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  • Writer's pictureEmily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN

Magnificent Magnesium - What is it? What does it do? What foods have it? How do I get enough?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that powers many functions in our bodies. In chemical terms, magnesium is known as a cofactor, or “helper molecule,” in over 300 of our body’s biochemical reactions which support the following vital functions:

  • Protein and DNA synthesis

  • Muscle and nerve function

  • Blood sugar control

  • Blood pressure regulation

  • Energy production

Needless to say, magnesium is an incredibly important mineral. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 400-420 milligrams for men, and 310-320 milligrams for women. Luckily, magnesium can be found in a wide variety of plant and animal foods and beverages. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium. Refined grains, including white bread, rice, and pasta, could be substantially lower in magnesium due to the removal of nutrient-containing components.

Below are the 10 of the highest magnesium-containing foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40% of dietary magnesium consumed is actually absorbed by the body, so make sure you’re getting plenty of these foods in your diet to meet your baseline magnesium requirements:

  • Pumpkin seeds (1 oz. roasted): 156 mg

  • Chia seeds (1 oz.): 111 mg

  • Almonds (1 oz., dry roasted): 80 mg

  • Spinach (½ cup, boiled) 78 mg

  • Cashews (1 oz. dry roasted): 74 mg

  • Peanuts (¼ cup, oil roasted): 63 mg

  • Shredded wheat cereal (2 large biscuits): 61 mg

  • Soymilk (1 cup): 61 mg

  • Black beans (½ cup cooked): 60 mg

  • Edamame (½ cup, shelled and cooked): 50 mg

For a full list of magnesium containing foods, visit the National Institutes of Health fact page on Magnesium here.

Magnesium supplements have become more popular lately due to the mineral’s positive health claims. Individuals with diabetes, intestinal disease, heart disease, or kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements without talking with their health care provider first. Luckily, the magnesium that is naturally present in food and beverages is not harmful and does not need to be limited. If you are concerned about your daily magnesium intake, know that following a balanced, healthy eating pattern should provide enough magnesium to meet your daily needs.

Until next time,

Emily Sicinski, MS, RDN, CDN

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