Top 12 Best Magnesium Rich Foods

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magnesium rich foods

Top 12 Best Magnesium Rich Foods

Magnesium rich foods should be used in nearly every meal we consume.  Our current society is plagued with magnesium deficiency affecting an estimated 80% of individuals in the United States today.  The average standard diet consists of 175 mg/day of magnesium down from an average 500 mg/day representative of diets in the 1900’s. (18)  Most people are just not consuming enough magnesium rich foods.

Dr. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D. is an American neurosurgeon and a pioneer in pain medicine.  He says, “Every known illness is associated with a magnesium deficiency,” and that, “magnesium is the most critical mineral required for electrical stability of every cell in the body.  A magnesium deficiency may be responsible for more diseases than any other nutrient. (2)”

When the majority of people don’t meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for an essential nutrient, the health consequences are severe and extremely prevalent today. The top 12 best food magnesium rich foods outlined in this article will allow you to replenish your magnesium levels and support your overall vitality and well-being.

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Essential Role of Magnesium to Health

Magnesium plays a key role in intra-cellular health. It manages the electrical gradient within cells so that the nervous system is not easily excited. More than 300 enzymes alone require magnesium to perform their biological roles in tissue and organs (1).

The body relies on optimal magnesium absorption for:

  • Memory function
  • Regulating mood and stress
  • Muscle relaxation and sleep
  • Blood sugar control
  • Healthy bone density
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Detoxification pathways in the liver
  • Normal gut motility

The RDA for magnesium ranges accordingly: (15)

Children up to 13 years of age: 80-240 mg/day

Females over 14 years of age: 310-360 mg/day

Pregnant and nursing women: 310-400 mg/day

Males over 14 years of age: 400-420 mg/day

Most natural health experts agree that these levels are considerably lower than they should be and yet close to 80% of our population is not even getting this level.  As a functional health practitioner, I will put many of my clients on 1-2 grams of magnesium each day…with no fear of an overdose and they respond amazingly well.  Many will tell me that the magnesium dramatically improved their sleep quality, mood, memory and overall performance.

Calcium to Magnesium Ratio

Unlike our ancestors whose balance of calcium to magnesium levels were equal, our lifestyle habits today lead to an imbalance in this key electrical gradient. The result is a 10:1 calcium to magnesium ratio. This ratio disrupts the healthy balance of electrolytes within cells making nerves more susceptible to stress and pain perception.

Declining magnesium levels in Western societies is dictated by a wide range of variables. Most common are chronic stress and poor dietary habits such as high sugar intake, over consumption of processed goods and too little intake of plant based nutrients found in the magnesium rich foods.

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Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Deficiency leads to a variety of health disturbances and diseases. Do you have any of the following top symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

  • Poor cognitive thought
  • Headaches and chronic migraines
  • Constipation and related disorders like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Fatigue (physical, mental and emotional)
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms
  • Cramping
  • Chronic Pain
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Mood disorders such as ADHD, anxiety and depression

A staggering list of widespread diseases is associated with magnesium deficiency. Some of these include Alzheimer’s disease, type-2 diabetes, premenstrual syndrome, hypertension, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic immune disorders. (2)  Consuming magnesium rich foods can make a world of difference in these conditions.

Top Magnesium Rich Foods

Consuming magnesium rich foods in your daily diet can help you reduce complications associated with metabolic and inflammatory issues.  The biggest things that drain magnesium levels include blood sugar imbalances and chronic stress.

If you notice you are under an increased amount of stress or have enjoyed a higher carbohydrate meal or dessert than look to consume more of these magnesium rich foods and consider adding in a good magnesium supplement which I discuss at the bottom of this article.  Look to make at least 10 of these 12 magnesium rich foods staple parts of your daily nutrition plan.

1. Swiss Chard 

Dark leafy greens and are some of the richest sources of dietary magnesium. Green vegetables like Swiss chard offer nutrients like magnesium that buffer the pH of the body from the effects of acidic foods. Increasing dietary magnesium levels is critical to this homeostatic process because it prevents the minerals in bones from being depleted to perform this buffering effect. (11)

Women are uniquely susceptible to the effects of magnesium deficiency because of changes in estrogen levels. When estrogen concentrations are elevated, magnesium intake is required in higher amounts to improve the balance of calcium to magnesium in the blood. Increasing dietary magnesium in these women can lower the risk of cardiovascular events like thrombosis. (12)

2. Spinach

Spinach is a fiber rich food loaded with nutrients like folate, potassium and vitamin B6 and is one of the best green vegetable sources for magnesium. Adding spinach to your diet is also easily accomplished. Use it in salads, add it to smoothies, prepare it in fresh juices and incorporate in almost any dish like omelets. The anti-inflammatory benefits of spinach will encourage muscle relaxation and reduce symptoms of constipation (4).

