Magnesium is an essential mineral for good health, but most of us don’t get nearly as much as we need. One way to boost your magnesium levels is to make sure you’re getting lots in your diet, but which foods have the most magnesium? Read on to find out why we need magnesium, how much magnesium is in your favourite foods, and which foods you should be eating to maximise your magnesium intake.
Why do I need magnesium in my diet?
Magnesium is one of 21 essential minerals your body needs for optimal health and function. It’s classed as an electrolyte, or an electrically charged mineral, that powers your body’s “electrical circuit”. That means it’s a key player in functions like:
- Heartbeat, rhythm and function
- Blood pressure regulation
- Nerve impulses
- Muscle contraction
- Nerve-muscle communication
These are just a few of magnesium’s many jobs. In fact, it’s involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, also relating to things like:
- Bone development and structure
- Blood sugar control
- Protein synthesis (creation)
- DNA and RNA synthesis
- Energy production
- Immune function
- Antioxidant production
Magnesium also helps other minerals and electrolytes, like calcium, to perform their own essential functions.
Your body can’t produce its own magnesium, which is why you need to get plenty in your diet. The NHS recommends that men aim to get 300mg of magnesium per day, while women should aim for 270mg. However, that doesn’t always happen…
Can I get enough magnesium from food?
Theoretically, your diet should provide all the magnesium you need and then some. There are various reasons why that might not happen though, with the most obvious being that you simply don’t eat enough magnesium-rich foods (more on those in a sec!).
There’s also the issue of food quality. Certain plant foods, like leafy green vegetables and grains, are among the best sources of dietary magnesium. Unfortunately, the magnesium content of plants has seriously declined in recent decades, partly due to poor soil quality and contamination. And then you have grains like wheat, which lose most of their magnesium content if they’re refined and bleached. By the time your food reaches your plate, then, the magnesium content can be massively depleted.
In some cases, your other dietary choices might affect how much magnesium you get from your food. For example, if you’re eating too much calcium, your body won’t absorb the magnesium from your food properly. If you’re not eating enough of certain nutrients like selenium and vitamin B6, you won’t be able to use magnesium effectively. And if you’re eating too much protein, you’ll lose too much magnesium in your urine.
For that reason, it’s really important to try to eat a well-balanced diet on the whole. That way, you can make sure that your body really is making the most of all the magnesium you’re getting from your food.
Can I consume too much magnesium from food?
In short, no. The threshold for magnesium toxicity is way, way higher than the recommended daily intake, so it would be really difficult to reach it by eating magnesium-rich food. We’re talking buckets of spinach! But even if you did try, your body is very efficient at filtering out any magnesium it doesn’t need through the urine. True hypermagnesemia (too much magnesium in the body) is rare and it’s usually the result of a medical condition, so fill your boots!
Which foods have the most magnesium? List of 264 Foods…
In this section, we’ve created an at-a-glance master list of the magnesium content in your favourite foods and drinks. We’ve also highlighted the best foods to maximise the magnesium on your plate, along with some helpful tips and info.
A few things to note before you dive in…
1. All of the values given show the magnesium content (mg) per 100mg/ml of each item. So when you’re looking at a specific food, drink or ingredient, keep your typical serving size in mind. For example, peanuts have far more magnesium per 100 grams than a sirloin steak (370mg vs 32mg), but the steak weighs about 200g (64mg of magnesium), while a serving of peanuts is typically about 20g (42mg). (Stating the obvious, we know, but it’s easy to miss these things at a glance!)
2. The values given are taken directly from McCance and Widdowson’s Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset, the official nutrient reference guide used by Public Health England. Some of the values you’ll see in the article differ from other sources online, but in order to keep it consistent and accurate, we’ve gone with the official line. However, this is just a guide, so feel free to do your own research too!
3. %NRV stands for Nutrient Reference Value and represents the percentage of your daily needs that a particular serving provides.
Top magnesium-rich vegetables: leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard.
Leafy green vegetables are packed with magnesium. Just a handful of baby spinach (30g) would give you nearly 40mg of magnesium, or about 13% NRV. Pop a handful or two in your smoothies and sauces to get even more in your diet.
Other great sources include kale, Swiss chard and mustard greens. As a bonus, these leafy greens are bursting with other healthy nutrients, too. They’re excellent sources of vitamins A, C and K, along with minerals like iron and manganese.
