Magnesium—an essential mineral that researchers already believe helps control high blood pressure, ease muscle cramps and constipation, prevent osteoporosis, and relieve anxiety—may also help reduce inflammation, says a recent study from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Researchers reviewed data from more than 10,000 subjects in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. They found that when total daily intake of magnesium fell below the RDA (320 mg/day for women older than 30; 420 mg/day for men older than 30), subjects were 40 percent more likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein, an indicator of acute inflammation.

"Too much inflammation has been shown to be a risk for future heart attacks and strokes in several studies," says lead author Dana E. King, MD, MS, a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. "This study provides evidence that consuming magnesium at government-recommended levels is associated with lower levels of inflammation. Further, consuming magnesium in the form of supplements appears to be beneficial—if for some reason people are unable to consume sufficient magnesium in the diet."

Debra Boutin, MS, RD, a nutrition professor at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, recommends getting dietary magnesium from green leafy vegetables, whole unprocessed grains, and nuts. "Excellent sources also include spinach, brown rice, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, avocado, and soybeans," she says.