Healthy Foods High in Magnesium

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on November 14, 2022
3 min read

Magnesium is a mineral that plays various roles in the body like:

  • Regulating blood pressure and glucose levels,
  • Promoting bone growth, and
  • Creating DNA.

Yet, many people do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Determining whether you have a magnesium deficiency isn't easy as there is no simple way to measure magnesium in the body. The most common test for magnesium is a blood test, however,  most of the body's magnesium is inside cells and bones. 

Over-the-counter magnesium supplements are available, but they can interact with some medications such as antibiotics. Additionally, taking too much magnesium can be harmful to your health. Therefore, it is suggested to get magnesium through your diet. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for ways to better incorporate this vital mineral in your diet.

The Daily Value (DV) set by the Food and Drug Administration for magnesium is 420 milligrams for men and 320 mg a day for women. Some people with migraines take magnesium at higher doses to prevent headaches, but a doctor should oversee that treatment.

You should not take more than 350 milligrams in a supplement since you are likely to consume some magnesium from food sources. Many laxatives and heartburn remedies also contain magnesium. If you take such medicines regularly, you should consider their content when determining whether you need more magnesium.

Getting enough magnesium has the following health benefits:

Bone Health

About 60% of magnesium in the body is stored in the bones, where it contributes to bone mineral density. You may be less likely to develop osteoporosis if you get adequate amounts of magnesium. On the other hand, too much magnesium can harm bone health.  

Diabetes Prevention

Those with higher levels of magnesium have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, numerous studies have shown. However, the American Diabetes Association says there is no evidence that increasing magnesium improves blood sugar control in those with diabetes.

Heart Health

Magnesium supplements can lower blood pressure, according to an analysis of 34 studies. The supplements lowered both diastolic and systolic pressure (the top and bottom measures) in subjects with normal or high blood pressure.

Foods with magnesium offer many other nutritional benefits. These seven foods rank among the highest in this valuable mineral:

1.  Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are mineral superstars. A single ounce provides 156 milligrams or around 37% of the Daily Value (DV) for magnesium. These seeds contain manganese, copper, phosphorus, and zinc. They are also a good source of protein.

2.  Chia seeds

Chia seeds are close to superfood status, with protein, calcium, fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of chia seeds also has 111 milligrams of magnesium, for 26% of the DV. They have been touted as promoting weight loss, but that claim is unproven. 

3.  Certain Nuts

Almonds and cashews are rich in magnesium. One ounce of almonds contains 80 milligrams for 19% of the DV. Cashews are almost as good, with 74 milligrams for 18% of the DV. Plus, you'll get all the other great health benefits from eating nuts.

4.  Peanuts and peanut butter

Peanuts are legumes, not true nuts, however, they are also a good source of magnesium. A quarter-cup of roasted peanuts contains 63 milligrams, for 15% of the DV. You can get 49 milligrams in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, for 12% of the DV. People who eat peanuts may have less cardiovascular disease and better weight control.

5.  Spinach 

One-half cup of spinach contains 78 milligrams of magnesium for 19% of the DV. When you eat spinach, you get significant anti-inflammatory benefits. You also get a wide assortment of vitamins and minerals. 

6.  Black beans

Black beans are a nutritionist's dream because they have protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also digest slowly so you feel full longer. Additionally, they have 60 milligrams of magnesium for 14% of the DV. 

7. Edamame

If you're looking for a source of magnesium that's low in calories, check out edamame. A half-cup of young green soybeans contains 50 milligrams of magnesium for 12% of the DV. You'll also get 6 grams of protein, along with fiber to fill you up, all for just 65 calories.