Best✔️ to Worst❌: High-Magnesium Food Sources Ranked

magnesium food

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for our body. It plays a variety of vital roles in many of our body’s physiological processes such as the regulation of muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar control.

Magnesium can be found in plenty of sources – you can get it from a wide range of foods, some food products, and, of course, dietary supplements. However, despite its wide availability, many Canadians do not meet their daily recommended intake of magnesium.

According to Magnesium Health Canada, nearly half of all Canadians are deficient in magnesium, which leads to a plethora of other health concerns. 

That being said, we must take our daily recommended intake of magnesium. One way to do that is to simply add it to our diet! In this article, we are going to talk about some of the best food sources of magnesium and we are going to rank them from “best” to “worst.” We will also talk about some important facts about magnesium such as why magnesium is important, symptoms of magnesium deficiency, causes of magnesium deficiency, and some more.

Why is Magnesium Important?

Magnesium is an important mineral for our body simply because, as we mentioned earlier, it plays a lot of vital roles in many of our body’s physiological processes.

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for our body because it plays plenty of vital roles in many of our body’s physiological processes. To begin with, magnesium is a cofactor for more than 300 of our enzyme systems which regulate many of our body’s physiological and biochemical processes.

Some of the enzyme systems that magnesium is a cofactor of are systems for muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, protein synthesis, and blood sugar control. Aside from that, our body also needs magnesium for some of its important functions such as the synthesis of DNA and RNA, and energy production.

With these being said, we can already tell why magnesium is very important for our body – without it (or if we have little of it), many of our physiological and biochemical processes will not work the way they should work. Therefore, we must get an adequate amount of magnesium daily. But the question: how much magnesium do you need daily?

How Much Magnesium Do You Need Daily?

Like other nutrients, how much magnesium you need primarily depends on your age and sex. Pregnancy and lactation also affect your magnesium’s daily recommended intake.

That being said, how much magnesium do you need? According to the National Institutes of Health, here’s the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for magnesium:

Male

  •   Birth to 6 months – 30mg*
  •   7–12 months – 75mg*
  •   1–3 years – 80mg
  •   4–8 years – 130mg
  •   9–13 years – 240mg
  •   14–18 years – 410mg
  •   19–30 years – 400mg
  •   31–50 years – 420mg
  •   51+ years – 420mg

Female

  •   Birth to 6 months – 30mg*
  •   7–12 months – 75mg*
  •   1–3 years – 80mg
  •   4–8 years – 130mg
  •   9–13 years – 240mg
  •   14–18 years – 360mg
  •   19–30 years – 310mg
  •   31–50 years – 320mg
  •   51+ years – 320mg

Female (Pregnancy)

  •   14–18 years – 400mg
  •   19–30 years – 350mg
  •   31–50 years – 360mg

Female (Lactation)

  •   14–18 years – 360mg
  •   19–30 years – 310mg
  •   31–50 years – 320mg

* = adequate intake

5 Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

The symptoms of magnesium deficiency may vary from person to person and from the severity of his or her deficiency. Nevertheless, there are common signs and symptoms that one may experience if he or she is deficient in magnesium.

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness

However, as your magnesium deficiency worsens, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Osteoporosis
  • Mental health disorders (i.e. personality changes and depression)
  • Asthma
  • High blood pressure
 

1) Muscle cramps

Muscle cramping is one of the most common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency. This is simply because magnesium plays a role in muscle and nerve function. When your magnesium levels are low, one of the functions that will be affected is your muscle and nerve function. Aside from muscle cramping, you can also experience twitching, fatigue, and overall muscle weakness.

That being said, keep in mind that there are other possible reasons for muscle cramping and twitching. For instance, too much caffeine can cause muscle twitching. Also, occasional muscle twitching is normal. But when you twitch more often than normal, consider consulting your doctor as it could be a cause of an underlying issue such as magnesium deficiency or something else.

2) Osteoporosis

While calcium is often praised for bone health, magnesium also plays a vital role in our bone health, too. Specifically, according to American Bone Health, people with “higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.”

That being said, if our body runs low on magnesium, our bones suffer as well. One of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency is osteoporosis, and we can already see why – if we have low levels of magnesium, our bone mineral density can suffer which leads to osteoporosis and making our bones more prone to bone fractures and other bone health problems.

3) Mental health disorders

While we know that magnesium plays a lot of roles in many of our physiological processes, do you know that magnesium also plays a role in our cognitive and overall mental state?

Studies show that low levels of magnesium harm our mental health. Some of the mental health disorders that one can experience when he or she runs low in magnesium are personality changes, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and apathy (emotional numbness).

