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Foods high in magnesium

3-minute read

Magnesium is essential for healthy muscles, nerves, bones and blood sugar levels. Many foods contain the mineral, but the main sources of magnesium in Australia are cereals and non-alcoholic drinks like coffee and water.

Why is magnesium important for your health?

Magnesium is important for many processes in the body. It is needed for your muscles and nerves to work properly, to keep your blood sugar and blood pressure at the right level, and to make protein, bone, and DNA.

People who have more magnesium in their diets have a lower risk of a heart attack or stroke and of developing type 2 diabetes. They are also likely to have a higher bone mineral density, meaning they are at lower risk of developing osteoporosis

If you don’t have enough magnesium in your body, you might have symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. Very severe magnesium deficiency can cause numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, personality changes, and an abnormal heart rhythm. 

How much magnesium do I need?

Men need 420 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day and women need 320mg each day. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, however, need more than that.

The recommended daily intake for children, in mg is:

  • 1-3 years: 80mg
  • 4-8 years: 130mg
  • 9-13 years: 240mg
  • boys 14-18 years: 410mg
  • girls 14-18 years: 360mg

What are the best sources of magnesium?

Many foods and drinks contain magnesium. As a general rule, foods that are high in fibre provide magnesium. Some good sources of the mineral include leafy green vegetables – such as spinach – legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be sources of magnesium, but how much magnesium they contain depends on the brand.

You can get magnesium from the following foods:

  • almonds, 30g (80mg of magnesium)
  • spinach, boiled, ½ cup (78mg)
  • cashews, 30g (74mg)
  • peanuts, ¼ (63mg)
  • soymilk, 1 cup (61mg)
  • oatmeal, 1 cup cooked (6 mg)
  • bread, whole wheat, 2 slices (46mg)
  • avocado, cubed, 1 cup (44mg)
  • rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup (42mg)
  • milk, 1 cup (24mg)

Should I take magnesium supplements?

Most young children in Australia get enough magnesium, but more than 6 in 10 men and 7 in 10 women don’t get enough magnesium every day.

People who are especially at risk of not getting enough magnesium are people with diseases like Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease, people with type 2 diabetes, older people and people who have alcoholism. 

If you have a magnesium deficiency or certain health problems, your doctor may recommend you take a magnesium supplement. Health problems that can be helped by taking a magnesium supplement include constipationindigestion, high blood pressure during pregnancy, irregular heartbeat, asthma, cerebral palsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches and osteoporosis.

You can’t get too much magnesium from your food, but it is important not to take more than the recommended dose of a magnesium supplement. Having too much magnesium from a supplement can cause diarrhoeanausea, and stomach cramps.

Magnesium supplements can interfere with other medicines you may be taking, including antibiotics, diuretics and medicines for acid reflux or stomach ulcers. It’s always important to tell your doctor or pharmacist about any supplements or over the counter medicines you are taking.

Last reviewed: December 2018

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