Dietary Sources of Magnesium

Table 1: Selected food sources of magnesium

FOOD Milligrams (mg) %DV*
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 90 20
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80 20
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 75 20
Soybeans, mature, cooked, ½ cup 75 20
Spinach, frozen, cooked, ½ cup 75 20
Nuts, mixed, dry roasted, 1 ounce 65 15
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 rectangular biscuits 55 15
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, prepared w/ water, 1 cup 55 15
Potato, baked w/ skin, 1 medium 50 15
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 50 15
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 Tablespoons 50 15
Wheat Bran, crude, 2 Tablespoons 45 10
Blackeyed Peas, cooked, ½ cup 45 10
Yogurt, plain, skim milk, 8 fluid ounces 45 10
Bran Flakes, ¾ cup 40 10
Vegetarian Baked Beans, ½ cup 40 10
Rice, brown, long-grained, cooked, ½ cup 40 10
Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, ½ cup 35 8
Avocado, California, ½ cup pureed 35 8
Kidney Beans, canned, ½ cup 35 8
Pinto Beans, cooked, ½ cup 35 8
Wheat Germ, crude, 2 Tablespoons 35 8
Chocolate milk, 1 cup 33 8
Banana, raw, 1 medium 30 8
Milk Chocolate candy bar, 1.5 ounce bar 28 8
Milk, reduced fat (2%) or fat free, 1 cup 27 8
Bread, whole wheat, commercially prepared, 1 slice 25 6
Raisins, seedless, ¼ cup packed 25 6
Whole Milk, 1 cup 24 6
Chocolate Pudding, 4 ounce ready-to-eat portion 24 6

*DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient. The DV for magnesium is 400 milligrams (mg). Most food labels do not list a food's magnesium content. The percent DV (%DV) listed on the table above indicates the percentage of the DV provided in one serving. A food providing 5% of the DV or less per serving is a low source while a food that provides 10-19% of the DV is a good source. A food that provides 20% or more of the DV is high in that nutrient. It is important to remember that foods that provide lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet.

What are the dietary reference nintakes for magnesium? Recommendations for magnesium are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes is the general term for a set of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intake for healthy people. Three important types of reference values included in the DRIs are Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), Adequate Intakes (AI), and Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL). The RDA recommends the average daily intake that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals in each age and gender group. An AI is set when there is insufficient scientific data available to establish a RDA for specific age/gender groups. AIs meet or exceed the amount needed to maintain a nutritional state of adequacy in nearly all members of a specific age and gender group. The UL, on the other hand, is the maximum daily intake unlikely to result in adverse health effects. Table 2 lists the RDAs for magnesium, in milligrams, for children and adults.

Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances for magnesium for children and adults

1-3 80 80 N/A N/A
4-8 130 130 N/A N/A
9-13 240 240 N/A N/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 6 30
7 to 12 75

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. Among adult men and women, Caucasians consume significantly more magnesium than African-Americans. Magnesium intake is lower among older adults in every racial and ethnic group.