Inversely, magnesium plays a positive role in our mood. Just check the ingredients of therapeutic supplements and you will see that magnesium is one of its most common ingredients.

Aside from our mood, magnesium also positively affects our cognitive functions. This is because magnesium also plays a role in both our nerve function and the brain itself.

4) Asthma

Magnesium deficiency can sometimes cause asthma or breathing difficulty in general.

Some experts believe that this is so because low levels of magnesium can cause an excessive buildup of calcium in the muscle lining of our lung’s airways. This buildup causes the airways to be narrower, and it eventually leads to breathing difficulty.

Interestingly, magnesium (in the form of magnesium sulfate) is sometimes used for people who suffer from severe asthma. This is to help them expand their airways so that they can breathe better.

5) High blood pressure

Finally, a magnesium deficiency could cause high blood pressure. According to animal studies, magnesium deficiency can cause high blood pressure. This in turn can lead to heart diseases. However, while the said study is related to animals, we do not have similar studies that are related to humans.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that magnesium does play a role in blood pressure. For instance, studies show that magnesium supplements can help lower one’s blood pressure, especially for those who already have high blood pressure.

To conclude, while we are still not sure if magnesium deficiency can cause high blood pressure in humans just as it does in animals, magnesium itself certainly does play a role in our blood pressure.

What Foods Are Rich in Magnesium?

In general rich sources of magnesium are greens, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, wheat germ, wheat, and oat bran. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adult men is 400-420 mg per day. The dietary allowance for adult women is 310-320 mg per day.

Now that you know the importance of magnesium, you may want to get as much magnesium as you could get.

Given that many Canadians do not get their recommended intake of magnesium, it is good to know that magnesium is very much available just from our diet alone! Mainly, you can get magnesium from foods such as nuts, seeds, greens, whole grains, wheat, dry beans, and so much more. Here is a list of some of the foods that contain magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Soy milk
  • Avocado
  • Potato
  • Banana
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans
  • Peanuts
  • Yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Milk
  • Apple
  • Rice
  • Carrots
  • Chicken breast
  • Beef
  • Broccoli
 

Of course, the magnesium amount in these foods varies – some are rich in magnesium while others are not. But as you can see in the list, you can find magnesium in a wide variety of foods that regardless of your diet, you can almost always get magnesium. But there’s more to that.

Magnesium that is naturally present in foods is generally not considered harmful and, therefore, you don’t need to limit it. This means that you can get as much magnesium as you want so long that it comes naturally from foods.

In case you’re wondering, the same does not apply to dietary supplements and medications – do not consume too much magnesium through supplements and medications as it will cause side effects such as diarrhea and muscle cramping.

Ranking High-Magnesium Food Sources from Best to Worst

As we have mentioned earlier, you can get magnesium from a wide variety of foods such as greens, seeds, nuts, beans, and meat (fish, beef), dairy (milk), etc. However, not all of these foods are rich in magnesium. So, if you want to get most of the magnesium from a single food, you should aim for foods that are very rich in magnesium.

In this section, we are going to talk about some of the foods that are high in magnesium. We will also rank them from “best” to “worst” so that you can easily see which food is the richest in magnesium, the “poorest” in magnesium, and those that are in-between.

Here are some foods rich in magnesium:

  1. Pumpkin seeds
  2. Chia seeds
  3. Almonds
  4. Spinach
  5. Dark chocolate
  6. Avocados
 

1) Pumpkin Seeds (A+

Among the list, pumpkin seeds are the richest when it comes to magnesium content. Studies show that 100g of regular pumpkin seeds can give you as much as 90 mg of magnesium. If you are eating pumpkin seed kernels, 1oz. of pumpkin seed kernels can give you as much as 168 mg of magnesium!

Aside from providing you with high levels of magnesium, pumpkin seeds also provide potent antioxidants for your body. They are also good for your heart health, blood sugar levels, and they can protect or reduce your risk from certain types of cancer.

2) Chia Seeds (A

Chia seeds come as second on the list – 1oz. of chia seeds contain around 95 mg of magnesium.

But aside from providing you with plenty of magnesium, chia seeds also come with other amazing health benefits. Some of its health benefits are:

  •   Chia seeds are loaded with antioxidants
  •   Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for both heart and brain health
  •   Chia seeds contain protein
  •   Chia seeds can help you lose weight, mainly thanks to their fiber and protein content
 

3) Almonds (B+

Are you fond of almonds? If so, then we have a piece of good news for you – as you can already tell, almonds are a great source of magnesium! ¼ cup of almonds can provide you with 90mg of magnesium.