As you’ll notice, some vegetables have different magnesium levels depending on whether they’re cooked or raw. That’s because in some vegetables (e.g spinach), cooking makes more of the magnesium content available, while in others (e.g. kale), magnesium is lost during the cooking process. Using these two leafy greens as an example, then, you could maximise your magnesium by using spinach in cooked dishes and kale in raw dishes.
|Vegetable||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Baby spinach (cooked)||112|
|Swiss chard (cooked)||86|
|Swiss chard (raw)||81|
|Baby spinach (raw)||80|
|Baked potato with skin||27|
|Baked sweet potato with skin||23|
|Brussel sprouts (cooked)||17|
|Pak choi (steamed)||16|
|Shiitake mushrooms (cooked)||14|
|White mushrooms (cooked)||12|
|Tomatoes (cooked or raw)||12|
|Peppers (cooked or raw)||11|
|Yellow onion (cooked)||11|
Top sources of magnesium-rich fruit: bananas, avocados, dried fruits.
Bananas are a great magnesium-boosting snack, with one large banana (130g) bringing 35mg of magnesium and nearly 12% NRV. They’re also rich in potassium, fibre, and vitamins B6 and C.
Meanwhile, your average avocado (150g) is packing even more magnesium at 40.5mg, or nearly 14% NRV. Like bananas, they’re high in potassium, fibre and B vitamins. They’re also rich in vitamin K and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Banana-avocado smoothie, anyone?
A word of warning: dried fruits also tend to have magnesium content, but keep in mind that they’re also really high in sugar and might be best enjoyed in moderation.
|Fruit||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
Meat & Meat Alternatives
Top sources of meat and meat alternatives high in magnesium: tofu, tempeh and other meat alternatives.
In this category, you’ll see that meat doesn’t even make the top four best magnesium sources! The top spots go to tempeh and tofu, two soy-based meat alternatives with a whopping 70 and 67mg of magnesium (23 and 22% NRV) per 100g serving respectively. These veggie staples are also great sources of plant protein and other minerals like calcium, iron and selenium.
That’s great news for vegetarians and vegans, but what about meat eaters? If you’re a die-hard carnivore, don’t worry — you don’t have to give up meat! In fact, steak comes high up the list as far as magnesium content goes. Overall, chicken, turkey, pork, beef and lamb are all decent magnesium sources, too. However, if you really want to give your magnesium levels a boost, try a few meat-free days a week and swap the occasional pork or beef sausage — the lowest on the list — for the much higher veggie sausage.
|Meat & Meat Alternative||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Pork loin chops/steaks (grilled)||33|
|Pork mince (stewed)||21|
|Pork belly (roasted)||20|
Fish & Seafood
Top sources of fish high in magnesium: fatty fish.
Lots of fish and seafood are high in magnesium, but fatty fish are particularly healthy. Take salmon, for example, which packs a minimum of 34mg of magnesium into every 100g serving. That means a typical 200g fillet gives you at least 68mg, or almost a quarter of your %NRV.
Along with other fatty fish like pollock, mackerel and halibut, salmon is also rich in omega-3 oils, potassium, selenium and B vitamins. That’s why even though some seafood like shrimp are higher on the list, fatty fish are considered the healthier sources of magnesium.
Note that the magnesium content of fish varies widely. We’ve included the minimum magnesium content, but wild-caught (as opposed to farmed) fish tend to have more. Location can make a difference too, with the Pacific chinook salmon having almost three times the magnesium content of Atlantic salmon at 122mg per 100g.
|Fish||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Alaskan pollock (baked or steamed)||50|
|Fresh tuna (baked)||41|
|Mackerel (smoked or grilled)||38|
|Wild salmon (baked, grilled or steamed)||35|
|Sea bass (baked)||35|
Top sources of magnesium-rich grain: whole grains.
The top half of this list is dominated by brown and whole wheat grains, while the lower half is mostly white. That’s because the process of refining whole grains strips them of their fibrous coating, where most of the magnesium is found.
