A Series on Minerals – Part 1: Magnesium


Magnesium is a mineral that is vital for many physiological processes in the body, but not one that many people know much about.

Food Sources:

Magnesium is found in a large variety of foods including:

  • Whole grains (refined grains are striped of over 80% of magnesium content and are not a good source)
  • Fruits and vegetables (i.e. spinach, potatoes, winter squash, orange juice, etc.)
  • Nuts, legumes & seeds (i.e. brazil nuts, almonds, soybeans, tofu, etc.)
  • Animal products (i.e. meat, fish and dairy – not the highest source)
  • Chocolate (great news if you have a sweet tooth!)

Daily Recommended Intake:

For adults 31 years and older, the recommended daily intake for magnesium is 420 mg for males and 320 mg for females. As a reference, a large potato contains approximately 90 mg of magnesium. Over the last century, magnesium intake has decreased because of the increased consumption of processed foods. Over 50% of Americans do not consume the daily recommended amount of magnesium.

Functions of Magnesium:

Magnesium plays a role in hundreds of different pathways throughout the body. Some of the most important roles of magnesium include:

  • ATP production: The molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary source of energy for all cells in the body. It is crucial for most cellular functions in the body.
  • Cofactor: Magnesium is a necessary element (cofactor) for the creation of many substances such as DNA, RNA and many proteins. It is also necessary for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
  • Ion transport: Ions such as calcium and potassium require magnesium for transport in and out of the body’s cells.
  • Magnesium is also necessary for muscle contractions, regular heart rhythms, and nervous system impulses.

Deficiency Risks

People that have an increased risk for a magnesium deficiency include those with metabolic, kidney and gastrointestinal disorders (i.e. diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, etc.). Alcoholism, certain drug intake and poor food intake can also lead to risk of deficiency.

Moreover, magnesium is fundamental to achieving optimal health and is easily accessible by most of the population. Striving to include more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes is a great way to ensure an adequate amount of the mineral is being consumed.

Stipanuk, M. H., Caudill, M. A. (2019). Biochemical, Physiological, and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition (4th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.