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Magnesium: What is it?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant

Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis . There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys .

What foods provide magnesium?

Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Some legumes (beans and peas), nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium . Refined grains are generally low in magnesium  When white flour is refined and processed, the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed. Bread made from whole grain wheat flour provides more magnesium than bread made from white refined flour. Tap water can be a source of magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. Water that naturally contains more minerals is described as "hard". "Hard" water contains more magnesium than "soft" water.

Eating a wide variety of legumes, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables will help you meet your daily dietary need for magnesium. Selected food sources of magnesium are listed in Table 1.

Table 1: Selected food sources of magnesium
FOODMilligrams (mg)%DV*
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces9020
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 8020
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce7520
Soybeans, mature, cooked, half cup 7520
Spinach, frozen, cooked, half cup7520
Nuts, mixed, dry roasted, 1 ounce6515
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 rectangular biscuits5515
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared w/ water, 1 cup5515
Potato, baked w/ skin, 1 medium5015
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce5015
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 Tablespoons5015
Wheat Bran, crude, 2 Tablespoons4510
Blackeyed Peas, cooked, half cup4510
Yogurt, plain, skim milk, 8 fluid ounces4510
Bran Flakes, cup4010
Vegetarian Baked Beans, half cup 4010
Rice, brown, long-grained, cooked, half cup4010
Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, half cup 358
Avocado, California, half cup pureed 358
Kidney Beans, canned, half cup358
Pinto Beans, cooked, half cup358
Wheat Germ, crude, 2 Tablespoons358
Chocolate milk, 1 cup338
Banana, raw, 1 medium308
Milk Chocolate candy bar, 1.5 ounce bar288
Milk, reduced fat (2%) or fat free, 1 cup 278
Bread, whole wheat, commercially prepared, 1 slice256
Raisins, seedless, cup packed256
Whole Milk, 1 cup 246
Chocolate Pudding, 4 ounce ready-to-eat portion246


Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances for magnesium for children and adults  
1-380 80 N/AN/A
4-8130 130 N/AN/A
9-13 240 240 N/AN/A
14-18 410 360 400 360
19-30 400 310 350 310
31+420 320 360 320

There is insufficient information on magnesium to establish a RDA for infants. For infants 0 to 12 months, the DRI is in the form of an Adequate Intake (AI), which is the mean intake of magnesium in healthy, breastfed infants. Table 3 lists the AIs for infants in milligrams (mg)

Table 3: Recommended Adequate Intake for magnesium for infants
Males and Females
0 to 630
7 to 1275

Data from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggest that substantial numbers of adults in the United States (US) fail to consume recommended amounts of magnesium.
To Magnesium Deficiency

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