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By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist

Magnesium is widely available in plant and animal foods and often included in fortified foods and enriched grains, however, the World Health Organization reported that less than 60 percent of adults in the United States are meeting the adequate intake values for magnesium. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with a number of conditions and diseases including Alzheimer's, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, migraines, hypertension, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and heart disease. Higher levels of magnesium have been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and various health benefits. One large cohort study showed that magnesium intake may aid in preventing pancreatic cancer.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, with the majority found in the skeleton and the rest in muscle, soft tissue and blood. This vital mineral is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions including energy production, fatty acid and protein synthesis, nutrient metabolism, transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, glucose control, blood pressure, transport of calcium and potassium ions, and much more.

Recommended Intakes

According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily intake values are listed in the table below.

Food Sources of Magnesium:

Low magnesium intake is typically associated with diets that are high in processed foods. Nuts and seeds are rich sources of magnesium. On average they provide 20% of the daily requirement. Some are especially excellent sources such as Brazil nuts, pumpkin and hemp seeds. Nut and seed butters, as well as their milks, are a great option to meet magnesium requirements. For example, a 1 oz. serving of almonds provides 19% DV while a 2 tbsp serving of the homemade nut butter provides 22% DV and 1 cup of homemade almond milk provides 24% DV. Whole grains such as brown rice are a good source of magnesium, providing 21% DV per cup while refined grains such as white rice provides only 2%. Leafy greens are also excellent sources as well as some legumes. See the chart an example of other good sources.

Magnesium Food Sources

%DV: Percent Daily Value (DV) references how much a certain nutrient contributes in one serving of food in relation to the daily requirement.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans list magnesium as an under-consumed nutrient and therefore a nutrient of concern. Individuals with gastrointestinal diseases, type 2 diabetes, renal disorders or alcoholism are more susceptible to magnesium deficiency. In healthy individuals magnesium deficiency is uncommon but if you are not getting the recommended amount like more than half of the American population, you may be missing out on important benefits. A diet rich in magnesium can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, regulate blood pressure, maintain a healthy bone structure, reduce inflammation and promotes overall good health.