Magnesium is the 8th most abundant element, but did you know that about half of the U.S. population are deficient and don’t know it? (1) It’s one of the most vital minerals humans need to thrive. This mineral has been proven to have a direct effect on mood (2), sleep (3), heart health (4), and much more. In one National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, older women were found to have a significantly higher risk of heart failure if their magnesium levels were low. (5)
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body from blood pressure regulation to blood sugar control (6), and more. Magnesium infusions and therapy (7) have long been used as an intervention method in hospitals to prevent heart attacks and there is mounting evidence that it’s key to prevent heart disease as well (8). This is especially true if cardiac events run in your family. There are many things we can do to make sure our magnesium levels are adequate and even better, optimal.
Table of Contents
Foods High in Magnesium
The first place to start is to boost the amount of magnesium in your diet. Check out the healthy food list below to see how you can start consuming more magnesium today.
Many different beans have potent magnesium levels, such as chickpeas, navy beans, and kidney beans to name a few (9, 10, 11). These pack in over 100 mg in just one serving. Other beans do contain magnesium but at lower amounts. They’re a great food to keep around if you’re in a pinch, or need to stay home for any reason, as they have a long shelf life.
Beans are also conveniently one of the most versatile foods on the planet. You can mix them into so many different dishes and eat them at any time of the day. The easiest is to make your own homemade tacos with cooked beans of your choice, add in your favorite fruit like mango, sprinkle on some cheese, and add your favorite salsa. Make sure you soak any beans before cooking for a better outcome.
Summary: Beans are packed with magnesium. Chickpeas, navy beans, and kidney beans pack in over 100 milligrams per serving. They are a convenient and versatile food that fits into any meal or snack.
2. Kelp and Dulse
Kelp is a type of green algae or seaweed that has 121 mg of magnesium per 100 g (12). And, it can be used easily, too. Kelp is added to many different seasonings to make it easier for people to cook with and sprinkle on their favorite foods. You can also buy kelp flakes to cook in rice, make homemade sushi, and more.
Dulse is similar but is a type of red algae with around the same amount of magnesium. Dulse has a remarkable flavor comparable with bacon, believe it or not. You can even get crafty and fry it up to reach a similar texture as well. Seaweed and algae are naturally high in iodine (13), which can help to regulate hormones (14) and even lower blood sugar levels (15). Naturally high in antioxidants (16, 17), these two are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals.
Summary: Kelp is a type of green algae or seaweed that contains 121 milligrams of magnesium per serving. Kelp flakes are easy to add to rice and other dishes. Dulse is a red algae with the same amount of magnesium. Kelp and dulse are also high in iodine and antioxidants, which helps regulate hormones and lower blood sugar levels.
3. Certain Nuts
Some nuts that are extremely high in magnesium include brazil nuts, dulse, filberts (or hazelnuts), pecans, walnuts, almonds, and cashews (18, 19). Just one cup of brazil nuts contains an astounding 500 mg of magnesium, as well as healthy fats, antioxidants, and many other vitamins and minerals (20, 21). Brazil nuts are also very high in selenium (22), another essential nutrient. All you need to reach your selenium limit in a day is three brazil nuts.
Almonds, cashews, and even walnuts come in their own nut butter now, so it’s easier than ever to consume this nutritious food group. One ounce of almonds contains 20% of the recommended allowance of magnesium. Filberts, also called hazelnuts have 220 mg in just one cup, and pecans contain 30% of the daily recommended allowance.
Summary: Some nuts are very high in magnesium. Brazil nuts, dulse, filberts (hazelnuts), pecans, walnuts, almonds, and cashews are all rich sources of magnesium. Brazil nuts are amongst the highest in magnesium, containing 500 milligrams, followed by filberts with 220 milligrams. Nuts are a great way to boost nutrient intake, especially magnesium.
Shellfish can be a healthy addition to a complete diet for many reasons. Shrimp packs in 39 mg of magnesium in 100 g (23). Shrimp are also extremely high in heart and brain-healthy omega 3 fatty acids (24). They also contain an antioxidant called astaxanthin (25), which has been found to have many anti-inflammatory properties (26). It can even be used to boost joint pain, skin health, and be used as an alternative to skin reactions like rosacea (27, 28).
Shrimp can be thrown into omelets, salads, or simply eaten plain with cocktail sauce for easy consumption. The only issue that arises with shrimp and shellfish is when you eat too much. Similar to most food, even healthy varieties, portions are important to stick to as you can overdo it and counter the benefits. Portion sizes can be easy to follow if you don’t allow your protein choice to be more than the size palm of your hand.
Summary: Shrimp is an excellent source of magnesium, with 39 milligrams per 100 grams. Shrimp is high in heart and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and an antioxidant called astaxanthin which is a natural anti-inflammatory. In the right portion, shrimp can be a healthy addition to salads, pasta, or even omelets.
5. Collard and Dandelion Greens
These two come as a pair because they can be used together in many different recipes. Or, you can benefit from them separately. To get the bitterness out of dandelion green, be sure to rinse them well and blanch them. Collard greens make a great bread alternative for burgers of any kind, too. Just sauté a few leaves of collard greens on the stove to soften them a bit and add some salt for taste.
Both can be mixed with parmesan cheese and even butter for a more flavorful kick. They’re also both super high in essential vitamins like vitamins A, C, K, and E (29, 30). Look into some new recipes to swap out your greens once in a while for a magnesium reboot.
Summary: Collard and dandelion greens pair very well together, or can be eaten separately. Dandelion greens are often bitter so make sure to rinse and blanch them before consuming. They are rich in magnesium and vitamins A, C, K, and E. Toss them into a salad or sauté them with some parmesan cheese.
