The Best Magnesium-Rich Foods For Optimal Health
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, up to 68% of Americans are magnesium deficient. In fact, some experts put that number closer to 80%! So are you getting enough?
Discover the TOP magnesium-rich foods and how to easily add them to your meals. Plus, learn why this mineral is essential to your diet.
Why Magnesium is Important
Magnesium is magnificent! This essential mineral is a veritable workhorse within your body, serving many important functions. If you’re an athlete, you probably know that magnesium helps to increase energy— it aids the production and transport of energy to cells, and it is vital for contracting and relaxing muscles.
Magnesium is involved in making protein, and helps many enzymes in the body to function properly. Magnesium is also needed for heart health, to regulate blood pressure, and for the body to produce antioxidants that ward off disease. Magnesium helps to create our DNA; it plays a critical role in transmissions within nerves, and in glucose and insulin metabolism, which is particularly important to prevent diabetes.
Magnesium’s #1 Role: Calcium Absorption
Did you know that vitamins and minerals often work together in your body to support numerous functions?
So often today stand-alone vitamins are sold in supplements like vitamin C or vitamin D, and so this crucial point gets lost. Vitamins and minerals need to interact with one another- to join forces- to give your body what it needs. This is especially true when it comes to building strong, healthy bones. You know you need calcium for healthy bone growth. Yet in order for calcium to be properly absorbed into your bones, you must have another key ingredient: magnesium.
This mineral combines with calcium to create an important bone-building power-duo. If you’re deficient in magnesium, calcium is not fully utilized and absorption problems occur. Studies have shown that magnesium keeps calcium dissolved in the blood, and without magnesium, calcium deposits are left in the kidneys (kidney stones), arteries and joints. Magnesium is also critical to moving calcium from food to the bones, because it affects calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate it.
“The more calcium you take without the balancing effect of magnesium, the more symptoms of magnesium deficiency and calcium excess you are liable to experience,” says Dr. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, magnesium expert and Medical Director of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association.
Are you getting enough?
No, probably not. Government health estimates have found that women need 320 mg of magnesium daily and men require 420 mg per day.
According to recent USDA surveys, the average intake of magnesium by women 19 to 50 years of age is about 260 mg/day, only 74% of the recommended amount. (And women over 50 get even less than 70% of their needs.) Men of the same age get about 350 mg/day, 94% of their daily requirements. However, men older than 70 and teenage girls are most likely to have the lowest amount of magnesium.
One of the reasons we don’t get enough is that our food supply has steadily become depleted in magnesium (due to soil changes that began in the early 1900s). Also, much of the water we drink today is not considered “hard” or mineral-rich, and magnesium in mineral water is approximately 30% more bioavailable than magnesium in most foods.
The Top 25 Magnesium Rich Food Sources
While hundreds of foods contain traces of this essential mineral, certain ones are naturally much higher in magnesium. Find ways to add them to meals! Include as many magnesium-rich foods in your diet as possible every day.
Fruits and veggies— Get your 8-10 servings per day. Green vegetables, especially leafy ones like kale and sea vegetables like kelp, are great sources of magnesium. That’s because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Other plant foods such as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds are good sources of magnesium. Grains such as wheat, rice, and quinoa are high in magnesium. But make sure you get them in their whole, natural, unrefined state.
Below is a list of foods that are a good source of magnesium. (Calculate the amounts on the list, considering that women need 320 mg daily and men require 420 mg per day.)
List of Magnesium Rich Foods (In milligrams, listed in order from highest to lowest)
|Food Item||Serving Size||Magnesium in Mg|
|Dark Chocolate||100 grams||327|
|Spinach, cooked||1 cup||157|
|Seeds, pumpkin and squash||1 oz approx (142 seeds)||151|
|Beans, black||1 cup||120|
|Fish: Mackerel, Pollock and Tuna||100 grams||97|
|Okra, frozen||1 cup||94|
|Beans and Lentils: White Beans, Kidney Beans, and Garbanzo Beans||100 grams||86|
|Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, Chard and Kale||100 grams||79|
|Dried Fruit: Prunes, Apricots, and Dates||100 grams||68|
|Plantain, raw||1 medium||66|
|Nuts, peanuts||1 oz||64|
|Whole grain cereal, cooked||1 cup||56|
|Soy milk||1 cup||47|
|Whole Grains: Brown Rice, Quinoa and Bulgur||100 grams||44|
|Whole grain cereal, ready-to-eat||3/4 cup||24|
|Whole wheat bread||1 slice||24|
|Broccoli, raw||1 cup||22|
USDA Nutrient Database for Standard References, Release 15 for Magnesium, Mg (mg)
1. Dark Chocolate – 327 mg
You crave dark chocolate because it’s the ultimate happiness food. Its cocoa fat and sugar increase serotonin, your “good mood” neurotransmitter; chocolate’s phenylethylamine is a natural “love drug” that releases endorphins similar to when you’re in love; and its caffeine offers a stimulating boost. The cocoa is also good for you: it is super high in magnesium: 80 grams (one-quarter bar) provides 25% of daily magnesium needs. It’s also well known for its polyphenol antioxidants that lower LDL cholesterol and boost heart health.