A study of men who ate spinach daily had higher levels of magnesium and a better calcium to magnesium ratio (25). Eating spinach regularly offers an effective and natural way to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches and limit their severity when they do occur. Adding up to another 100 mg/day of magnesium through dietary foods like spinach is associated with an 8% risk reduction in stroke because magnesium naturally lowers high blood pressure (26).

3. Grass-Fed Dairy

The acidity from conventional dairy products causes magnesium and other minerals to leach from bone, joints and muscle tissue. Raw grass-fed dairy, however, supplements the body’s nutritional need for magnesium. These sources also provide anti-inflammatory and sugar stabilizing nutrients like omega-3 fats and vitamin D.

If you experience lactose sensitivity or intolerance from consuming pasteurized grain-fed dairy milks and cheeses, switching to raw dairy may be a natural solution to overcoming this problem. Raw milks and cheeses contain higher concentrations of the enzymes need to digest lactose and absorb magnesium and other nutrients. If a lactose allergies persists, grass-fed ghee or clarified butter is also rich in magnesium and contains only traces of lactose.

4. Avocados

Avocados are a rich source of magnesium, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, K and healthy fatty acids. Consuming avocados regularly can help slow the progression of neurological decline and stimulate serotonin and dopamine pathways in the brain. (5, 6)

Half an avocado provides 20 mg of magnesium and is an excellent way to promote vascular strength and regulate insulin levels. Consume half an avocado in your post-workout smoothie to combat fatigue and elevate your mood. Magnesium inhibits fat absorption helping weight management and was shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease in a follow-up study of almost 40,000 men (16). (17)

5. Pumpkin Seeds

Total health is dependent on the optimal function of the gastrointestinal tract. Cleansing the intestines is essential for eliminating toxins and impurities that can lead to systemic complications. The magnesium in pumpkin seeds improves gut motility by decreasing the amount of time it takes for waste to leave the colon. (7)

Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant that stimulates stool movement in the bowels. Relieve symptoms of constipation and replenish your magnesium levels under times of high stress by snacking on pumpkin or chia seeds (8) which are excellent magnesium rich foods. Consider adding sprouted pumpkin seeds to salads, omelets and combine into dessert recipes.

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6. Sea Vegetables

Known for the deep chlorophyll rich color, sea vegetables are also one of the top magnesium rich foods. The combination of chlorophyll and magnesium prevent the toxic accumulation of carcinogens in the nervous system while boosting nerve and brain function. Sea vegetables up-regulate antioxidant pathways to combat oxidative stress and prevent the depletion of magnesium levels. (3)

Try incorporating seaweeds like dulse, nori and kelp into your diet to boost your magnesium concentration and support immune defenses.  Kelp is one of the top magnesium rich foods with 121 mg of magnesium in 100 grams of kelp.  Sprinkle Bragg’s Organic Sea Kelp Delight Seasoning or Herbamare to enrich the flavor and nutrient profile of any dish.  You can also enjoy Sea Snax which are a very tasty way to enjoy sea vegetables.

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7. Pink Salts

Compared to table salt which is toxic and can inhibit the proper absorption of magnesium into the body, pink salts provide vital trace minerals for health. Examples are Himalayan pink salt and Redmond’s Real Salt mined from volcanic sea deposits. The trace minerals they contain are reflected in their natural pink hues.

The purity of pink salts makes them a great dietary source of magnesium for improving electrolyte balance. They also contains nutrients like iodine, manganese, potassium and zinc. Consider adding a pinch of pink salt into your water following an intense workout or extended period of sweating to stabilize your electrolyte imbalance and prevent magnesium deficiency. Doing so will reduce symptoms of dehydration and prevent muscle spasms and fatigue.

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8. Nuts

Almonds, brazil nuts, pecans and macadamia nuts contain magnesium to help preserve bone density, support cardiovascular health and regulate blood sugar levels. The magnesium in nuts increases testosterone levels aiding in strength, muscle recovery and protein synthesis for metabolism. Nuts are an excellent snack for any athlete to offset the magnesium deficits that occur from increased sweat and urination. (18)

Consuming almonds in one study was associated with a reduction in blood sugar levels following a meal by 40 to 50% (9). Nut consumption has been found to reduce the occurrence of metabolic syndrome in 7% of patients following only one serving of nuts weekly (10).  Brazil nuts are the highest source of magnesium and the trace mineral selenium.

