcium.
Magnesium regulates the proper amount of calcium in a child’s body and marches it straight into the bones. Calcium, if it’s not balanced with magnesium, ends up depositing in a child’s kidneys, coronary arteries, and cartilage, not in the bones and teeth where it is needed the most.
“Calcium is important, but, except for those children and adolescents with very low intakes, may not be more important than magnesium,” said lead researcher, Steven A. Abrams, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
For researchers to boldly state that calcium “may not be more important than magnesium” represents a huge breakthrough in helping people grasp the importance of magnesium in bone health. Until now, it’s been all about calcium for both children and adults.
How Much Magnesium Do Kids Need?
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following daily intake of magnesium for children.
- Up to 6 months: 30 mg
- Age 6 to 12 months: 75 mg
- Age 1 to 3 years: 80 mg
- Age 4 to 8 years: 130 mg
- Age 9 to 13 years: 240 mg
- Age 14 to 18 years: 360 mg for females and 410 mg for males
If you want to identify how much magnesium your child is consuming every day, keep a record of their food intake for two or three days. You can estimate magnesium intake using various nutritional information websites or an app.
How Can You Convince Kids to Get More Magnesium?
Foods that are magnesium-rich include leafy green veggies, dark chocolate, beans, nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, whole grains, yogurt, bananas, and dried fruit. Unless your child likes and eats many of these foods on a regular basis, he or she may have low magnesium levels.
Smoothies are a great way to introduce magnesium without being obvious about it. Throw dark chocolate, nuts, avocado, dark leafy greens, and a banana in a blender with milk or a substitute for an amazing smoothie.
Another way to incorporate more magnesium-rich foods into your diet is to sprinkle nuts and/or seeds on cereal or yogurt. You can also snack on bananas and dried fruit, choose whole-grain cereals and bread, and make desserts that incorporate nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
If all else fails, or you just want to be sure, supplements may be an important way to get magnesium, especially since the USDA had warned that the level of magnesium in foods has dropped by more than half in the last 100 years.
It’s best to select a multivitamin/mineral or multi-mineral supplement that offers a balance of minerals. Discuss your child’s magnesium supplement needs with a knowledgeable health care professional and be sure to let the professional know about your child’s dietary magnesium intake.
Andrea Donsky is an author, registered holistic nutritionist, editor-in-chief of NaturallySavvy.com, and co-founder of The Healthy Shopper Inc. and Naturally Savvy Media. This article was first published on NaturallySavvy.com