You can more than double your magnesium by simply swapping white pasta, bread and rice for brown or wholegrain products. For baked goods and cooking, switch up your white flour for brown, wholemeal, or even better, rye flour, to up your magnesium even more. You can also switch those breakfast cornflakes for shredded wheat, bran cereal, muesli or porridge oats, all of which have at least eight times the magnesium.
|Grain||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Brown basmati rice (dry)||119|
|Brown wholegrain rice (dry)||116|
|Brown chapati flour||110|
|Wild rice (raw)||108|
|Whole wheat pasta (dry)||103|
|Wholemeal wheat flour||83|
|Whole wheat bread||82|
|Brown wheat flour||72|
|Egg noodles (dry)||49|
|White pasta (dry)||47|
|Coco Pops/Rice Krispies||41|
|White long-grain rice (dry)||25|
|White wheat flour||25|
|White pita bread||22|
|White basmati rice (dry)||21|
Eggs & Dairy
Yoghurt is a decent source of magnesium, but soy yoghurt gives you almost twice as much without sacrificing protein. And not that we need an excuse to load up on cheese, but you can add an extra-large sprinkle of high-magnesium parmesan to your (whole wheat!) pasta and enjoy those halloumi fries guilt-free!
|Eggs & Dairy||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
Top sources of legumes high in magnesium: soya beans and edamame beans.
Legumes are a super-nutritious plant food family that includes beans, lentils and peas. The highest magnesium content is found in dried soya beans, which make a great snack either raw or roasted. Second is edamame beans, which are immature soya beans that come in the pod.
For the other legumes on the list, you’ll see that we’ve provided the magnesium content of the cooked dish. Unfortunately, a lot of magnesium is lost during cooking, but most legumes can’t be eaten raw. That said, the cooked versions still contain plenty of magnesium, not to mention other nutrients like potassium, iron, fibre and vitamin K, so get stuck in!
|Legume||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Soya beans (dried)||250|
|Edamame beans (cooked)||65|
|Soya beans (cooked)||63|
|Butter beans (cooked)||43|
|Kidney beans (cooked)||40|
|Black beans (cooked)||40|
|Cannellini beans (cooked)||33|
|Green/brown lentils (cooked)||25|
|Red lentils (cooked)||18|
Nuts & Seeds
Top sources of magnesium-rich nut and seeds: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds.
Nuts and seeds are hands-down one of the best magnesium sources. For seeds, choose sesame, sunflower, chia, poppy and flaxseed for the biggest boost. For nuts, reach for Brazils, cashews or almonds (that includes nut butters, too!).
Considering their tiny size, nuts and seeds are giant powerhouses of nutritious goodness. As well as magnesium, they’re rich in iron, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein, antioxidants and more.
Nuts are high in fat so they’re best snacked on in moderation, but you can go wild with seeds! A few handfuls as a snack, sprinkled on your porridge, mixed in with a salad, blended into smoothies… it all adds up to a great magnesium boost.
|Nuts & Seeds||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
Top sources of magnesium-rich snacks: dark chocolate.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be thrilled to see chocolate at the top of this list! Dark chocolate is by far the best magnesium source compared to milk and white, so you’ll get the most benefit from swapping to a chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content (the higher the better!). And as if you needed another reason to enjoy it, dark chocolate is also loaded with iron, copper, manganese, flavonols and antioxidants.
If you’re more of a savoury fan, rye crisp breads are an excellent way to satisfy the crunch craving while getting more magnesium. Top them with hummus or peanut butter and sprinkle on some seeds for an even bigger boost.
|Snacks||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa)||228|
|Dark chocolate (60-69%) cocoa)||226|
Sauces, Spreads & Condiments
Top sources of sauces, spreads & condiments high in magnesium: nut butters, wholegrain mustard.
From sandwich spreads to splashes of sauce, your pantry is hiding lots of extra little magnesium boosters. Nut butters in particular are absolutely loaded with magnesium and just as good for your health as the whole nut, especially almond and cashew butters.
|Food||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Cashew nut butter||258|
|Instant gravy (dry granules)||15|
Herbs & Spices
Gram for gram, herbs and spices are among the most potent sources of magnesium. Of course, you’re not going to use 100g of them, but the little you do use surprisingly adds up. Here’s an example…
If your recipe calls for 1tsp (1g) each of basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme, all dried. The magnesium content is:
That’s 15.6mg of magnesium just from seasoning your food!
|Herbs & Spices||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Coriander leaf (dried)||690|
|Dill weed (dried)||450|
|Mixed herbs (dried)||280|
|Dill seed (ground)||260|
|Mixed curry spice||234|
|Coriander leaf (fresh)||26|
Magnesium from drinks — even alcoholic drinks! — also counts towards your daily total. Try the following switches to make the most of it:
- Swap tea for coffee.