2. Halibut – 170 mg
Halibut is a low-fat fish, so it doesn’t have as much of the heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids as high-fat fish like salmon. However, it is an excellent source of lean, quality protein, and it’s chock-full of vitamins and minerals. A 3-ounce filet has 170 mg of magnesium– over half of your daily needs! It is also a source of calcium, iron, zinc, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin D and vitamin A.
3. Cooked Spinach – 157 mg
Spinach is packed with magnesium, especially when it’s cooked! It provides 157 mg in one cup, which is almost half of what you need in a day. This green superfood is also known for its high iron content. Remember to eat it with food that contains vitamin C to increase absorption of iron, and therefore gain more benefits. Also add healthy oil like extra virgin olive oil to the meal to increase absorption of spinach’s high amounts of vitamins A, E and K.
4. Pumpkin and Squash Seeds – 151 mg
Pumpkin seeds are a nutritious snack that helps you sleep! Pumpkin seeds are exceptionally high in magnesium: 2 tablespoons contain 74 mg, 25% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). They also offer 8 grams of protein and 8% of your daily iron needs. And because pumpkin seeds have high levels of the amino acid called tryptophan (that is more easily absorbed than in turkey), eating a handful at night will calm you. They will also increase melatonin levels– a hormone which helps induce sleep.
5. Black Beans – 120 mg
Like other legumes, black beans are a favorite vegetarian staple because of their high protein and fiber content, and low fat and cholesterol. They’re a rich source of magnesium: 1/2 cup = 60 mg. Black beans help strengthen bones because their magnesium is also combined with high calcium and phosphorus. They help manage diabetes because their fiber has been shown to improve blood sugar levels; and their antioxidants quercetin and saponins are said to be heart-healing. Try cooking them yourself by soaking overnight and then boiling. This reduces salt and increases flavor compared to canned beans.
6. Fish: Mackerel, Pollock and Tuna – 97 mg
In addition to being mega-sources of omega 3 fats and vitamin D, fatty fish like mackerel add more magnesium to your menu. They offer up to 1 mg of magnesium for every gram of fish. Therefore, a 3 ounce serving (85 grams) provides 85 mg of magnesium, about ¼ of daily requirements. According to the USDA, mackerel is among the top fish for omega 3; and like tuna, mackerel is also an important source of vitamin B12, the hard-to-get B vitamin often associated with red meat. Don’t disregard canned mackerel— it offers the same amounts of minerals and vitamins as fresh fish.
7. Okra – 94 mg
Have you tried okra? This sometimes overlooked veggie is said to aid your heart and eyesight, and reduce diabetes. It also boasts a long list of vitamins including A, C, K, and most B vitamins. Plus, minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese and copper. And what about magnesium? One serving (1 cup, lightly steamed) has 94 mg of magnesium, almost 1/3 of your day’s needs. Add it as a side dish for a healthy boost of protein and fiber, too. Toss the pods in oil and seasonings and grill them until slightly charred, or coat with seasoned flour and fry them.
8. Beans and Lentils – 68 mg
Legumes (beans, peas and lentils) are excellent sources of magnesium, fiber and folate. Top picks for magnesium (per ¾ cup) are soybeans, (111 mg), navy beans (72 mg) and pinto beans (64 mg). Don’t forget lentils; they deliver the most folate (which is used to make red blood cells) and are a great source of iron. Eating legumes four times a week helps lower high blood pressure and risks of breast cancer, weight gain, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
9. Almonds – 80 mg
A small handful of almonds (1 ounce) contains 20% of your daily requirements for magnesium. If you’re avoiding nuts because you are watching your weight, almonds are among the lowest-calorie nuts (160 calories/ounce), and 10% of an almond’s calories are not absorbed by the body because the fat is too difficult to break down. They have more calcium than any other nut, and lots of protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. They also score high in vitamin E and manganese (that same handful of almonds offers over 1/3 of daily requirements for each).
10. Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, Chard and Kale – 79 mg
We all know that dark leafy greens are a superfood, and one of the reasons is their magnesium content. Because of their high magnesium and low glycemic index, leafy vegetables are especially good for type 2 diabetics. Eating one serving per day is associated with a 9% lower risk of diabetes. Their high vitamin K is important to make osteocalcin, a protein essential for bone health; in studies, the risk of hip fracture in middle-aged women was decreased 45% when greens were eaten daily.
11. Dried Fruit: Prunes, Apricots and Dates – 68 mg
Nature’s candy? Since dehydrated fruit has its water removed, the concentrated version is extremely energy-dense and has increased nutrients compared to fresh fruit. Although some nutrients like vitamin C are lost during drying, magnesium remains high: for example, dates have 32 mg of magnesium per ½ cup. Meanwhile, dates are impressive, with more antioxidants than most fruits, and lots of iron and potassium. Even though they’re sweet, they’re low glycemic (due to high fiber) so they don’t spike blood sugar. They’re also high in phytoestrogen, and are said to help pregnant women dilate during labor. Dried apricots are healthy too, offering 47% of vitamin A needs, while prunes have 13% of iron required per day (per ½ cup). Prunes have also been shown to benefit bone health, too. For more, check out our post on Prunes and Osteoporosis.
Note: Watch for added sugar and sulfur dioxide preservative.
12. Plantain – 66 mg
Add this treat to your cart when you see it in the supermarket. Plantains are delicious sliced and pan-fried (only eaten cooked). They’re a staple food for millions of people in tropical countries due to their super dense source of starchy energy. In addition to magnesium (half a plantain offers 1/5 daily magnesium requirements), plantains also have iron, and more potassium than bananas. Plantains also have more vitamin A than bananas (accounting for 37.5% of daily requirements/100 g). And they’re rich in B vitamins, particularly B6, which not only reduces stress symptoms but heart attack and stroke risks.
13. Nuts, Peanuts – 64 mg
Although peanuts have gotten a bad reputation due to their allergenic tendencies, roasted peanuts rival the antioxidant content of blackberries and pomegranate. What’s more, they are richer in antioxidants than carrots and beets! One of those antioxidants is resveratrol, the famous phenol found in red wine. These tasty legumes (yes, they’re considered a legume!) also have lots of magnesium (64 mg/100 gram serving) and are an excellent source of B vitamins, copper and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
14. Avocado – 58 mg
This rich, creamy fruit is hard not to love! Add a sliced avocado to your salad or sandwich, and you’ll consume 15% of the magnesium you need in your day. Avocados are famous for their healthy monounsaturated fats, including oleic acid that protects against inflammation, heart disease and cancer. This super smooth treat is also very high in fiber, which accounts for 79% of the carbs in avocados; half an avocado has 4.5 grams of fiber, which can regulate appetite, feed friendly gut bacteria, and reduce diabetes risk. Avocados are also rich in vitamins B, C, E, and K.
15. Cooked Whole Grain Cereal – 56 mg
We all know that whole grain cereals are far better than processed ones, not only for their nutritious fiber and protein-rich germ, but for their higher mineral content– including magnesium. Eat whole grains in their least-refined form in hot cereal. For example, a typical 7-grain hot cereal offers a wholesome, satisfying blend of milled grains like red wheat, rye, oats, triticale, barley and flaxseed. Just a 1/4 cup of this cereal offers 25 mg of magnesium, 6 grams of protein, plus over 20% of your day’s fiber and iron needs.
16. Scallops – 55 mg
Scallops are a favorite shellfish for good reason— these delicious delicacies are more than 80% protein. A 3-ounce serving provides 20 grams of protein, but just 95 calories. They’re also a good source of magnesium (50 mg/3-ounce serving) and potassium. Scallops offer a generous amount of selenium, an antioxidant mineral that activates enzymes linked to cancer prevention and thyroid function; 3 ounces has 18.5 mcg of selenium, 34% of your daily requirements. Scallops are also packed with vitamin B12. NOTE: Scallops contain a lot of natural salt: 1,134 mg per 6-ounce serving, about half of your daily maximum intake.
17. Rockfish – 51 mg
Also called Pacific red snapper and black bass, rockfish is a meaty white fish that’s quite rich in omega 3 fats (3 ounces has 1.5 grams fat), which adds to its taste. All types of rockfish are good sources of magnesium (45 mg per 3-ounce serving), and thyroid-boosting selenium; a 3-ounce serving contains 65 mcg of selenium, a full day’s requirements. Rockfish is also high in vitamin D. Lack of vitamin D leads to weak bones because your body can’t absorb and use calcium without it— so even in sunny months eating vitamin D-rich foods is important. You get 156 IU of vitamin D from a 3-ounce serving of rockfish.