9. Dark Chocolate

You might be surprised to know that unsweetened dark cocoa powder is one of the highest sources of magnesium rich foods. A single ounce of dark chocolate provides 95 mg or about 24% of the recommended daily value of magnesium (13). Just be sure to consume non-processed chocolate that is greater than 70% cacao for its full health benefits.  The highest concentrations are in the raw cacao form but minimally processed dark chocolate is also good.

A greater need for magnesium can manifest as cravings for chocolate during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Seen again, greater compulsion to eat chocolate occurs when individuals are overwhelmed by emotional stress and seek a feel good trigger. The magnesium in chocolate provides the stimulus the brain was lacking to improve a person’s mood by balancing hormone levels and brain function. (14)

10. Wild-caught Fish

Wild-caught fish like Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines and halibut offer about 80mg of magnesium in a 2.5 ounce serving which makes them one of the best magnesium rich foods. This food source has a deep nutrient profile because it is also a fantastic source of healthy fats, vitamin D and trace minerals.

Consuming wild-caught fish low in toxicity improves neurological and cardiovascular function as well as protects against bone degeneration. With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to reach 104 million by the year 2050, it is critical not to overlook the superfood powers of wild-caught, omega 3 rich fish (19). Weekly consumption can reduce the occurrence of cognitive decline and alleviate symptoms of dementia.

11. Sprouts

Sprouts offer anti-carcinogenic properties and are packed with magnesium amongst a wide array of vitamins like A, B, C and micronutrients. Magnesium in sprouts provides health benefits for the skin, hair and slows the aging process (20).

Choosing organic broccoli, cauliflower and kale sprouts is the best way to ensure you are receiving the greatest concentration of nutrients. Researchers have found that eating 5 servings of sprouts weekly provides the maximum impact to support a healthy gut, reduce inflammation,and detoxify the body of pollutants (21). Toss sprouts over salads, stir fry and add to wraps and slaw.

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12. Coffee

Given our fast paced lifestyles, it is no surprise that coffee provides the number one source of antioxidants for Americans today. Drinking coffee in excess can deplete the body of its magnesium stores but when consumed in normal concentrations, coffee is one of the great magnesium rich foods. Limit your coffee intake to about 2 cups and stir in a healthy fat like coconut oil or grass-fed butter to prevent an adrenaline response.

The magnesium in coffee is associated with improved metabolic rate and a lower risk of insulin resistance. Researchers have found that coffee intake reduces the risk for type-2 diabetes in both men and women (22). Along with the health benefiting polyphenols also active in coffee, magnesium intake has been directly shown to lower fasting insulin levels. Drink organic coffee to avoid chemical residue from fertilizers and pesticides. (23, 24)

Supplemental Magnesium

I recommend supplemental magnesium for the majority of my patients.  Most people notice immediate results with better stress adaptation, energy, memory, improved bowel tone, mood, productivity and sleep quality.  The key is to get the right form of magnesium.

Magnesium L-threonate has been shown in the latest research to be the most effective form of magnesium for energy, sleep, brain function and stress adaptation.  This is because the L-threonate form is able to cross the blood brain barrier and absorb into the neuron cells of the brain (25, 26, 27).

Brain calm magnesium contains magnesium L-threonate along with other magnesium compounds designed to promote optimal magnesium support. Only magnesium L-threonate has the highest absorption rate of magnesium available for cells and may be the best form of a magnesium supplement that you could buy.

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Sources for this Article Include:

