Magnesium helps your heart, muscles, and immune system function properly — and studies suggest that nearly half of Americans aren't consuming enough of the mineral. But before you start popping supplements, you should know there's a difference between inadequate intake and a true deficiency. Signs of deficiency include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite, and are quite rare. However, people with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or digestive ailments like Crohn's and celiac disease, as well as those taking medications for heartburn or osteoporosis are at higher risk of magnesium deficiency. Read on to find out more about how much magnesium you need and where to get it.
About 60 percent of your magnesium is in your bones, the rest is in body tissues, and only about 1 percent is in your blood. Adult men should take in 400 mg, while women should get 310 mg; this increases to 420 mg and 320 mg, respectively, after age 30. While many of us aren't taking in enough magnesium, it's also possible to have too much of it — so unless your doctor has recommended taking a supplement, you should be able to get enough of the mineral from your diet by eating the 13 foods that follow.
Magnesium: 105 mg in ¼ cup
Other body benefits: Almonds are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that keeps the immune system strong and eyes healthy. They're also packed with protein, which helps fill you up and slim you down, as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Best ways to eat them: Grab a handful for a satisfying snack or sprinkle them over a bed of greens for a more filling salad.
Magnesium: 101 mg in 1 ounce roasted
Other body benefits: Sesame seeds may add some sizzle to your sex life — they're chock-full of zinc, which can help testosterone and sperm production in men. They're also a good source of iron and vitamin B-6.
Best ways to eat them: Mix them into granola or sprinkle them into a stir-fry.
Magnesium: 128 mg in ¼ cup
Other body benefits: Sunflower seeds are a surprisingly good source of bone-building calcium. Additionally, they're high in polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood when eaten in moderation.
Best ways to eat them: You can have them as a snack, but beware store-bought packages: most of them are loaded with sodium. Instead, buy raw sunflower seeds and toast them yourself. Try Bob's Red Mill Natural Raw Sunflower Seeds ($17; amazon.com) You can also sprinkle sunflower seeds on salads for a healthier crunch than croutons.
Magnesium: 33 mg in one medium banana
Other body benefits: When bananas are still a little green, they are one of the best sources of resistant starch, a healthy carb that fills your belly and fires up your metabolism. Bananas also offer a dose of potassium, an electrolyte that can help lower blood pressure naturally.
Best ways to eat them: The options are practically endless: blend them into a smoothie, slice them into a bowl of oatmeal or onto a top of peanut-butter toast, or simply pull of the peel and take a bite.
Magnesium: 89 mg in ¼ cup
Other body benefits: A serving of cashews provides nearly 10 percent of your daily iron needs. The nuts are also a good source of folate and vitamin K.
Best ways to eat them: Have them on their own for a satisfying snack (just buy the unsalted kind). You could also toss them into a stir-fry or on top of a salad.
Magnesium: 37 mg in ½ cup
Other body benefits: This vegetarian soy protein source gives you 43% of your daily calcium needs in a ½-cup serving. You also get a dose of iron, a mineral the body needs to produce hemoglobin — the protein that helps red blood cells deliver oxygen throughout the body.
Best ways to eat it: Tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it in. Try subbing it in for chicken or beef in your next stir fry. Extra firm tofu can also be put onto the grill.
Magnesium: 74 mg in 1 ounce
Other body benefits: The seeds from your jack-o-lantern are a good source of fiber, with 5 grams per ounce. Pumpkin seeds also have plenty of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, as well as 5 grams of protein per serving.
Best way to eat them: Fiber and protein make pumpkin seeds a slimming snack. Toast seeds in a skillet until golden brown and beginning to pop, about 4 minutes, and then transfer them to a baking sheet. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Pumpkin seeds also make a savory salad topper.
Magnesium: 40 mg in 1 tablespoon whole
Other body benefits: A sprinkling of ground flaxseed turns a cup of yogurt or cereal into a heart-healthy breakfast: a tablespoon contains more than half your recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed also gives you doses of fiber and the antioxidant lignan.
Best way to eat it: Flaxseed has a nutty flavor that works well sprinkled into yogurt and cereal, or blended into smoothies. Just be sure to grind them first (or buy them pre-ground) — otherwise the seeds will pass through you without being digested, and you won't reap the health benefits.
Magnesium: 27.8 mg in 1 cup
Other body benefits: You've had the health benefits of milk drilled into your head since you were a kid, but here's a quick review: a cup of milk provides about a third of your daily recommended intake of calcium, which you need to build healthy bones and keep them strong as you age. Milk is also a good source of potassium, vitamin D, protein, and vitamin B-12.
Best way to eat it: Pour low-fat or fat-free milk over cereal, blend it with fruit and nut butter for a smoothie, or simply pour it into a glass and drink up.
Magnesium: 57.6 mg in 1 cup cooked
Other body benefits: This healthy whole grain fills you up with folate, fiber, and potassium. Plus, it can help lower cholesterol, and oats are even rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Best way to eat it: Have it at breakfast with your choice of toppings. Just go easy on the sweetener.
Magnesium: 51 mg in ½ cup cooked
Other body benefits: A serving of the cruciferous superfood contains more vitamin C than an orange. Plus, research shows that people who eat lots of broccoli may have a lower risk of certain types of cancer, including colon and bladder cancer.
Best way to eat it: You'll get the most nutritional bang for your buck if you eat broccoli raw or lightly steamed, and paired with tomatoes.
Magnesium: 33 mg in 1 ear
Other body benefits: Some people say carb-heavy corn is a diet no-no. Though corn does have 6 to 8 grams of naturally occurring sugar in one ear, this healthy whole grain is also a great source of fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, and plant-based protein.
Best way to eat it: Go beyond cobs drenched in butter and salt. Instead, brush them with olive oil and place them directly on a hot grill for a smoky flavor.
Magnesium: 48 mg in 1 cup
Other body benefits: A cup of peas provides nearly a day's worth of vitamin C. Peas also provide protein, potassium, and vitamin A.
Best way to eat them: The possibilities are endless: toss peas in a stir-fry or on top of a salad, make a belly-warming split-pea soup, mix them into pasta, or even eat them raw.