18. Figs – 50 mg
Figs are just as well-liked eaten fresh as dried, yet dried figs offer unusual texture and sweet flavor unlike any other fruit. Similar to the other dried fruits mentioned earlier, dehydrated figs are super-high in fiber, and are a good source of several minerals including magnesium. Four or five Mission figs, which equal one serving, offer 20 mg of magnesium. (Just two of the larger Calimyrna figs make one serving.) Figs also contain manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, and vitamins K and B6
19. Oysters 49 mg
We’re not sure why oysters have been used as aphrodisiacs for centuries. Maybe it’s because these mollusks are so rich in several vitamins and minerals that they boost energy for lovemaking. Oysters boast high amounts of protein, iron, magnesium (80 mg/6-ounce serving), omega 3 fats, calcium, zinc and vitamin C. A 6-ounce portion of oysters contains significantly more zinc and selenium than you need in an entire day. (Because of their extremely high zinc content, consume oysters in moderation to prevent an overdose.) Selenium and zinc are important for healthy cell function, and they boost your immunity. Plus, the vitamin B12 in oysters supports nerve function, energy, and might help combat cancer. And there’s a lot of it– one serving provides 10 times your daily requirement of vitamin B12.
20. Soy Milk – 47 mg
Soy milk, as a lactose-free, saturated fat-free alternative to cow’s milk, is rich in protein. It is usually fortified with some of the same nutrients found in cow’s milk like calcium carbonate (traditional, rock-based calcium), vitamins A and D and riboflavin. It doesn’t need to be artificially fortified with magnesium, however, since it is naturally high in the mineral (noted earlier in “Legumes”). Soy milk, simply made by combining water and ground soybeans, is also a source of alpha-linolenic acid, a healthy omega 3 fat. This milk alternative has lost much of its popularity partly due to its estrogen content, which may or may not be linked to female cancers and reduced male fertility. And also, due to changing food trends, with nut milks topping sales today.
21. Whole Grains: Brown Rice, Quinoa and Bulgur – 44 mg
The popular Central American grain called quinoa (actually a fruit, not a grain) is an excellent source of magnesium, with 118 mg per cup, cooked. Once just a vegetarian’s staple, quinoa salads and burgers are now found on menus in mainstream restaurants. A cup of cooked quinoa is fairly high in calories (220), but offers 8 grams of complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids, rare for non-animal protein. It also has 3.5 grams of healthy fat, and 5 grams of fiber. Quinoa is slightly higher in fat than brown rice, but edges out brown rice in protein, fiber and iron (one cup = 2.8 mg of iron, or 15% of RDI, compared to brown rice at 5%). However, brown rice also has a wealth of fiber and magnesium.
22. Tofu – 37 mg
Tofu is the most versatile and well-known source of vegan protein. It’s also a great way to get minerals including calcium, iron, manganese, selenium, copper, phosphorus, and yes, magnesium. Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in. Add some to a creamy chocolate smoothie; marinade and toss into Thai curry; or pan fry with a crunchy coating as faux chicken strips. Other good reasons to eat it: The latest research shows that consuming tofu daily is associated with improved survival rates and lower recurrence of breast cancer. Its antioxidants also prevent stomach cancer, according to long-term Chinese studies. Fermented types of tofu provide double the free radical-scavenging activity of unfermented tofu– to better ward off disease.
23. Bananas – 27 mg
This portable pick-me-up is good for your desk, gym bag or car because it works hard to increase your energy levels and ward off hunger. This is due to its quick-acting carb effect. Bananas are great sources of minerals including potassium and magnesium; in fact, they’re one of the richest sources of potassium on the planet. Potassium acts as an electrolyte and promotes circulation, helping oxygen reach cells. Bananas contain tryptophan, which boosts your mood by helping to make your “happiness chemical” serotonin. One banana gives you: 8% of magnesium needed in a day; 12% potassium; 25% of vitamin B6; 16% of manganese; 14% of vitamin C; and 12% of fiber. Bananas are high in sugar and carbs, though.
24. Whole Wheat Bread and Whole Grain Cereal – 24 mg
It’s been a staple in the Western world for centuries. And for good reason too. In addition to its high iron and protein, one slice of whole wheat bread provides 2 grams of fiber, almost 10% of daily needs. High fiber may reduce heart disease risk, encourage proper bowel function, and help with weight management. Whole wheat bread is also a good source of magnesium (24 mg per slice) and selenium. However, make sure that the ingredients list on bread, crackers or cereal says “whole,” not just “wheat flour,” or “enriched flour” or you won’t be getting whole grain. Processed grains are low in magnesium because the magnesium-rich germ is removed. However, there are some people who should avoid wheat, particularly those who are gluten intolerant or sensitive. Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat and can affect your health and bones. For more, read “How Osteoporosis and Gluten Sensitivity are Linked.”
