Best Food Sources Of Magnesium

  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary

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Magnesium is vital for good health and is critical to many body functions. Foods rich in magnesium include legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and dark chocolate.

Magnesium, the second most abundant mineral inside our cells, following potassium, is crucial for over 600 bodily reactions. It plays a vital role in energy production and protein synthesis and significantly impacts our heart, muscles, and nerves.1 Insufficient magnesium levels, as indicated by research, can lead to disruptions in these areas.

Beyond physical health, magnesium contributes to stress reduction and better sleep quality.2 Numerous studies consistently emphasise its positive effects on our overall well-being. Foods rich in magnesium encompass legumes, fibre-packed whole grains, leafy greens, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and the occasional indulgence of dark chocolate.

This article discusses various foods known for their high levels of magnesium.

Foods rich in magnesium

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain generous amounts of protein, fibre, healthy fats, and minerals like magnesium. Here are some examples with high magnesium content:

  • Pumpkin seeds (hulled, roasted): 1 ounce (28g) = 150 mg of magnesium
  • Almonds (roasted): 1 ounce = 80 mg of magnesium
  • Flaxseed (whole): 1 ounce = 40 mg of magnesium
  • Chia seeds: 1 ounce = 111 mg of magnesium
  • Peanuts (dry roasted): 1 ounce = 49 mg of magnesium
  • Cashews (roasted): 1 ounce = 72 mg of magnesium

Legumes

Legumes from the Fabaceae family are a powerhouse of health benefits. They include beans and lentils, abundant in fibre, protein, and crucial vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Being plant-based means, they're naturally cholesterol free, with low fat and no saturated fat. Adding these nutrient-rich legumes to your meals is an excellent approach to boosting a healthy lifestyle.3 Here are some examples to consider.

  • Black beans (boiled): 1/2 cup = 60 mg of magnesium
  • Lima beans (cooked): 1/2 cup = 40 mg of magnesium
  • Edamame (cooked): 1/2 cup = 50 mg of magnesium

Fibre-rich whole grains

Whole-grain foods are a valuable addition to a healthy diet, providing a rich source of vitamins, fibre, minerals, and essential nutrients. They play a crucial role in regulating cholesterol levels, weight, and blood pressure while significantly reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues. 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that at least half of all grains consumed are whole grains (Mayo Clinic). Whole grains boast a significant amount of magnesium, making them an even more compelling addition to the diet.

  • Quinoa (boiled): 1/2 cup = 60 mg of magnesium
  • Cereal (shredded wheat): 1 cup = 56 mg of magnesium
  • Brown rice (cooked): 1/2 cup‌= 42 mg
  • Bread (whole wheat): 2 slices = 46 mg of magnesium

Low-fat dairy products

Milk and dairy products are one of the primary sources of dietary magnesium. However, the emphasis on calcium often overshadows their substantial magnesium. Yet, this magnesium contribution is significant for our diet and deserves more attention.4

  • Milk (non-fat): 1 cup = 24 to 27 mg of magnesium
  • Low-fat yoghurt (plain): 8 oz = 42 mg of magnesium

Greens

Dark and leafy greens have a reputation as superfoods, and magnesium content is

  • Spinach (boiled): 1/2 cup = 78 mg of magnesium
  • Collard greens: 1/2 cup = 25 mg of magnesium
  • Swiss chard (boiled): 1/2 cup = 75 mg of magnesium

Fruit

Some fruits, especially avocados, provide a good source of magnesium. It is suggested that to two servings of fruit be included daily as part of a healthy diet. Consider the following also to reap the benefits of magnesium:

  • Avocados:(1 whole) = 58 mg of magnesium
  • Bananas: (1 medium) = 32 mg of magnesium
  • Blackberries: 1 cup = 29 mg of magnesium
  • Papaya: (1 small) = 33 mg of magnesium

Vegetables

To meet your magnesium goals, consider the following:

  • Garden peas: 1/2 cup = 31 mg of magnesium
  • Sweet corn: 1/2 cup = 27 mg of magnesium
  • Potatoes: (1 medium with skin) = 48 mg of magnesium

Chocolate

Dark chocolate is confirmed to be an excellent source of magnesium. The chocolate containing 90% cocoa is also a good source of zinc, which is important for the immune system, and selenium.5

