Magnesium is an important mineral in the human body and has many important functions and uses including development of bones, DNA, RNA as well as helping calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes (15). This is extremely important as it allows for nerve conduction, muscle contraction and normal heart rhythm (15, 3). Magnesium amounts are regulated by the kidneys so if too much is eaten it is easily excreted (15, 2).

Table 1: Food examples that contain Magnesium (15):
FoodMilligrams (mg) per servingPercent (%) DV*
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80 19
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 78 19
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 74 18
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup 63 15
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits 61 15
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup 61 15
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup 60 14
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup 50 12
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons 49 12
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces 43 10
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup 42 10
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 42 10
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% of the DV for magnesium, 1 serving 42 10
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet 36 9
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 35 8
Banana, 1 medium 32 8
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 26 6
Milk, 1 cup 24-27 6
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 24 9
Raisins, ½ cup 23 5
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 23 5
Avocado, cubed, ½ cup 22 5
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces 22 5
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan broiled, 3 ounces 20 5
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup 12 3
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup 10 2
Apple, 1 medium 9 2
Carrot, raw, 1 medium 7 2

*DV = Daily Value. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) developed DVs to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of foods and dietary supplements within the context of a total diet (4). The DV for magnesium on the new Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labels and used for the values in Table 2 is 420 mg for adults and children aged 4 years and older (4).

Decreased amounts of magnesium for longer periods can lead to deficiencies including lowered appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness (15, 1, 2). As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur (15, 1, 2). Severe magnesium deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively) because mineral homeostasis is disrupted (2).

The NIH reports that those who suffer from generally lower absorption rates of magnesium are those with Gastrointestinal diseases such as Celiac, Crohn’s etc, those with Type 2 Diabetes and alcohol dependence (2, 6, 7, 8). Older adults those with osteoporosis, and migraine headaches (1, 15, 5, 9, 10, 11-13).

Interestingly magnesium deficiency is related to factors that promote headaches, including neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction (14). People who experience migraine headaches have lower levels of serum and tissue magnesium than those who do not (15).

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium (15)
AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
Birth to 12 months None established None established    
1–3 years 65 mg 65 mg    
4–8 years 110 mg 110 mg    
9–18 years 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg
19+ years 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg 350 mg

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans describes a healthy eating pattern as one that:

  • Includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, and oils.
    Whole grains and dark-green, leafy vegetables are good sources of magnesium. Low-fat milk and yogurt contain magnesium as well. Some ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with magnesium.
  • Includes a variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), nuts, seeds, and soy products.
    Dried beans and legumes (such as soybeans, baked beans, lentils, and peanuts) and nuts (such as almonds and cashews) provide magnesium.

References:

  1. Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride Opens in new window. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.
  2. Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, Cragg GM, Levine M, Moss J, White JD, eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:527-37.
  3. Rude RK. Magnesium. In: Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ, Tucker KL, Ziegler TR, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Baltimore, Mass: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:159-75.
  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Labeling: Revision of the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels Opens in new window. 2016.
  5. Tums Opens in new window®. 2012.
  6. Chaudhary DP, Sharma R, Bansal DD. Implications of magnesium deficiency in type 2 diabetes: a review. Biol Trace Elem Res 2010;134:119–29. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  7. Tosiello L. Hypomagnesemia and diabetes mellitus. A review of clinical implications. Arch Intern Med 1996;156:1143-8. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  8. Rivlin RS. Magnesium deficiency and alcohol intake: mechanisms, clinical significance and possible relation to cancer development (a review). J Am Coll Nutr 1994;13:416–23. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  9. Ford ES, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of U.S. adults. J Nutr 2003;133:2879-82. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  10. Barbagallo M, Belvedere M, Dominguez LJ. Magnesium homeostasis and aging. Magnes Res 2009;22:235-46.
  11. Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE. Skeletal and hormonal effects of magnesium deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr 2009;28:131–41. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  12. Tucker KL. Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition. Curr Osteoporos Rep 2009;7:111-7. [PubMed abstract Opens in new window]
  13. Mutlu M, Argun M, Kilic E, Saraymen R, Yazar S. Magnesium, zinc and copper status in osteoporotic, osteopenic and normal post-menopausal women. J Int Med Res 2007;35:692-5.
  14. Sun-Edelstein C, Mauskop A. Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraine. Expert Rev Neurother 2009;9:369–79
  15. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ Opens in new window