25. Raw Broccoli – 22 mg
Broccoli has been called one of the world’s healthiest foods. Its phytochemicals are known for reducing tumors and preventing many forms of cancer including colon and bladder cancer. It is said to have more calcium than cow’s milk, and contains more vitamin C than oranges. And for those with joint pain, cruciferous veggies like broccoli are high in carotenoids (a form of vitamin A), which protect cells from inflammatory cytokines that break down collagen in joints. Broccoli is also a very good source of fiber, vitamins B, E and A, omega 3 fatty acids, and minerals including magnesium.
As you can see, many of your favorite foods have magnesium! If you’re wondering how you can easily add the other magnesium-rich foods to your diet, we have put together a free smoothie eBook to show you exactly how.
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Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium
After becoming an adult, the recommended daily intake or RDI (formerly called “recommended daily allowance” or RDA) for magnesium increases until you reach age 31. From then on, your RDI is approximately the same whether you are 32 or 92. The only difference depends on gender. The magnesium RDI for men is slightly higher than the RDI for women:
- If you’re 32 years old or older and female, your RDI for magnesium is 320 mg.
- If you’re 32 years old or older and male, your RDI for magnesium is 420 mg.
These are government health department estimates and are based on calculations made for the “amount required to eliminate deficiency,” not the amount needed for optimum health. This means that if you consume more than the RDI from animal or plant sources*, it is even better.
* It should be noted that taking high doses of magnesium-only supplements (not combined with other minerals) can cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal cramping, and more serious health issues.
How to Supplement with Magnesium
You have two choices when it comes to getting enough magnesium:
1) Eat a diet rich in high-magnesium foods
2) Take a daily supplement
Many supplements are not very bioavailable, meaning they aren’t absorbed well and used by the body. These include sources from rocks and crustacean shells. Yet, supplementing is important to top-up a nutrient shortfall. Many nutritionists believe that simply eating more foods high in a nutrient will not increase your numbers to satisfactory levels, if you are already well deficient. You need a higher dose, at least to begin with, until your levels become adequate. (It is not possible to ingest enough food to receive what would be considered a therapeutic dose.)
Therefore, choose your supplement wisely. AlgaeCal Plus is a highly absorbable source of magnesium, in combination with many other minerals that you need. (More on this later…)
Of all the minerals required for healthy bones, calcium has always hogged the spotlight. But as you’ve seen, magnesium is critically important too. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us are not getting enough. Why?
The most common causes of magnesium deficiency include:
- Consuming less than three servings of vegetables per day
- Excess alcohol consumption
- A diet high in sugar and phytic acid
- Poor digestion due to “leaky gut syndrome”
- Taking certain medications
Prescription drug interactions:
Antibiotics might not be well absorbed if taken too soon before or after taking a dietary supplement that contains magnesium, and it may interfere with magnesium’s absorption.
Diuretics can increase the loss of magnesium through urine. Acid reflux drugs, or those taken for peptic ulcers, can cause low levels of magnesium when taken over a long period of time.
High-dose zinc supplements can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate magnesium.
Early signs of severe magnesium deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
As magnesium deficiency worsens, symptoms include:
- Muscle contractions and cramps
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Coronary spasms
Magnesium and Bone Mineral Density
As mentioned, magnesium is vital for healthy bones. Several studies prove that people with higher magnesium intakes have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures. That means getting more magnesium from foods or high-quality dietary supplements might help older women and men improve their bone mineral density.
AlgaeCal believes that a multi-nutrient support – offering magnesium along with calcium and 70 other co-factor minerals – is one of the major keys to increasing bone mineral density. That’s because it is difficult to eat enough foods each day that are rich in all bone-supporting minerals, including magnesium.
In fact, because magnesium is so essential to bone building, our flagship product, AlgaeCal Plus contains 350 mg of high-quality magnesium per daily serving – 72 mg from the algae and 278 mg from magnesium oxide. For research on magnesium oxide as a quality source of dietary magnesium, read the post: “Magnesium Oxide Delivers More Magnesium with Far Fewer Pills“.
Independent research proves that AlgaeCal‘s natural, plant-based product is superior to traditional calcium/magnesium supplements because it includes all minerals that play a scientifically validated role in your bone health. What’s more, they’re all easily absorbed as the algae “pre-digests” these minerals for you.
If building strong, healthy bones is important to you, don’t neglect magnesium! All it takes is a little effort to make sure you’re getting enough of this essential mineral each day from both foods and supplements.