Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions. But unfortunately, it is a mineral in which many people are also deficient. In this article, we’re going to discuss the best sources of magnesium and why magnesium is so essential for your health.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral. Essential minerals are minerals that our body needs to function. Minerals are divided into two categories: major and trace minerals. Trace minerals are minerals like iron, copper, and zinc. While essential, our body only needs a small amount of these to function efficiently. Major minerals, on the other hand, like magnesium, calcium, and sodium, are required in much larger quantities. Hence, it is easier to become deficient in these minerals.
Magnesium is involved in many processes that help to regulate bodily functions like the production of energy, body protein, and muscle contractions. Magnesium also plays a vital role in maintaining bone and heart health.
How Much Magnesium Do I Need?
How much magnesium you need depends on your age and gender. On average, it is recommended for adult females to get around 320 milligrams (mg) daily and for adult males to get around 420 mg daily.
What Are the Best Sources of Magnesium?
When it comes to getting the nutrients your body needs, trying to obtain them from food whenever possible is recommended. Our body has always gotten nutrients from whole foods, and these are typically much more recognizable to the body than isolated mineral supplements. Still, there is a place for supplementation. Supplements can be beneficial for replenishing the body in the case of mineral deficiencies or supplying the body’s needs when the nutrients aren’t readily available in the diet.
It is also important to note that overeating magnesium from whole foods has little consequence. The body can use what it needs from these foods and eliminate the rest. With supplements, however, the body may not be able to eliminate them as well if there is an excess. As a result, high doses of magnesium supplements can potentially lead to loose stools, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.
If possible, strive to meet your nutritional needs from whole foods, and choose supplementation only when necessary. The issue with magnesium is that most people do not regularly consume foods that are good sources of magnesium. In addition, people with certain health conditions, like celiac disease or type 2 diabetes, may also have lower magnesium levels in their diets.
Furthermore, many foods nowadays are deficient in essential minerals like magnesium due to commercial agricultural practices that deprive the soil of its nutrients. For this reason, strive to buy local produce whenever possible and, at the very least, aim to get organic produce. Since many people are deficient in magnesium, magnesium supplementation may be beneficial short-term. However, it is still recommended long-term to focus on meeting your nutritional needs from the diet.
Food Sources of Magnesium
Regarding natural magnesium sources, foods like green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts are among the highest. In addition, high-quality dairy can also be a good source of magnesium.
Below, we’ll cover the best dietary sources of magnesium:
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
As far as good sources of magnesium in food go, leafy green vegetables are very high sources of magnesium. They are also some of the best plant sources of magnesium available.
Green leafy vegetables get that rich green color from a green pigment called “chlorophyll.” At the core of the chlorophyll, the chemical is a magnesium molecule. This means that all leafy greens are rich in magnesium. Just a cup of spinach, for example, contains 24 mg of magnesium. A cup of spinach is not very much. So, you could nearly meet your daily magnesium needs by eating a large spinach salad.
However, there is no need to eat only spinach in your salad. Dandelion greens contain a notable 36 mg of magnesium per cup. A cup of kale contains 31 mg. Lettuce has a bit less magnesium than some other greens, with green leaf lettuce containing 5 mg per cup, romaine lettuce containing 12 mg per cup, and iceberg lettuce containing only 1 mg. Still, there are many other essential nutrients in lettuce, so there is no need to leave them out of a salad. Just make sure to add some of the other more nutrient-dense leafy green vegetables.
You are also lucky if you prefer cooked leafy greens instead of salads. For example, one cup of cooked broccoli contains 33 mg of magnesium. Brussels sprouts contain 20 mg per cup, and collard greens contain 10 mg per cup cooked.
2. Whole Grains
Whole grains are another one of the best dietary sources of magnesium. Whole wheat, for example, is an exceptionally high source of magnesium. Just one cup of whole wheat flour contains 160 mg per cup. Buckwheat is even higher than that, containing 392.7 mg of magnesium per cup! This means you can nearly meet your daily magnesium needs in just one cup of buckwheat.