1. Slutsky I, Abumaria N, Wu LJ, et al. Enhancement of learning and memory by elevating brain magnesium. Neuron. 2010 Jan 28; 65(2):165-77. PMID:20152124
2. Johnson S. The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb; 56(2): 163-70. PMID: 11425281
3. Walker CJ, Weinstein JD. The magnesium-insertion step of chlorophyll biosynthesis is a two-stage reaction.Biochemical Journal. 1994; 299(Pt 1):277-284. PMCID: 1138051
4. Chacko SA, Sul J, Song Y, et al. Magnesium supplementation, metabolic and inflammatory markers, and global genomic and proteomic profiling: a randomized, double-blind, controlled, crossover trial in overweight individuals. Am J Clin Nutr 2011; 93:463-73. PMID: 21159786
5. Dreher ML and Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci iNutr. 2013; 53(7): 738-50. PMID: 23638933
6. Apolinar, LM, et al. Role of prenatal undernutrition in the expression of serotonin, dopamine and leptin receptors in adult mice: Implications of food intake. Mol Med Rep. 2014 Feb; 9(2): 407-412. PMCID: 24337628
7. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals Link Here
8. TEDx: The answer to your health is in your poop Link Here
9. Johnston CS, Trier CM, and Fleming KR. The effect of peanut and grain bar preloads on postmeal satiety, glycemia, and weight loss in healthy individuals: an acute and a chronic randomized intervention trial. Nutr J. 2013 Mar;12:35 PMCID: 3620575
10. Jaceldo SK, et al. Tree Nuts Are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: The Adventist Health Study-2. PLoS ONE. 2014 Jan; 9(1): e85133. PMCID: 3885676
11. Tucker KL, et al. Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Apr; 69(4):727-36. PMID: Link Here
12. Seelig MS. Interrelationship of magnesium and estrogen in cardiovascular and bone disorders, eclampsia, migraine and premenstrual syndrome. J Am Coll Nutr. 1993 Aug; 12(4): 442-58. PMID: 8409107
13. HealthAliciousNess: Nutrition Facts Comparison Link Here
14. Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 2013; 75(3):716-727. PMCID: 3575938
15. WebMD: Magnesium Link Here
16. Al-Delaimy WK, et al. Magnesium intake and risk of coronary heart disease among men. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Feb; 23(1): 63-70. PMID: 14963055
17. Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects.Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2013; 53(7):738-750. PMCID: 3664913
18. Kass LS, Skinner P, Poeira F. A Pilot Study on the Effects of Magnesium Supplementation with High and Low Habitual Dietary Magnesium Intake on Resting and Recovery from Aerobic and Resistance Exercise and Systolic Blood Pressure.Journal of Sports Science & Medicine. 2013; 12(1):144-150. PMCID: 3761770
19. Newton W, and McManus A. Consumption of fish and Alzheimer’s disease. J Nutr Health Aging. 2011 Aug; 15(7): 551-4552. PMID: 21808933
20. Rosadyn: Broccoli Sprout Sulforaphane benefits beyond skin deep Link Here
21. Yanaka A, et al. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Apr; 2(4):353-60. PMID: 19349290
22. Salazar-Martinez E, et al. Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jan; 140(1): 1-8. PMID: 14706966
23. Hruby A, Ngwa JS, Renström F, et al. Higher Magnesium Intake Is Associated with Lower Fasting Glucose and Insulin, with No Evidence of Interaction with Select Genetic Loci, in a Meta-Analysis of 15 CHARGE Consortium Studies.The Journal of Nutrition. 2013; 143(3):345-353. PMCID: 3713023
24. Rumawas ME, et al. Magnesium intake is related to improved insulin homeostasis in the Framingham offspring cohort. J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Dec; 25(6): 486-92. PMID: 17229895
25. Kelsay JL, and Prather ES. Mineral balances of human subjects consuming spinach in a low-fiber diet and in a diet containing fruits and vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 1983 Jul; 38(1): 12-9. PMID: 6305185
26. Volpe SL. Magnesium in Disease Prevention and Overall Health.Advances in Nutrition. 2013; 4(3):378S-383S. PMCID: 3650510

Dr. Jockers

Dr. David Jockers is a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist and corrective care chiropractor. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has developed 6 revolutionary online programs with thousands of participants.

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  1. My son and I are already doing the low lectin Plant Paradox program. Now on Dr Oz a red flag about contaminants on green leafy veggies and in spices. Living in a cold country with so many imports, we cannot throw caution to the wind.

    I use Shaklee’s blue soap for washing all fruits and veggies. Have recently been putting washed leafy greens in freezer to avoid wasting $ letting them wilt. Then frozen stuff into smoothies. But no more after this alert from the Oz show.

    Doing the Keto portion of Dr Gundry’s food plan, but having reoccurrence of gut problems, never sure if the problem is IN the gut or the pelvic area which has sustained 6 abdominal surgeries over the decades. I know for a fact the power of the body to heal otherwise i would have left the planet years ago.

    But for the low lectin, it is also advised to eliminate anything with seeds. Not sure if I will continue with sprouts since they are also a source for bacterial contemn. Sometimes is seems like even with 5 decades of education, it is not easy to see progress.

    I do admire your very well put together modules of info. Easy access. Kudos to you.
    Moving forward on the path of world transfiguration.

  2. Is the Magnesium L-threonate synthetic? Wouldn’t a natural form like magnesium chloride flakes made into an oil (50/50 with distilled water) and applied topically be a better option?

  3. Hi LC,
    The better option would have been to get all your Mg. needs from food, but since that didn’t happen, the best option could be to take the flakes dermally, consume the L-threonate and perhaps take other forms to make up for the lifetime of deficiency, along with the suggested foods mentioned. If you grow your own food, then a good option would be to supplement chosen plants with the minerals you need.

  4. Check your text under grass fed butter. CLA is NOT conjugated linoleum acid. Please change to conjugated linoleic acid.

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