Calcium and Magnesium:

Foods that Contain Magnesium

By Dr. Ben Kim

Magnesium is one of seven minerals that you need in relatively large amounts for optimal health. Most of your body's magnesium is located in your bones and teeth. Your remaining magnesium is present in your soft tissues and the fluids that surround these tissues.

What Does Magnesium Do in Your Body?

  • Helps to form tooth enamel, which helps to prevent cavities

  • Provides structure to your bones

  • Helps to convert carbohydrates, protein, and fats into energy

  • Helps to make protein and genetic material for your cells

  • Helps to regulate nerve signaling, muscle contraction and relaxation, and the rhythm of your heart

  • Helps to reduce homocysteine levels, which lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease, and many degenerative diseases.
Here are some healthy, whole food sources of magnesium:

Whole Food Sources Serving Magnesium (mg)
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 83.8
Almonds, raw 1 ounce 81.1
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup 78.3
Swiss chard, cooked 1/2 cup 75.2
Lima beans, cooked 1/2 cup 62.9
Avocado 1 large 50.0
Peanuts*, raw 1 ounce 49.8
Hazelnuts, raw 1 ounce 49.0
Okra, cooked 1/2 cup 45.6
Black-eyed peas, cooked 1/2 cup 42.8

*It is important to use organic peanuts only. If you use organic peanut butter, first discard the oil that has separated from the butter. This will reduce the likelihood of disrupting your omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio.

Signs of Deficiency
  • Unexplained muscle spasms and/or weakness
  • Irregular heart beat
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression and confusion

Risk Factors for Developing a Magnesium Deficiency

  • Chronic alcoholism
  • Long term use of a diuretic (water pill)
  • Malabsorption syndromes and chronic diarrhea
  • Supplementing with high doses of zinc
  • Not having enough healthy protein in your diet

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Magnesium - 1997

Life Stage   Age Males (mg/day)  Females (mg/day) 
Infants 0-6 months 30 30
Infants 7-12 months 75 75
Children 1-3 years 80 80
Children 4-8 years 130 130
Children 9-13 years 240 240
Adolescents  14-18 years 410 360
Adults 19-30 years 400 310
Adults 31 years and older 420 320
Pregnancy 18 years and younger - 400
Pregnancy 19-30 years - 350
Pregnancy 31 years and older - 360
Breastfeeding 18 years and younger - 360
Breastfeeding 19-30 years - 310
Breastfeeding 31 years and older - 320

Magnesium doesn't pose a toxic threat to your body as long your kidneys are healthy enough to filter and eliminate excess amounts via your urine. Still, in order to spare your kidneys of unnecessary workload, I believe that it is best to avoid magnesium supplements and to obtain magnesiuim exclusively from whole foods.

Diagnostic Test for Magnesium
You can test your blood level of magnesium and other electrolytes via a routine blood test with your doctor or laboratory.

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