Our bodies need a wide range of vitamins and minerals in order to remain healthy and to develop fully as we become adults. Two of the most important are magnesium and calcium, although most of us are really only aware of calcium’s benefits to bone structure.

But why are magnesium and calcium so important? 

Let’s break down why these minerals are so crucial for bodily health so you know how and why you should prioritize them in a well-rounded diet or supplement regimen.

Why Does Your Body Need Magnesium?

Magnesium is a crucial vitamin for your bones, despite not getting nearly as much advertising attention as calcium. For example, magnesium helps the small, crystal-like mineral structures in your bones gain strength and retain their density over time.

Perhaps most importantly, your body needs magnesium so it can absorb enough calcium for overall health and long-term strength. In addition to these benefits, magnesium is crucial for allowing normal muscular function, balancing your metabolism, balancing electrolytes, and even assisting with protein synthesis.

It’s a versatile, crucial mineral in more ways than one.

What About Calcium?

Calcium, of course, is necessary for skeletal health. In fact, this mineral is the most abundant out of all essential minerals found in your body. Almost all of it is in your bones or teeth.

Your bones need calcium in order to develop and grow as well as to retain their strength and density up to age 25. After this point, your bones gradually begin to lose density as they get older, so you still need calcium to slow this decline.

Along with helping your skeleton remain healthy, calcium is necessary for muscular function, neurotransmission, the function of certain digestive enzymes, and the blood clotting process which allows you from losing too much blood when you get small scratches or scrapes.

A Magnesium/Calcium Balance is Key

While both magnesium and calcium are crucial in and of themselves, they are also necessary for each other. In short, without magnesium, calcium wouldn’t be as effective, and vice versa.

In fact, calcium would gradually become toxic as it built up in your body if you didn’t have magnesium to balance it out. Calcium would gradually be deposited in the soft tissues and cartilage of your body instead of in the bones, leading to numerous health problems.

Hormone and Vitamin Balancing

Magnesium also plays a balancing role in your body through other means. For example, when your body has too much calcium in your blood, your body releases calcitonin, a specific hormone that also prevents your body from secreting the parathyroid hormone or PTH.

Why does this matter? In short, calcitonin helps your bones absorb more calcium. The PTH, on the other hand, takes calcium out of your bones and deposits it in soft tissues. Therefore, when you absorb magnesium, your body literally becomes better at depositing calcium where it will do the most good, as well as avoids health complications.

The absorption process doesn’t stop there. In truth, your body needs two vitamins in order to absorb calcium properly: vitamins D and K (technically K1 and K2). Your body can’t make vitamin D in its active form, called calcitriol, without magnesium. The same goes for vitamin K.

Heartbeat Regulation

Magnesium and calcium are both necessary for heartbeat regulation. Calcium, for example, makes various muscles contract, and your heart is one big muscle. Magnesium causes your muscles to relax. As you can imagine, both minerals are necessary for a regulated, rhythmic heartbeat. 

In addition, various electrical impulses provoke calcium atoms within your heart muscle’s cells, and magnesium balances this effect so your heart doesn’t seize up.

Ultimately, it’s no use considering whether magnesium or calcium is more important than the other. Your body needs both in an appropriate balance in order to stay healthy.

Where to Get Magnesium and Calcium

Magnesium and calcium are both common minerals that can be found in a variety of delicious foods. Here are some examples.

To get enough magnesium in your diet, try to eat foods like:

  • Brown rice
  • Seafood
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews, and more
  • Seeds like sunflower and sesame
  • Legumes and lentils

If you want to add more calcium to your diet, prioritize these foods and drinks:

  • Milk alternatives
  • Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach and kale
  • Turnips
  • Beans
  • Sesame seeds

Of course, you can also get magnesium and calcium from various supplements.

A Note on Magnesium/Calcium Supplements and Bioavailability

While magnesium and calcium supplements can be valuable, it’s important to note the bioavailability of both minerals so that you take any supplements correctly and efficiently.

For example, calcium has a bioavailability (which is a measurement of the absorption rate of the mineral) of about 30%. So whatever calcium you consume, your body will only absorb about 30% of it in a single dose.

Because of this, it’s usually smarter to take several smaller doses or supplements of calcium multiple times per day rather than taking all of your daily required calcium in a single large pill or tablet.

Magnesium bioavailability, on the other hand, can vary from supplement to supplement. Ultimately, you should double-check the bioavailability of any magnesium or calcium supplement before adding it to your health plan.

Summary

As you can see, both magnesium and calcium are essential minerals for your body. They play a key role both in balancing one another and enabling the absorption of each other for maximum skeletal and muscular health. 

Be sure to get plenty in your diet through either food and drink choices or through healthy supplements to maximize holistic wellness.

Sources

Magnesium | NIH

Calcium | NIH

Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function | NCBI

Calcium and Calcium Supplements | Mayo Clinic

Electrical System of the Heart | UofM Health 

Bioavailability of Calcium and Magnesium | NCBI