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The 10 Best Foods Highest in Magnesium

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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The 10 Best Foods Highest in Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping a healthy immune system, maintaining heart rhythm, and building strong bones.

A deficiency in magnesium can lead to muscle spasms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders, migraines, osteoporosis, and cerebral infarction.

Conversely, consuming too much magnesium typically causes diarrhea as the body attempts to excrete the excess.

High magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, seeds, beans, fish, whole grains, nuts, dark chocolate, yogurt, avocados, bananas and more. The current daily value (DV) for magnesium is 420mg.

Below is a list of high magnesium foods, for more, see the extended lists of magnesium rich foods, magnesium fruits, and magnesium vegetables.

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Top 10 List of High Magnesium Foods

1Spinach
A Bowl of Spinach

More Greens High in Magnesium

-36% DV in 1 cup of Swiss chard
-18% DV in 1 cup of kale
-10% DV in 1 cup of collard greens
-8% DV in 1 cup of turnip greens

See the list of high magnesium vegetables.
2Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds)
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

More Seeds High in Magnesium

-47% DV in 1oz of hemp seeds
-27% DV in 1oz of flax seeds
-24% DV in 1oz of sesame seeds
-23% DV in 1oz of chia seeds

Nuts and seeds are high in protein which helps with magnesium absorption. See the list of all nuts and seeds high in magnesium.
3Lima Beans
Lima Beans

More Beans High in Magnesium

-29% DV in 1 cup of white beans
-22% DV in 1 cup of black-eyed peas
-19% DV in 1 cup of kidney beans
-19% DV in 1 cup of chickpeas
-17% DV in 1 cup of lentils

See all beans high in mangesium.
4Tuna
Tuna fillet

More Fish High in Magnesium

-20% DV in a 3oz mackerel fillet
-17% DV in a 3oz pollock fillet

Fish are very high in protein, which helps with magnesium absorption. See all fish high in magnesium.
5Brown Rice
Brown Rice

More Grains High in Magnesium

-28% DV in 1 cup of quinoa
-20% DV in 1 cup of buckwheat
-14% DV in 1 cup of bulgur
-12% DV in 1 cup of wild rice
-15% DV in 1 cup of whole wheat pasta

See all grains high in magnesium.
6Almonds
Almonds

More Nuts High in Magnesium

-25% DV in 1oz of brazilnuts
-20% DV in 1oz of cashews
-17% DV in 1oz of pine nuts
-11% DV in 1oz of walnuts
-9% DV in 1oz of pecans

Nuts and seeds are high in protein which helps with magnesium absorption. See the list of all nuts and seeds high in magnesium.
7Dark Chocolate (85% Cocoa)
Dark chocolate squares

More Chocolate High in Magnesium

-23% DV in 1oz of baking chocolate
-12% DV in 3oz of 60-69% dark chocolate
-10% DV in 3oz of 40-59% dark chocolate
8Avocados
Half an avocado
See the list of high magnesium fruits.
9Non-Fat Yogurt
Plain yogurt with raspberries

More Dairy Foods High in Magnesium

-13% DV in a 16oz glass of skim milk
-12% DV in a 16oz glass of whole milk
-4% DV in 1/2 cup of low-fat ricotta

See all dairy foods high in magnesium.
10Bananas
Bananas
Bananas are also high in potassium.

See the list of high magnesium fruits.

See All 200 Foods High in Magnesium

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Printable One Page Sheet

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A printable one page sheet of the top 10 high magnesium foods.

Extended List of Magnesium Rich Foods

#1 Rice Bran219% DV (922mg) in 1 cup
#2 Tofu35% DV (146mg) in 1 cup
#3 Wheat Germ22% DV (91mg) in 1 oz
#4 Alaskan King Crab20% DV (84mg) in 1 leg
#5 Peanut Butter14% DV (57mg) in 2 tbsp
#6 Molasses12% DV (48mg) in 1 tbsp
#7 Whole Milk6% DV (24mg) in 1 cup
#8 Whole Wheat Bread6% DV (24mg) in 1 slice
#9 Espresso6% DV (24mg) in 1 fluid ounce
#10 Seaweed (Dried Spirulina)3% DV (14mg) in 1 tbsp
#11 Coffee2% DV (7mg) in 1 cup