Brown rice contains 84 mg of magnesium per cup, white rice contains 19 mg per cup, oats contain 62 mg per cup, quinoa includes 118 mg per cup, and amaranth contains 72 mg per cup. Most whole grains are high sources of magnesium in food, but buckwheat, whole wheat, and quinoa are particularly high.
Beans are also good sources of magnesium. The serving size of one cup of black beans contains an impressive 160 mg of magnesium. Pinto beans contain 85 mg of magnesium per cup, kidney beans contain 45 mg per cup, garbanzo beans contain 78 mg per cup, and mung beans contain 97 mg. Ensure to cook your beans well, as they contain lectins that can harm health if uncooked—especially kidney beans. Also, aim to get organic beans whenever possible.
4. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are among the best plant sources of magnesium. For example, a serving of one cup of almonds contains 393 mg of magnesium, which is more than the recommended daily amount for women, and almost the recommended daily amount for men. A cup of nuts, however, is a relatively large portion. Still, even an ounce of almonds contains 80 mg.
Cashews contain slightly more magnesium, 83 mg per ounce and 400 per cup. Brazil nuts contain even more than this, with a remarkable 107 mg per ounce and 500 mg per cup. Peanuts contain 245 mg of magnesium per cup, walnuts contain 126 mg per cup, pistachios contain 149 mg, and pecans contain 120 mg per cup.
Seeds are also a great source of magnesium. For example, one cup of pumpkin seeds contains 168 mg, one cup of hemp seeds contains 210 mg, and one cup of sunflower seeds contains 455 mg. Just one tablespoon of sesame seeds contains 32 mg of magnesium.
5. Raw Dairy
Dairy is another rich source of magnesium. In particular, raw dairy is the best dairy source of magnesium. Most dairy products are pasteurized, which has the benefit of killing potential bacteria and other pathogens that could be in the milk. Unfortunately, the pasteurization process also kills many of the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that are found in dairy. In addition, it deactivates many of the nutrients present in dairy.
Raw dairy is a nutritional powerhouse. But it is essential to ensure that you get raw dairy from an excellent source to reduce the risk of exposure to pathogens. For example, one cup of raw milk contains 50 mg of magnesium. In contrast, a one-cup serving of pasteurized whole milk contains only 24 mg.
Yogurt contains some magnesium too. For example, 1 cup of yogurt contains 19 mg. While not a significant source of magnesium, yogurt with live probiotics still has some great health benefits.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the best food sources of magnesium, let’s talk about how to incorporate these into your diet. If you are concerned about your magnesium levels and want to take a couple of days to replenish yourself, try to follow a similar meal plan to the one outlined below:
- ½-1 cup of cooked buckwheat
- One banana (sliced)
- Cinnamon and maple syrup to taste
- Add a splash of raw milk at the end (optional)
Bananas are also good sources of magnesium, with just one medium-sized banana contains 32 mg of magnesium.
- One head of romaine lettuce (chopped)
- 1 cup spinach
- ½ bunch of dandelion greens
- 1 cup avocado (sliced)
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- Six cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Olive oil, lemon, garlic, and thyme salad dressing
Avocados are also rich in magnesium, with one cup of sliced avocado containing 42 mg. A cup of cherry tomatoes also contains 16 mg.
- ½ cup black beans (cooked)
- ½ cup quinoa (cooked)
- 1 cup yam (cubed)
- 1 cup kale (cooked)
- ¼ onion (diced)
- One clove of garlic (minced)
- ¼ cup cilantro (shredded)
- Olive oil, salt, black pepper, and lemon to taste
Yams are another excellent source of magnesium, containing 31 mg in one cup. Onions and garlic also have some magnesium, but it is minimal.
Following this meal plan or adding one of these meals to your diet is a great way to feed your body with some food sources of magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays many roles in the body. Unfortunately, many people lack magnesium in their diet because they do not eat enough magnesium-rich foods daily. While magnesium supplementation is always an option, it is best to get your nutrients from whole foods whenever possible. Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of the importance of magnesium and how you can add more magnesium-rich foods to your diet.