10 Foods High in Magnesium

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on February 23, 2015Written by Rena Goldman on February 23, 2015

Magnesium is an important mineral that your body needs in order to function. It produces energy and regulates blood sugar and chemical reactions in the body. Magnesium helps maintain the proper levels of other minerals such as calcium, potassium, and zinc. Your heart, muscles, and kidneys all need magnesium to work properly. The mineral also helps build teeth and bones.

Some health conditions can lead to magnesium deficiencies, including:

  • gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • stomach viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea

Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine on a regular basis can affect your magnesium levels as well.

The National Institutes of Health recommends the following daily intake of magnesium: 
Children 1-3 years80 mg
Children 4-8 years130 mg
Children 9-13 years240 mg
Teens 14-18 yearsboys 410 mg
girls 360 mg
Adults 19-30 yearsmen 400 mg
women 310 mg
Adults 31+ yearsmen 420 mg
women 320 mg

Magnesium is found naturally in many different foods. Although magnesium deficiency is rare, many Americans don’t get as much of the mineral as they should in their diets. Still, the average adult may only get 66 percent of their daily-recommended magnesium in their normal diet. This could be a result of the amount of processed foods we eat.

The following 10 foods are some of the best natural sources of magnesium. Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet to get a magnesium boost.

1. Whole Wheat

Most whole grains are a good source of magnesium, but whole wheat flour wins with 160 mg per cup. Use whole wheat instead of white flour for baking, and buy whole wheat bread at the store. These Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes put a healthy twist on the popular weekend breakfast staple.

2. Spinach

Dark, leafy greens are rich with nutrients, and spinach is no exception. One cup of boiled spinach has 157 mg of magnesium. Have spinach for breakfast in this spinach artichoke frittata.

3. Quinoa

Quinoa is prepared and eaten in a way that’s similar to rice. It’s known for its many health benefits, including a high protein and mineral content. One cup of cooked quinoa has 118 mg of magnesium. Swap rice for quinoa in these quinoa stuffed peppers.

4. Almonds

Not only are almonds a healthy snack, but they’re also packed with magnesium. One ounce of almonds has 80 mg, or about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake.

Toasted almonds can be added to a variety of dishes for extra texture and flavor, including this almond couscous.

5. Cashews

Another healthy snacking nut, cashews are also a good source of magnesium. One ounce has 74 mg of the mineral. Eat cashews by themselves or add them to a side salad for dinner.

6. Black Beans

All beans have health benefits, but when it comes to magnesium, black beans come out on top. They boast 60 mg per just ½ cup. Warm up this winter with spicy black bean chili, or try making easy black bean dip for your next gathering.

7. Edamame

Edamame are soy beans still in the pods. They’re usually steamed or boiled and can be eaten plain or added to a dish. Half a cup of shelled, cooked edamame beans have 50 mg of magnesium. This edamame spread goes on sandwiches and wraps, and also works as a party dip.

8. Peanuts

Like PB&J? Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 49 mg of magnesium. This simple PBB smoothie combines peanut butter and bananas for a post-workout snack.

9. Tofu

Tofu is an excellent meat substitute, whether you’re a vegetarian or just looking to switch things up a bit. Half a cup of tofu has 37 mg of magnesium.

New to tofu or looking to try a different recipe? Try these tofu vegetable kabobs.

10. Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds are often used in Asian-style cooking. They’re also a way to add extra nutrients to your meal. One tablespoon of sesame seeds has 32 mg of magnesium. This sesame chicken salad recipe puts a twist on an old favorite.

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