Health Benefits of Magnesium

  • Regulation of Blood Pressure - Diets high in fruits and vegetables provide both magnesium and potassium which are consistently associated with reduced blood pressure. (3,4,5)
  • Reduced Risk of Type II Diabetes - Magnesium is involved in carbohydrate metabolism and the body's use of insulin. (6) Studies show that individuals with type II diabetes have low levels of magnesium in their blood. (7) Correcting this lack of magnesium may help increase sensitivity to insulin and prevent type II diabetes.(8)
  • Reduced Risk of Heart Attack and other Cardiovascular Diseases - Because magnesium is associated with regulation of blood pressureand lower risk of diabetes, it follows that it also reduces risk of cardiovascular disease. (9) Elevated levels of magnesium in the blood has been associated with reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. (10,11,12)
  • Reduced Risk of Osteoporosis - Magnesium plays a role in calcium metabolism and hormones which regulate calcium and may help to protect against osteoporosis. (7,13) Several studies support that increased magnesium intake increases bone health. (7)
  • Reduced Frequency of Migraine Headaches (*Controversial) - Studies show that individuals who have frequent migraine headacheshave lower levels of magnesium than other individuals. (14) There is conflicting evidence as to whether increased intakeof magnesium will reduce the frequency of migraines. (14,15,16,17)
  • Alleviation of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - Studies suggest that consuming higher amounts of magnesium, perhaps inconjunction with vitamin B6, helps to alleviate bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, breast tenderness, and othersymptoms associated with PMS. (18)

High Risk Groups for a Magnesium Deficiency

  • Long distance athletes - People who exercise over long distances lose electrolytes via sweat and need to replenish their sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus levels.
  • Dehydration - People who consume excess alcohol, or suffer diarrhea, or can be otherwise dehydrated need to replenish their sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus levels.
  • People with Gastrointestinal Disorders - Most magnesium is absorbed through the colon so people with gastrointestinal disorderslike Crohn's disease are at high risk for a magnesium deficiency. (19,20)
  • People with Poor Functioning Kidneys - The kidneys should be able to regulate magnesium in the blood,excreting less when stores are low, however, excessive loss of magnesium through urine can occur to people on specific medications, poorly managed diabetes, and alcoholics. (21,22)
  • The Elderly - As we age the amount of magnesium we absorb decreases as the amount we excrete increases. (7)
  • People on a low protein diet (*Controversial) - Eating less than 30 grams of protein a day may adversely affect magnesium utilization. (23)
  • People taking Certain Medications
    • Proton Pump Inhibitors: Prescription PPIs include Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium), Dexilant (dexlansoprazole), Prilosec (omeprazole), Zegerid (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Protonix (pantoprazole sodium), AcipHex (rabeprazole sodium), Vimovo, Prilosec OTC (omeprazole), Zegerid OTC (omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate), and Prevacid 24HR (lansoprazole)(24)
    • Diuretics: Lasix, Bumex, Edecrin, and hydrochlorothiazide (22)
    • Anti-neoplastic (Cancer) medication: Cisplatin (25)
    • Zinc Supplements (26)

Factors which Affect Magnesium Absorption

  • Fermentable carbohydrates like those found in grains, dairy, and fruit enhance the absorption of magnesium. (27)
  • Foods with protein enhance the absorption of magnesium and calcium. (23)
  • Phytates, found in vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts may slightly hinder magnesium absorption, however, high magnesium content of all these foods counteracts the effect of phytates. (28)
  • Foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, leafy greens, nuts, tea, coffee and cacao also reduce magnesium absorption. Cooking reduces oxalic acid, so cooking spinach and other greens is better than eating them raw (in terms of magnesium absorption). (28)

Warnings

  • Nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and molasses are high calorie foods and should be eaten in moderate amounts by people with a high body mass index.
  • Dark chocolate, spinach, and almonds are high in oxalates which may inhibit some magnesium absorption. (28) These foods however, are still good sources of magnesium.
  • Brazil nuts are very high in selenium. Excess selenium can lead to diarrhea, bad breath, and even hair loss.