Aside from magnesium, almonds are also rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats and vitamin E. Almonds also offer a variety of health benefits such as reduced blood pressure, lowered blood sugar levels, lowered cholesterol levels, and they can also promote weight loss.

4) Spinach (B

When it comes to greens, spinach is one of the greens that can offer a lot of magnesium for your body. A ½ cup of spinach can provide you with 78 mg of magnesium, but if you want to maximize you, you can simply eat 1 cup of spinach and get a whopping 157 mg of magnesium!

Aside from magnesium, spinach will also provide you with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K1, iron, folic acid, and calcium. Spinach can be very beneficial for your eye health and since it contains antioxidants through vitamins such as vitamins A and C, it will aid in fighting off your body’s oxidative stress.

5) Dark Chocolate (B-

We already know that dark chocolates offer a variety of nutrients and health benefits. One of the nutrients that we can get from dark chocolate is magnesium – 50g of dark chocolate alone can provide your body with as high as 115 mg of magnesium!

Aside from providing you with a great amount of magnesium, dark chocolate also comes with some great health benefits. Aside from being very nutritious, dark chocolate can reduce your risk of heart disease, it could protect your skin from the effects of the sun and it can also improve your brain function.

6) Avocados (C

Finally, we have avocados. While avocados do not offer as much magnesium as the ones in the list – one medium avocado contains around 58mg – it does not mean that we will leave it out.

Avocados are loaded with fiber, which is a plant matter that can contribute to things such as weight loss and blood sugar spikes. Avocados are also high in potassium; in fact, they are richer in potassium compared to bananas! Finally, and interestingly, avocados’ fat content can help you absorb the nutrients that come from plant foods.

Therefore, while avocados are not rich in magnesium compared to others on the list, it is still wise to add them to your diet!

3 Factors that Deplete Your Body’s Magnesium

By this time, we already know the effects of magnesium deficiency and where to get magnesium from our diet alone. However, just as it is important to know how to fill our body with magnesium, it is also important to know how our body is depleted with magnesium.

There are a variety of causes that depletes our magnesium such as lifestyle factors (e.g. alcoholism), but it’s also important to note other causes because we may not realize that they can cause magnesium depletion.

Here are the 3 factors that can deplete your body’s magnesium:

  • Medications
  • Sugar
  • Calcium imbalance
 

1) Medications (D

We already know that medications can cause side effects just as it attempts to heal specific damage to our body. One of the side effects that medications can do is to deplete your body of some of its nutrients such as magnesium.

Medications can deplete your body’s magnesium either by increasing your kidney’s excretion of magnesium or body increasing your body’s magnesium requirement, which essentially means that your body’s magnesium level won’t be enough to meet its “new” needs.

Some of the medications that can deplete your body’s magnesium are antibiotics, painkillers, diuretics, and cortisone. Hormone-based medications such as birth control pills can also cause magnesium depletion in a woman’s body, together with overall depletion of her body’s nutrients.

2) Sugar (D-

We already know that sugar is bad for our body if we have too much in it, especially in our bloodstream. Among other things that it can cause such as diabetes, high blood sugar together with elevated insulin levels can decrease our body’s absorption of magnesium. But not only that, but it also causes our kidneys to excrete more magnesium and to excrete it faster, which leads to the depletion of our body’s magnesium.

Regular exercise, proper diet, and controlling our blood sugar level (regardless if we are diabetic or not) are some of the ways that we can do to avoid the damage that high blood sugar causes such as magnesium depletion and, of course, diseases like diabetes.

3) Calcium Imbalance (D-

Calcium imbalance, especially excessive calcium in our body, causes magnesium depletion in our body. However, how it usually happens is interesting.

When we think of bone health, we mostly think only of calcium. As a result, many of us consume a lot of calcium to preserve our bones. Unfortunately, we are not also told that other nutrients such as magnesium and vitamin D are important for our bone health.

To add to the complexity, too much calcium can increase our body’s need for magnesium. And to even add further to that, calcium cannot be used effectively by our body without magnesium.

In short, when we consume too much calcium without taking care of other nutrients such as magnesium, it’s a lose-lose because excessive calcium increases our body’s need for magnesium while low levels of magnesium make calcium pretty much ineffective to bring about its health benefits.

As a general rule, calcium to magnesium supplement consumption should be at a ratio of 2:1. Some experts say that 1:1 is also enough but some even favor increasing the side of magnesium’s ratio.

The ratio depends on your diet and how much nutrients you get from your foods and dietary supplements. Also, medical complications complicate the calculation of this ratio.

If you are not sure, consider consulting your doctor to know how much calcium and magnesium you should take based on your situation. But again, 2:1 of calcium-to-magnesium ratio is the general or standard rule.

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