What Foods are Highest in Magnesium and Raise My Levels Quickly?

  • Medical Reviewer: Dany Paul Baby, MD
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that we get from our diets. The foods highest in magnesium include green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and other foods.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient that we get from our diets. The foods highest in magnesium include green vegetables, seeds, nuts, and other foods.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that we get from our diets. This element is necessary for a wide array of bodily processes. You need to get enough of it daily to ensure that you remain as healthy as possible.

The best way to do this is to include magnesium-rich foods in your diet. Although most foods contain some amount of magnesium, your best bet is to eat lots of leafy greens, nuts, and seeds. Eating a diet packed with these foods should raise your magnesium levels quickly.

Magnesium is an element classified as an alkaline earth metal. The pure metal is lightweight and looks silvery. Magnesium serves as a crucial macronutrient and is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in your body.

There are several common forms of magnesium, including:

These different sources of magnesium tend to have unique uses in supplements and medicine. For example, magnesium citrate is the main form that’s used as a laxative before x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of your abdomen. 

What is magnesium used for in your body?

Magnesium has many functions throughout your body. Researchers are still trying to understand all of the processes it's involved in. But magnesium is known to contribute to: 

  • Your body's conversion of proteins, carbs, and lipids into energy
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Heartbeat regulation
  • Nervous system signaling
  • The absorption and regulation of nutrients like calcium, copper, zinc, and vitamin D
  • Controlling blood sugar and blood pressure
  • The formation of bones and tooth enamel

What’s the daily recommendation for magnesium?

The amount of magnesium that you should get each day is called your recommended daily allowance (RDA). Your exact RDA depends on your sex and age. For children, the dosage depends simply on age: 

  • Under 6 months: 30 milligrams
  • 6 months to 1 year: 75 milligrams
  • 1–3 years: 80 milligrams
  • 4–8 years: 130 milligrams
  • 9–13 years: 240 milligrams

Starting around age 14, boys need more daily magnesium than girls: 

  • Boys, 14–18 years: 410 milligrams
  • Men, 19–30 years: 400 milligrams
  • Men, 31 years and older: 420 milligrams
  • Girls, 14–18 years: 360 milligrams
  • Women, 19–30 years: 310 milligrams
  • Women, 31 years and older: 320 milligrams

If you're pregnant, you should take more magnesium than normal. The exact recommendation depends on your age. 

Studies have shown that well over half of people in the western world don’t meet their daily magnesium requirements. This doesn’t mean that all of these people have a true magnesium deficiency. But many westerners could likely benefit from increasing the magnesium in their diets.

How much magnesium are you actually absorbing?

Depending on the source, you’re able to absorb anywhere from 24% to 76% of the magnesium that you consume.

For foods, this means that the more magnesium the food has, the more you’ll absorb. The different sources of magnesium found in supplements provide varying amounts of magnesium to your body. Magnesium oxide and magnesium hydroxide will provide you with the greatest amounts.

What are the symptoms of too much or too little magnesium? 

Serious medical problems can develop if you have too little magnesium in your diet. Also, certain medical conditions can make it easier for you to become magnesium deficient, in turn leading to further complications. 

These are the symptoms to keep an eye out for if you’re at risk of magnesium deficiency:

Getting too much magnesium is unlikely if it’s just coming from the foods you eat. Nevertheless, the symptoms of consuming too much magnesium — especially by taking supplements — include: 

What foods have high amounts of magnesium? 

Almost all foods have some amount of magnesium in them. In fact, you get approximately 10% of your RDA just by drinking water. Unfortunately, a lot of food processing and cooking practices eliminate the useful magnesium that we would otherwise absorb.

Many food groups contain items with high levels of magnesium. In general, the best sources of magnesium include: 

  • Green vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Nuts 
  • Unprocessed cereals

There are lower amounts of magnesium in: 

  • Fruits
  • Fish
  • Meats
  • Milk

These specific foods are high in magnesium. The amount of magnesium listed is per 100 grams of each food item. The percentage refers to how much of a 400-milligram RDA is covered by a 100-gram serving.

  • Dried pumpkin seeds: 592 milligrams or 148%
  • Almonds: 273 milligrams or 68.25% 
  • Cashews: 267 milligrams or 66.75%
  • Buckwheat: 231 milligrams or 57.75% 
  • Lima beans: 188 milligrams or 47% 
  • Peanuts: 181 milligrams or 45.25%
  • Peanut butter: 178 milligrams or 44.5%
  • Walnuts: 158 milligrams or 39.5% 
  • Dark chocolate: 152 milligrams or 38% 
  • Kidney beans: 132 milligrams or 33% 
  • Pistachios: 121 milligrams or 30.25% 
  • Spinach: 79 milligrams or 19.75% 
  • Beet greens: 71 milligrams or 17.75% 
  • Black beans: 70 milligrams or 17.5% 
  • Cooked salmon: 32 milligrams or 8% 
  • Raw avocados: 29 milligrams or 7.25% 
  • Bananas: 27 milligrams or 6.75% 
  • Extra-firm tofu: 27 milligrams or 6.75% 
  • Milk: 16 milligrams or 4% 

You can also get magnesium in the form of supplements. These can be a great source of pure magnesium and will raise your levels quickly. But you run the risk of ingesting too much magnesium this way. High levels of magnesium can interfere with certain medications. Always talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

If you need to raise your levels very quickly, then your doctor can even give you magnesium intravenously in a hospital setting. 


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2022

Brigham and Women’s Hospital: "Magnesium."

International Journal of Endocrinology: "Magnesium and Human Health: Perspectives and Research Directions."

Mount Sinai: "Magnesium."

PubChem: "Magnesium."

Scientifica (Cairo): "The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare."

University Hospitals: "Magnesium (Blood)."

U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Avocados, raw, all commercial varieties," "Bananas, raw," "Beans, black, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt," "Buckwheat," "Candies, chocolate, dark, NFS (45-59% cacao solids 90%; 60-69% cacao solids 5%; 70-85% cacao solids 5%)," "Fish, salmon, pink, cooked, dry heat," "MORI-NU, Tofu, silken, extra firm," "Seeds, pumpkin and squash seed kernels, dried," "Spinach, raw."