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  2. Office Of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet
  3. Appel LJ. Nonpharmacologic therapies that reduce blood pressure: A fresh perspective. Clin Cardiol 1999;22:1111-5.
  4. Simopoulos AP. The nutritional aspects of hypertension. Compr Ther 1999;25:95-100.
  5. Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP, Sacks FM, Bray GA, Vogt TM, Cutler JA, Windhauser MM, Lin PH, Karanja N. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. N Engl J Med 1997;336:1117-24.
  6. Saris NE, Mervaala E, Karppanen H, Khawaja JA, Lewenstam A. Magnesium: an update on physiological, clinical, and analytical aspects. Clinica Chimica Acta 2000;294:1-26.
  7. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. National Academy Press. Washington, DC, 1999.
  8. Paolisso G, Sgambato S, Gambardella A, Pizza G, Tesauro P, Varricchio H, D'Onofrio F. Daily magnesium supplements improve glucose handling in elderly subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1992;55:1161-7.
  9. Altura BM and Altura BT. Magnesium and cardiovascular biology: An important link between cardiovascular risk factors and atherogenesis. Cell Mol Biol Res 1995;41:347-59.
  10. Ford ES. Serum magnesium and ischaemic heart disease: Findings from a national sample of US adults. Intl J of Epidem 1999;28:645-51.
  11. Liao F, Folsom A, Brancati F. Is low magnesium concentration a risk factor for coronary heart disease? The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Am Heart J 1998;136:480-90.
  12. Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Hernan MA, Giovannucci EL, Kawachi I, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and fiber and risk of stroke among US men. Circulation 1998;98:1198-204.
  13. Elisaf M, Milionis H, Siamopoulos K.Hypomagnesemic hypokalemia and hypocalcemia: Clinical and laboratory characteristics. Mineral Electrolyte Metab 1997;23:105-12.
  14. Mauskop A, Altura BM. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines. Clin Neurosci. 1998;5(1):24-27.
  15. Peikert A, Wilimzig C, Kohne-Volland R. Prophylaxis of migraine with oral magnesium: results from a prospective, multi-center, placebo-controlled and double-blind randomized study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16(4):257-263.
  16. Pfaffenrath V, Wessely P, Meyer C, et al. Magnesium in the prophylaxis of migraine--a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Cephalalgia. 1996;16(6):436-440.
  17. Wang F, Van Den Eeden SK, Ackerson LM, Salk SE, Reince RH, Elin RJ. Oral magnesium oxide prophylaxis of frequent migrainous headache in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 2003;43(6):601-610.
  18. Bendich A. The potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000;19(1):3-12.
  19. Rude RK. Magnesium deficiency: A cause of heterogeneous disease in humans. J Bone Miner Res 1998;13:749-58.
  20. Rude KR. Magnesium metabolism and deficiency. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1993;22:377-95.
  21. Kelepouris E and Agus ZS. Hypomagnesemia: Renal magnesium handling. Semin Nephrol 1998;18:58-73.
  22. Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Metabolic effects of diuretics. Cardiology 1994;84 Suppl 2:48-56.
  23. R. A. McCance, E. M. Widdowson, and H. Lehmann. The effect of protein intake on the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Biochem J. 1942 September; 36(7-9): 686-691.
  24. FDA Drug Safety Communication: Low magnesium levels can be associated with long-term use of Proton Pump Inhibitor drugs (PPIs)
  25. Lajer H and Daugaard G. Cisplatin and hypomagnesemia. Ca Treat Rev 1999;25:47-58.
  26. Spencer H, Norris C, Williams D.Inhibitory effects of zinc on magnesium balance and magnesium absorption in man. J Am Coll Nutr. 1994 Oct;13(5):479-84.
  27. Charles Coudray, Christian Demigne, and Yves Rayssiguier. Effects of Dietary Fibers on Magnesium Absorption in Animals and Humans. J. Nutr. January 1, 2003 vol. 133 no. 1 1-4.
  28. Torsten Bohn, Lena Davidsson, Thomas Walczyk and Richard F. Hurrel Fractional magnesium absorption is significantly lower in human subjects from a meal served with an oxalate-rich vegetable, spinach, as compared with a meal served with kale, a vegetable with a low oxalate content. Laboratory for Human Nutrition, Institute of Food Science and Nutrition, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland (Received 27 May 2003 - Revised 7 November 2003 - Accepted 28 November 2003

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