  • Dark chocolate (70%-85% cocoa): 1 oz = 64 milligrams of magnesium
  • Cocoa powder (unsweetened): 1 tablespoon = 27 mg of magnesium

Additional magnesium sources

  • Soymilk (plain): 1 cup = 61 mg of magnesium
  • Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons = 49 mg of magnesium
  • Oatmeal (instant): 1 packet= 36 mg of magnesium
  • Salmon (Atlantic, farmed): 3 oz= 26 mg of magnesium
  • Halibut (cooked): 3 oz= 24 mg of magnesium
  • Beef (ground, 10% fat): 3 oz=20 mg of magnesium
  • Chicken breast (roasted) :3 oz = 22 mg of magnesium
  • Raisins: 1/2 cup = 23 mg of magnesium
  • Broccoli (cooked): = 12 mg of magnesium
  • Rice (white, cooked): 1/2 cup = 10 mg of magnesium
  • Apple: (1 medium) = 9 mg of magnesium
  • Carrot (raw): (1 medium) = 7 mg of magnesium

How much magnesium do you need daily?

The required magnesium intake is as follows:

  • 310-320mg per day for those assigned female at birth (19 to 64 years)
  • 400-420mg per day for those assigned male at birth (19 to 64 years)

Could an imbalance, whether an excess or deficiency of Magnesium, pose health risks?

Magnesium found naturally in food sources is not harmful and does not require limitations. However, consuming magnesium through supplements should be done with caution, as exceeding the recommended upper limit. Always seek guidance from a healthcare provider before consuming higher doses of magnesium through supplements.

While magnesium deficiency because of low due dietary intake is uncommon among healthy individuals, ongoing low intake, or excessive magnesium loss resulting from conditions such as chronic alcoholism, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, intestinal surgery, or specific medication use can elevate the risk of magnesium deficiency.

Other factors that can decrease the concentration of magnesium in the body include:

  • Excessive consumption of salt
  • Excessive consumption of coffee or soda
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Long-term stress
  • Abnormal sweating

Some initial signs of magnesium deficiency include

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness

As the magnesium deficiency progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle contractions and cramps
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Coronary spasms (a constriction of the muscles in the wall of an artery that sends blood to the heart)

Severe Magnesium deficiency include:

Tips to ensure enough magnesium in your diet

Adding these foods to your diet meets the recommended magnesium intake and provides various health benefits.

  • Five portions of fruits and vegetables per day
  • One ounce (28g) of nuts or seeds per day
  • One portion of legumes most days of the week
  • At least three portions of whole grains per day

Summary

Magnesium is richly present in nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, dairy, greens, dark chocolate, and fruits like avocados and bananas, playing a pivotal role in supporting heart, bone, and muscle functions vital for overall health. While getting magnesium from food is safe, excessive supplementation can lead to side effects. Being mindful of supplement intake is crucial to stay safe and avoid potential complications.

Recognising signs of deficiency, such as nausea, fatigue, and muscle weakness that can progress to severe issues like heart irregularities is crucial. Understanding these symptoms and conditions related to magnesium levels is essential for maintaining a balance between intake and seeking medical advice when necessary.

References

  1. de Baaij JHF, Hoenderop JGJ, Bindels RJM. Magnesium in man: implications for health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2015 Jan;95(1):1–46. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25540137/
  2. Pickering G, Mazur A, Trousselard M, Bienkowski P, Yaltsewa N, Amessou M, et al. Magnesium status and stress: the vicious circle concept revisited. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Nov 28 [cited 2024 Jan 8];12(12):3672. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7761127/
  3. Polak R, Phillips EM, Campbell A. Legumes: health benefits and culinary approaches to increase intake. Clin Diabetes. 2015 Oct;33(4):198–205.Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26487796/
  4. Oh HE, Deeth HC. Magnesium in milk. International Dairy Journal    [Internet]. 2017 Aug 1 [cited 2024 Jan 8];71:89–97. Available from:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095869461730070
  5. Cinquanta L, Di Cesare C, Manoni R, Piano A, Roberti P, Salvatori G. Mineral essential elements for nutrition in different chocolate products. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Nov;67(7):773–8.Available from:  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27346251/

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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