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Most people know that they need to get plenty of vitamins to stay healthy, but the body also depends on trace amounts of certain minerals. Magnesium is one of the minerals that keeps your tissues healthy. Understanding which foods contain this nutrient and how it supports your health will help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a chemical element that is the ninth most abundant element in the universe (Housecroft & Sharpe, 2008). It is present in high quantities throughout the Earth, including in the soil and seawater. This means that plants can readily obtain magnesium from the soil, making it relatively straightforward to get enough of this nutrient by eating plant-based foods.

Physiological Effects of Magnesium in the Body

Magnesium is involved in numerous physiological processes, including more than 300 essential metabolic reactions (Volpe, 2014). One of the most important actions of magnesium is its role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Within the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, magnesium is needed to create the molecule ATP. ATP is the primary energy molecule used by cells throughout the human body. Without magnesium, ATP would not be able to provide the energy needed for enzymatic reactions and other cellular processes.

In addition to its role with cellular energy regulation, magnesium is also important for signalling between cells, helping ions across cellular membranes, and creating new DNA.

Recommended Daily Intake of Magnesium

Dietary needs vary slightly from individual to individual, but recommended daily intake values can help you determine how much magnesium you need. These values are based on your sex, age, and certain lifestyle variables. Aim for the following amounts each day (Office of Dietary Supplements, 2016):

  • Men aged 19 to 30 years: 400 mg of magnesium per day
  • Women aged 19 to 30 years: 310 mg of magnesium per day. Women in this age range who are pregnant need slightly more magnesium, at 350 mg per day. Women who are breastfeeding need the same amount as non-pregnant women, at 310 mg of magnesium daily.
  • Men over age 30: 420 mg of magnesium daily
  • Women over age 30: 320 mg of magnesium each day. Pregnant women older than 30 years should aim for 360 mg of magnesium per day. Breastfeeding women need the same amount as non-pregnant women, at 320 mg per day.

Are You At Risk?

Eating a mostly plant-based diet is the best way to ensure you receive the daily allowance of magnesium your body needs. A healthy magnesium diet includes plenty of leafy dark green vegetables, beans, soy products, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, many breakfast cereals are fortified with magnesium to help you get enough of this beneficial nutrient.

The kidneys regulate excretion of excess magnesium through the urine meaning that it is difficult to get too much of the mineral. For people with certain health problems, however, it is possible to become deficient. Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, numbness or tingling, and muscle cramps.

In severe cases, magnesium deficiency causes an inability to effectively regulate vitamin D and calcium levels (Volpe, 2014). This increases risk of osteoporosis and other bone conditions. People with type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or alcohol dependence are at increased risk of magnesium deficiency (Erhlich, 2015). Older adults may also have higher risk of magnesium deficiency, as absorption of this mineral slows during aging.

Certain factors may decrease your body’s ability to efficiently regulate magnesium levels. For example, the caffeine found in coffee or soda may increase excretion of magnesium (Bergman, Massey, Wise, & Sherrard, 1990). Similarly, having heavy menstrual periods, experiencing prolonged stress, sweating excessively, or eating too much salt may limit your ability to regulate magnesium levels (Erlich, 2015). Taking a magnesium supplement may help to boost your body’s supply of the mineral, but it is best to get magnesium naturally through dietary sources.

Magnesium interacts with other important nutrients in a way that may affect each nutrient’s absorption. For example, taking a zinc supplement can disrupt your ability to absorb magnesium effectively (Volpe, 2014). Similarly, large amounts of fiber can decrease magnesium absorption. On the other hand, taking magnesium with vitamin D, calcium, or protein can increase your body’s ability to absorb the mineral (Volpe, 2014).

Eating magnesium-rich foods is a good way to get these complementary minerals at the same time. For example, cashews and almonds provide dietary protein as well as high levels of magnesium. Additionally, leafy green vegetables contain high levels of both calcium and magnesium, promoting absorption of both.

Recipes with Magnesium

These recipes utilize foods that contain magnesium to help ensure that you get an adequate amount of the mineral in your diet. For more recipes that contain this important mineral, check out our article on food and snack sources of magnesium

Quinoa Fritters

Quinoa Fritters Recipe

Black beans are a source of magnesium that comprise a central part of this delectable recipe. As one half of the fritters, the beans add a noteworthy amount of the mineral to your meal, as well as plenty of fiber and protein.
Ingredients: Quinoa, black beans, gluten-free rolled oats, egg, cumin powder, salt, cilantro.
Total Time: 25 minutes | Yield: 12 medium-sized fritters

Almond Truffles {gluten-free, vegan}

Almond Truffles Recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

A simple treat that supplies a wholesome sweet, these almond truffles use both almond flour and almond butter to supply two sources of the nut. Almonds are a source of magnesium and other essential nutrients, and they give these truffles a subtle savory flavor.
Ingredients: Pitted dates, almond flour, almond butter, water, flaxseed meal, freeze-dried raspberries, unsweetened shredded coconut.
Total Time: 15 minutes | Yield: 14 - 16 truffles

Healthy Snacks with Magnesium

These snacks act as a source of magnesium that can be easily added to your diet between meals. For more ideas on recipes, foods, and snacks that contain magnesium, be sure to check out our article here.


Bergman, E.A., Massey, L.K., Wise, K.J., & Sherrard, D.J. (1990). Effects of dietary caffeine on renal handling of minerals in adult women. Life Sciences, 47(6), 557-564.

Erlich, S. (2015). Magnesium. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from

Housecroft, C. E. & Sharpe, A. G. (2008). Inorganic Chemistry (3rd ed.). Prentice Hall. pp. 305–306.

Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016). Magnesium. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from

Volpe, S.L. (2014). Magnesium. Linus Pauling Institute. Retrieved from