Magnesium is an important mineral responsible for building and strengthening bones and teeth, relaxing muscles, transmitting nerve signals, contributing to the integrity of the immune system, producing enzymes responsible for energy metabolism, and regulating blood pressure. Magnesium is found in a wide variety of plant foods as well as certain types of fish. The Recommended Daily Value (DV) of magnesium for adult men is 420 mg; for adult women it is 320 mg. Foods that provide more than 20 percent of the DV of a nutrient are considered excellent sources of that nutrient.
Seeds and Nuts
The very best food source of magnesium is pumpkin seeds. A 1/4-cup serving provides 185 mg, or 46 percent of the DV. Sesame and sunflower seeds are also magnesium-rich. A 1/4-cup serving of either provides approximately 126 mg (about 30 percent of the DV). Nuts and seeds often are rich in the same nutrients, especially minerals. In the case of magnesium, this is true: a 1/4-cup of raw almonds or cashews provides a little less than 100 mg of magnesium, or 25 percent and 22 percent of the DV, respectively.
Beans and Legumes
Black and soybeans are the richest sources of magnesium in the legume family. Each provides over 30 percent of the DV for magnesium, while navy, pinto, kidney and lima beans are next in line, offering 20 to 25 percent of the DV. All percentages are based on a 1-cup serving, cooked.
Vegetables and Whole Grains
Spinach and Swiss chard (both dark green leafy vegetables) are excellent sources of this mineral. A 1-cup serving of either of these nutrient-rich veggies provides approximately 50 calories and about 150 mg of magnesium, nearly 40 percent of the DV. Quinoa, millet, buckwheat and brown rice are the whole grains that provide the most magnesium per serving (1/2-cup for uncooked quinoa and a 1-cup, cooked, for millet, buckwheat, and brown rice). Each of these nutritious grains provides approximately 25 percent of the DV for magnesium.
Certain types of fish are excellent sources of magnesium, particularly Chinook salmon and white halibut. One serving of Chinook salmon (4 oz, cooked) provides a whopping 138 mg of magnesium (nearly 35 percent of the DV) while a serving of halibut (4-oz, cooked) provides 120 mg (just over 30 percent of the DV).
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Elements
- American Dietetic Association's Complete Food & Nutrition Guide, Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, CFCS.; 1998