Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies. It plays a role in more than 300 different physiological processes, from making protein to carrying out healthy muscle and nerve function.
While it is important for all those reasons, its role in naturally reducing stress and anxiety have caused people to take a closer look at this mineral lately as they try to eat more foods high in magnesium. “As self-care becomes more of a focus, magnesium-rich foods can be an easy (and inexpensive way) to take good care of yourself,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, and owner of BZ Nutrition. Getting more of this mineral into your diet can promote better sleep and there’s evidence it can help alleviate premenstrual symptoms, fight bloat, and ease constipation, too.
The mind-magnesium connection
Magnesium plays an important role in your brain as well as your body. Some evidence has shown it may help with depression and help relieve migraines, says Keri Glassman, RD, a New York-based dietician and owner of Nutritious Life. “Recently, it’s been getting extra attention for its ability to help with sleep. Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters that may help you relax,” she says. “It also plays a role in the regulation of the sleep hormone melatonin. When you don’t have enough magnesium, you may have trouble sleeping.” That’s why so many of these bedtime snacks that help you sleep actually work.
Eating enough foods high in magnesium
Most adults need between 310 (women) and 400 (men) milligrams per day, but certain medical conditions can put you at risk of magnesium inadequacy, the term for not getting quite enough to meet your RDA, but still not showing signs of a deficiency, which can include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, and these other symptoms.
If you have GI issues, such as Crohn’s or celiac disease, or type 2 diabetes, it can be harder to reach your magnesium goals. As you age, your body tends to have a tougher time absorbing the mineral and older adults tend not to consume as many magnesium-containing foods as younger ones.
Data suggests that roughly half of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their daily diets. To make sure you’re not one of them, load up on these foods high in magnesium.
Spinach (156 mg per cup, cooked)
Despite what Popeye portrayed, this leafy green is about more than just iron—way more, just get a look at these other benefits). Two cups of cooked spinach will get you to your RDA if you’re a woman, though that can be a lot, literally, to swallow. Try subbing steamed or wilted spinach in for pasta and using it as a base for meatballs, suggests Zeitlin.
Hemp hearts (197 mg per 3 tablespoons)
These mild, nutty-tasting seeds are a superfood for sure, joining the ranks of these other notable summer superfoods. In addition to a hefty dose of protein and plant-based omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, less than a quarter cup provides nearly 200 mg of magnesium. Sprinkle them on oatmeal or salads, or stir them into smoothies or soups.
Nuts (80 mg per ounce)
You already know nuts as a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Well, they have a decent amount of magnesium, too. One ounce of almonds delivers 20 percent of your RDA for the mineral. Cashews and Brazil nuts are other top picks for a magnesium-rich snack. Just be cautious about how much you eat, since nuts can be high in calories.
Pumpkin seeds (74 mg per ounce)
Like nuts, seeds are a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, are a great source of magnesium specifically, with a quarter cup providing 42 percent of the RDA. You’ll get plenty of fiber with that, especially if you eat the shells. Enjoy a handful as a snack, or sprinkle them on soup or salad.
Nut Butters (49 mg per 2 tablespoons)
Another way to get your daily dose of magnesium is by eating nut or seed butters. Like whole seeds and nuts, these are foods that are high in magnesium: Two tablespoons give you almost 50 milligrams. Just opt for natural no-sugar-added varieties, or make your own.
Avocados (200 mg each)
These green monsters may get noticed for their healthy fats, but they’re also a source of nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and that includes 4 percent of the daily value of magnesium per serving, says Sylvia Klinger, RD. What’s more, a study of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data that compared avocado consumers to non-consumers found that consuming avocados may be associated with an overall better diet, higher intake of essential nutrients, and lower body weight.
Dark chocolate (40-65 mg per ounce)
Is there anything chocolate can’t do? Cocoa powder has 27 mg of magnesium per tablespoon, so chocolate bars have a good amount per ounce as well—and that content increases with the amount of cacao in the bar. In other words, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao percentage, and the more magnesium you’ll get. Do you really need another excuse? Yes? Find out more on the health benefits of chocolate.
Beans (33-42 mg per half-cup serving)
“Magnesium promotes good gastrointestinal motility that can fight bloat and alleviate constipation,” says Zeitlin. Combine that with the power of beans, a great source of fiber, and bid tummy troubles adieu. Most varieties of this plant-based protein are a good source of magnesium, so take your pick: Canned chickpeas have 33 milligrams per half-cup, while black beans have 42.
Bananas (32 mg per medium fruit)
People always think of bananas as a potassium payload, but potassium is not the only mineral you’re getting. One medium banana has 8 percent of your DV of magnesium too. They’re also a super-cheap, convenient, portable snack and they pair well with lots of other magnesium-rich foods, like fortified cereals and breads and nut butter.
Soy milk (61 mg per cup)
Most soy products are rich in magnesium—from soy flour to soy nuts to edamame. Soy milk ranks near the top, providing 15 percent of your DV in a single glass. For comparison, regular milk has less than half that (24-27 milligrams per cup, or between 6 and 7 percent of your DV).
Salmon (26 milligrams per 3-ounce serving)
“Magnesium has been linked to fighting depression,” says Glassman. When it comes to food sources, salmon packs a double whammy, with plenty of the mineral as well as vitamin D, which has also been linked to enhancing mood. Plus, it’s got all those healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your brain.
Baked potato (44 mg per medium spud)
The humble spud rarely gets its due, but it is actually a great source of a number of minerals, including potassium and magnesium. But it makes a difference how you prepare your potatoes. A simple baked potato is of course healthier than french fries, and it will net you 11 percent of your DV of magnesium. Bonus points for topping your jacket potato with something green, like broccoli or arugula, rather than slathering it in butter or dairy.
If you’re still worried about getting enough magnesium in your diet, you could consider taking a magnesium supplement, but there’s more than one type of magnesium supplement out there, and choosing the right one can make a big difference.