6. Whole Grains
Most should make sure to include a generous amount of whole grains in your everyday routine. If you’re looking to find the whole grains with the most magnesium, look no further than barley, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and rye (31, 32). Barley tops the others with 245 mg in only one cup. Buckwheat comes in a close second with 231 mg, followed by rye and brown rice with under 200 mg.
Any is a great addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You can make a buckwheat stir fry with your favorite veggies like peppers and spinach. Or, make life easy and use a rice cooker for your brown rice. Rye bread is the easiest to come by, so make sure to grab some at your local supermarket for a magnesium boost.
Summary: Whole grains are rich in magnesium, fiber, B vitamins, and other nutrients, making them an essential food to eat daily. Barley, buckwheat, brown rice, millet, and rye are top choices for magnesium intake. Barley has 245 milligrams in 1 cup, buckwheat 231 milligrams, and rye and brown rice under 200 milligrams. Add whole grains to every meal if you can.
There’s a reason eating plantains feels calming. They are packed full of magnesium (33), the ultimate relaxation mineral (34). However, the plantains we’re used to eating at restaurants are not exactly what you’d call healthy because they’re often deep-fried in heavy unhealthy oils. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be a part of a healthy, hearty, and satisfying diet.
Plantains are loaded with 66 mg in just one medium fruit. The best way to reap the benefits of plantains is to use avocado oil, or coconut oil to either lightly sautés them or you can even bake them.
Summary: Plantains are a great source of magnesium, with 66 milligrams in one medium fruit. They are considered a calming fruit because of their high magnesium content. They are a tasty food when sautéed in avocado or coconut oil, or can even be baked in the oven.
8. Tofu & Chicken
Tofu is usually a safe choice to add-in for most. However, if you have an allergy to soy, you want to avoid this magnesium-filled meat alternative. Tofu has 37 mg of magnesium in just 0.5 cups (35). Although some other meats contain magnesium, they’re lower amounts. The highest meat with magnesium is chicken (36). Try to choose organic, free-range chicken without antibiotics or hormones if you can for the healthiest option.
If you can tolerate tofu and chicken without food sensitivities or allergies, mix them both into your diet for an assortment of different vitamins and minerals. Tofu can be easily mixed into a breakfast scramble with turmeric, garlic, onion, and your favorite vegetables.
Summary: Just 1/2 cup of tofu contains 37 milligrams of magnesium. Add nutritious tofu to a breakfast scramble with turmeric, veggies, garlic, and onion, or simply add it to a stir-fry. Some meats contain magnesium, but the highest source is chicken. Tofu and chicken are lean, magnesium-rich protein sources that can be added to many dishes.
9. Dried fruit like Figs and Dates
Dates and figs are similar dried fruits with slight differences but they’re both extremely nutritious. With 16% of the daily recommended allowance of magnesium (37), these are a great snack to have around the house. They’re also packed with fiber (38). Figs have been used for years to alleviate gastrointestinal stress, especially related to constipation (39, 40).
Dates are great to add as a natural sweetener to smoothies and even oatmeal. Just make sure you remove the large pit if you don’t buy them pitted already. Figs are a wonderful snack to pair with cheeses, fresh fruit, and much more.
Summary: Dates and figs contain 16% of the daily recommended allowance of magnesium. They are also packed with fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals. These healthy snacks help alleviate gastrointestinal issues and support overall health.
10. Herbs like Parsley, and Garlic
Try to always have at least one of these three nutrition powerhouse herbs. Parsley and garlic are great to have around for many reasons beyond magnesium, too. Parsley is not only a good magnesium-rich herb (41), but it’s also been proven to improve skin health, and it’s also high in vitamins A, C, and K. And, it’s loaded with antioxidants (42, 43).
Garlic has always been known to be a potent herb and healing agent (44). It’s been used as a medicinal herb for centuries to boost the immune system (45). Many use garlic to help fight off colds for that reason. With few calories, garlic can even help to lower your risk of heart disease (46) and lower blood pressure (47).
Summary: Parsley and garlic are nutrition powerhouses, both rich in magnesium and many other nutrients. Parsley is high in vitamins A, C, K, and antioxidants, and has been shown to improve skin health. Garlic is a potent healing agent, used as a medicinal herb to boost immunity, lower risk or heart disease, and lower blood pressure.
Avocado is a food most can add to their daily meals. Filled with healthy fats (48), potassium, and a hefty share of magnesium (49), it’s one of the ultimate relaxing and satisfying foods. Only one cup of avocado has 42 mg of magnesium in it.
You can get away with simply eating a quarter of an avocado a day to increase your intake of magnesium. Make sure to refrigerate avocados if they are at about a medium-firm texture, or they will go bad fast. After cutting one, refrigerate the open leftover piece, too. A good way to tell if an avocado is ready to eat is to pop out the step and see what color it is. If it’s green, you’re ready to go, and if it’s brown, it may have gone bad.
Summary: Avocado is a versatile fruit that is full of heart-healthy fats, potassium, and magnesium. One cup of avocado has 42 milligrams of magnesium. A quarter of an avocado is a good serving size. If you cut one open, you can refrigerate the leftover piece and use it in a later meal or snack.
Since magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the body, you want to be sure you’re not depleting vital levels with a nutrient-poor diet. There are many foods that contain magnesium, but these are great starters. Other things you can do to make sure you don’t deplete magnesium levels are finding ways to relax. Stress significantly inhibits magnesium (50), so make sure to carve out time in your day to find your calm, whatever that means to you. It could mean taking an Epsom salt bath, which is full of beneficial magnesium.
You can also limit your intake of coffee, sugar, salt, and soda. If you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease, be sure to ask your doctor about checking your magnesium levels.