Magnesium

Which foods contain magnesium?

September 2019

The human body needs various minerals to function correctly, including magnesium, which is required for more than 300 human biological processes. These include, for example, producing RNA and DNA molecules, regulating the amount of various nutrients contained in the blood and tissues, helping to prevent health conditions like kidney disease, and manufacturing new proteins [1, 2, 3].

Most Americans don’t get enough magnesium through the foods they eat, largely because modern industrial farming and food processing removes most magnesium before food gets to the grocery store. In fact, a typical American only gets about half of his or her required magnesium from diet alone [4]. Exactly how much is needed varies by weight and other factors, but in general men should aim to consume about 420 mg of magnesium per day, and women about 320 mg [5].

The good news is that some foods do contain significant amounts of magnesium, and consuming them can help get to optimal levels. In particular, dark, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach have significant amounts of magnesium, as do many seeds and nuts. Other foods that contain magnesium include beans, soy products, some fruits, peas, whole grains, oatmeal, wheat bran, milk, seafood, chocolate, and meat [4, 6]. It is important to note that the body absorbs only about 30% to 40% of dietary magnesium. In addition, certain foods bind with the mineral and prevent absorption. Cooking — especially boiling — causes almost all of the magnesium to leach out. White flour, sugar, and other processed foods have essentially no magnesium [5].

Another way to get more magnesium is by drinking mineral water. Most tap water has had all of its minerals, including magnesium, removed to make it “soft”. Many municipalities also add fluoride to tap water, which prevents the body from absorbing whatever magnesium is present [2]. Mineral water can increase magnesium intake, but amounts can vary from as little as 1 mg/liter to 12 mg/liter [4].

Here is a rundown of various foods and how much magnesium they contain:

Leafy green vegetables

Spinach: 80 mg (3.5 oz, 100 g): 80 mg

Swiss chard (3.5 oz, 100 g): 80 mg

Kale (3.5 oz, 100 g): 50 mg

Romaine lettuce (3.5 oz, 100 g):15 mg [7]

Nuts and seeds

Almonds (1 oz, 28 g): 78 mg

Pumpkin seeds (1 oz, 28 g): 73 mg

Walnuts (1 oz, 28 g): 56 mg

Peanuts (1 oz, 28 g): 50 mg

Hazelnuts (1 oz, 28 g): 49 mg

Sunflower seeds (1 oz, 28 g): 33 mg [7, 10]

Other foods

Rice bran, crude (1 cup): 922 mg

Molasses (1 cup): 816 mg

Soybeans, raw (1 cup): 521 mg

Lima beans, raw (1 cup): 399 mg

Black beans, raw (1 cup): 120 mg

Unsweetened cocoa powder (1 cup): 429 mg

Dark chocolate (1 oz, 28 g): 64 mg

Avocado (1 medium): 58 mg

Dry buckwheat (1 oz, 28 g): 65 mg

Salmon, half filet (178 g): 53 mg

Banana (1 large): 37 mg [7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13]

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References:
1. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride.” Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1997, 190-240. Available at: http://www.nap.edu/read/5776/chapter/8.
2. Jahnen-Dechent, W., Ketteler, M. “Magnesium Basics.” Clinical Kidney Journal 5, 3-14 (2012).
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26343101
4. “Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. February 2016.
5. Riley, P. Thomas. “Magnesium.” University of Mary Washington Student Health Center. July 2011. http://students.umw.edu/healthcenter/files/2011/08/Magnesium2.pdf.
6. “Magnesium.” University of Maryland Medical Center. August 2015. https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/magnesium.
7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28. “Nutrients: Magnesium, Mg (mg)” 2015.
8. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/10638/2
9. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2
10. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4284/2
11. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5681/2
12. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4259/2
13. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2