Magnesium is one of the essential minerals you should eat for a healthy lifestyle. Not consuming enough magnesium can interfere with your heart rate, blood sugar, muscles, and joint cartilage. It’s best to get magnesium from your diet rather than supplements, just as you should with other vitamins and minerals.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the many vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy body. Magnesium helps your body regulate muscle and nerve functions, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure.
How much magnesium you need varies by age and gender:
- Newborns to 6-month-old babies need 30 mg of magnesium
- Infants 7 months to a year old need 75 mg magnesium
- Children ages 1 to 3 need 80 mg magnesium
- Children ages 4 to 8 need 130 mg magnesium
- Children ages 9 to 13 need 240 mg magnesium
- Teenage boys ages 14 and older need 410 mg magnesium
- Teenage girls ages 14 and older need 360 mg magnesium
- Men need 400 to 420 mg magnesium
- Women need 310 to 320 mg magnesium
- Pregnant women need 350 to 360 mg magnesium
Good sources of magnesium include green and leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency due to low food intake is relatively uncommon because your kidneys limit how much magnesium your body expels. However, a poor diet or a chronic medical condition can cause low magnesium levels.
Early symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include:
- Reduced appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
If time passes and the deficiency goes untreated, other symptoms may include:
- Tingling sensations
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Muscle cramps and contractions
- Changes in personality
- Coronary spasms
If you notice signs of a magnesium deficiency, talk to your doctor. They can order a blood test and determine possible causes and solutions. Risk factors for a magnesium deficiency include type 2 diabetes or gastrointestinal issues such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.
It’s also possible to have too much magnesium in your body, but this is a rarer condition. Too much magnesium can cause abdominal cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. In a few cases of extremely high magnesium intake, symptoms include irregular heart rhythms and cardiac arrest.
Magnesium-Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet
Now that you understand the importance of consuming magnesium, you may be wondering what some of the best foods you can add to your diet are. There’s a wide variety of foods you can eat to reach your daily recommended intake.
Avocados provide more than just a good helping of magnesium. Just one-third of a medium-sized Hass avocado contains almost 20 different nutrients, such as vitamins K and E, unsaturated fats, and dietary fiber.
An avocado a day may also significantly reduce harmful LDL cholesterol levels, as a 2015 study found. Eating half of an avocado at lunch can also make you feel “full,” which can help curb any over-snacking.
2. Dark Chocolate
Flavanols are plant chemicals that may improve heart health. Higher percentages of cacao/cocoa mean greater amounts of flavanols. Flavanols can:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Increase insulin sensitivity (which can reduce your risk of diabetes)
- Promote healthy gut bacteria
- Even protect your skin from UV light
Consuming dark chocolate can even improve your exercising capabilities.
If you want to eat healthily, try a chocolate that is 70 percent cacao or higher. Be warned that the higher this percentage, the more bitter the chocolate tastes. It’s smart to look for dark chocolate with a low sugar count, few additives, and no preservatives.
3. Soy Milk
A cup of soy milk contains 61 mg of magnesium and 7 grams of protein. Soy products are rich in other nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, and fiber. Some kinds of soy milk may even be fortified with calcium or vitamins A and D.
Are you not fond of soy milk? You can consider other soybean products: tofu, edamame, soy cheese, and several different vegetarian burger patties.
4. Peanut Butter
Just two tablespoons of peanut butter can provide 50 mg of magnesium. It’s also a good source of other vitamins and minerals, such as potassium. Spread it on some whole-grain toast, and you can start your day off right, or have it for lunch as part of a traditional PB and J sandwich.
Numerous studies suggest that people who regularly eat peanut butter or other nuts have a lower risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes. When you’re choosing a peanut butter, try to pick one with few to none added fats or sugar. You may also want to try an unsalted variety to limit your sodium intake.
5. Dark Leafy Greens
If you need to add some magnesium to your diet, try a simple salad with leafy greens such as spinach and kale. You can also cook these leafy greens as a side—a cup of cooked spinach has 157 mg of magnesium.
Still, if you can stomach raw spinach, you might be better off eating it uncooked. A 2019 study suggests that chopping up fresh spinach is the best way to take advantage of spinach’s supply of lutein. Spinach loses some of its lutein if it’s boiled, fried, or steamed, and chopping it releases more lutein than if you were to eat it whole.
Lutein is an antioxidant that may maintain eye health and lower the odds of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is an eye disease where your central vision goes blurry, making activities like reading and driving more difficult. You are more likely to have macular degeneration if you’re over 60.
A rule of thumb is that the darker the greens, the more nutrients they have. Aside from high amounts of magnesium, leafy greens can also contain vitamins C and K, fiber, and potassium. Kale is rich in vitamin B6, which assists more than 100 enzymes with tasks such as supporting immune system functions and breaking down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
Finally, eating leafy greens may slow cognitive decline, keeping you sharp as you approach old age.
6. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
An ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds offers 156 mg of magnesium. Pumpkin seeds still in their shells also have 5.2 grams of fiber in a serving, while pumpkin seeds without their shells only feature 1.8 grams.
When you’re shopping for pumpkin seeds, try the unsalted variety. Store-bought pumpkin seeds can contain large amounts of salt.
For best snacking results, you might want to pair pumpkin seeds with fruit or cheese. Combining snacks ensures you get a broader range of nutrients.
Try to be mindful as you eat. Treat your snack like a small meal and give it your full focus instead of eating while you’re doing another task.
What if you don’t like pumpkin seeds? Dry roasted almonds are another snack alternative, featuring 80 mg of magnesium in one ounce. Plus, almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats.
Eating almonds may lower your risk of heart disease and reduce your cholesterol levels. Almonds also promote helpful gut bacteria and keep blood vessels healthy while reducing inflammation and insulin resistance.
Almonds are on our list of the best foods for a restful sleep. They’re high in melatonin, a hormone that keeps your sleep-wake cycle on track.
8. Black Beans
Legumes encompass lentils, beans, and peas, all of which are chock full of various nutrients. They may contain protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, and fiber. Plus, it usually costs very little to stock up on them.
Black beans are one of the best choices if you want more magnesium in your diet. A cup of boiled black beans has 120 mg magnesium.
If black beans aren’t to your taste, you can try lentils or chickpeas. A cup of boiled chickpeas has 79 mg of magnesium, while a cup of lentils has 71 mg.
Black beans and other legumes are excellent substitutes for red meat, which is perfect for anyone who’s looking to cut back. They’re low in unsaturated fats and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol. This is why legumes are a key staple of vegetarian diets.
9. Brown Rice
Plus, brown rice goes well with other magnesium-heavy foods. Mix the rice with a legume, a vegetable, and perhaps a lean meat for a solid meal.
Bananas contain high amounts of potassium and a decent amount of magnesium. A cup of banana, which is about equal to one large banana, contains 41 mg of magnesium.
Bananas are also an excellent post-workout snack, according to a 2012 study. The study compared cyclists who ate bananas while racing to cyclists who drank sports drinks. Bananas offered more benefits and a healthier selection of sugars.
What About Magnesium Supplements?
We advise caution when it comes to over-the-counter magnesium supplements. Most people just need a few daily servings of magnesium-rich foods to meet their daily requirements. While it’s difficult for people to ingest too much magnesium in their meals, a supplement may provide too much magnesium.
When you have too much magnesium in your body, you may experience nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Supplements can also interact with certain medications, such as:
- Antibiotics. If you take an antibiotic and a magnesium supplement close together, your body may not absorb it.
- Diuretics can affect how much magnesium is expelled.
- Prescription drugs for acid reflux or stomach ulcers can lower magnesium levels over time.
However, magnesium supplements may help prevent migraine headaches. There is also some limited evidence that magnesium can reduce insomnia in the elderly, with more research needed.
You should speak with a doctor to better decide if dietary supplements are the right solution for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include:
- Lowered appetite
- Fatigue and general weakness
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Coronary spasms
- Muscle contractions and cramps
- Personality changes
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor. You have a higher risk of magnesium deficiency if you have type 2 diabetes or gastrointestinal disease.
The majority of your body’s magnesium is in your bones and other cells, but a small portion can be found in your bloodstream. A magnesium blood test can measure the amount in your blood. Your doctor may order this blood test if you show signs of low or high magnesium levels.
A 2019 study concluded that ingesting high amounts of vitamin D can lower your magnesium levels. Magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D. Without magnesium, your ingested vitamin D won’t strengthen your bones and promote growth.
Eating enough magnesium ensures your body can put its accumulated vitamin D to full use. According to the 2019 study, the majority of adults suffer from vitamin D and magnesium deficiencies.
There’s scientific evidence that suggests magnesium can help manage anxiety. A 2010 report on nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety noted that magnesium is “is effective at treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders” when taken with other vitamins. However, the report continued that why it does this is not fully understood.
A 2017 review noted that while evidence suggests magnesium can alleviate anxiety, much of the existing evidence is of questionable quality. More randomized and controlled trials are needed for further confirmation.
Technically the answer is no, but coffee can affect your magnesium levels. Some older studies concluded that caffeine could prevent your intestinal lining from absorbing magnesium. However, this loss shouldn’t be enough to leave you with a magnesium deficiency if you eat a healthy diet.
A cup of coffee can also help you reach your recommended daily intake of magnesium. The average cup has 7 mg magnesium. Not as much as some of the more magnesium-rich foods, but every little bit can help.
So if you like a morning coffee before you work out or start your commute, go ahead and take a sip.
Did We Help?
Following a balanced diet is the best way to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for a healthy body and an energetic lifestyle. Magnesium is just one of many essential vitamins and minerals. Magnesium-rich diets keep your heart rate steady, balance your blood sugar levels, and help your body produce crucial cells.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.