- Swap dairy milk for coconut or soy milk.
- Swap cider for beer or lager.
- Swap rosé or white wine for red.
|Drink||Magnesium per 100g or ml (mg)|
|Instant coffee (dry granules)||330|
|Drinking chocolate (dry powder)||132|
If you like to cook from scratch or eat out a lot, it can be a pain figuring out the total magnesium. We’ve done the hard work for you with this quick-reference list of popular dishes.
|Food||Magnesium per 100g (mg)|
|Barbecue pork ribs||30|
|Chicken tikka masala||25|
|Thai green curry||25|
|Lamb rogan josh||24|
|Cheese and tomato pizza||24|
|Chicken chow mein||21|
|Thai stir fry||21|
|Steak and kidney pie||19|
|Chilli con carne||17|
|Hotpot (lamb or beef)||16|
What if you don’t get enough magnesium from food?
As you can see, you have tons of options for magnesium-rich foods. But what if you still find it hard to eat enough of them? Or you have a health condition that makes it hard to use the magnesium you’re getting?
Hypomagnesemia, or magnesium deficiency, is actually a lot more common than many people realise. It’s officially estimated that somewhere between 2.5-15% of the UK population suffer from it, but these people are experiencing what we call a frank deficiency.
A frank deficiency is diagnosed when magnesium levels fall outside the lower end of the normal range. However, we now know that the ill effects of magnesium deficiency start long before that point, when the person is technically still within the “healthy” range. This is called a subclinical deficiency, and a substantial number of people are thought to be living with it — with no idea they have it.
Subclinical deficiency can:
- Increase your risk of heart problems and stroke
- Increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Cause anxiety and mood problems
- Increase your depression risk by up to 22%
- Contribute to migraines
- Worsen symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS
- Increase your risk of Alzheimer’s and ADHD
How can I tell if I’m deficient?
Because subclinical deficiency is usually silent, it’s hard to know for sure if you’re too low on magnesium. We recommend you read our articles on how to test for magnesium deficiency at home and you can also look out for these telltale signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency:
- Muscle cramps, stiffness or spasms
- Eye twitches
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling
- Irregular heartbeat or palpitations (a “fluttering” sensation in your chest)
- Anxiety, depression or low mood
What do I do if I think I’m deficient?
To start, track your eating habits for a week or two. Are you getting not just enough magnesium, but also the right amounts of other nutrients like calcium and protein?
If not, refer back to our list of magnesium-rich foods and do your best to squeeze as much into your regular diet as possible. Try to get a good variety across different food groups, as this will ensure you get the other essential vitamins and minerals you need, too. Wherever possible, go for organic products as these tend to be less affected by things like soil contamination and demineralisation.
When should I take a magnesium supplement?
If you think you’re low on magnesium, a supplement could also help. There are two main reasons you might benefit.
- You can’t get enough magnesium through your diet because:
- You have certain difficulties with food (e.g. allergies, restrictions, eating disorders).
- You don’t have access to quality food.
- You’re simply finding it hard to change your diet.
- You get enough magnesium in your diet, but you have a health condition or take medication that interferes with your ability to absorb or use magnesium. Examples of health conditions include diabetes, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis or alcoholism. Medications include some diuretics, antibiotics, immunosuppressants and asthma medications.
In both cases, magnesium supplements can top up your dietary magnesium intake and help you to meet your daily needs. Even better, they’re usually formulated with other healthy ingredients like amino acids, each with their own additional benefits. Learn more about the best types of magnesium supplements and the benefits of magnesium.
Are magnesium supplements safe?
Yes. As we mentioned earlier, it’s really hard to get too much magnesium. That said, you shouldn’t stray higher than 375mg of magnesium a day total from supplements (not supplements and diet combined). This is called the Tolerable Upper Intake Level, or UL, and after this point, you’re more likely to suffer from side effects like diarrhoea and nausea.
If you have a health condition or you’re taking medications, it’s important to discuss magnesium supplements with your doctor first to make sure they’re safe for you. They could interfere with certain medications and may not be suitable for people with illnesses like kidney disease, so it’s best to check with the professionals to be on the safe side!
Where can I buy magnesium supplements?
Looking to top up your dietary intake with a magnesium supplement? If you think you could benefit from an extra magnesium boost, check out our range of ultra-quality magnesium supplements.