Magnesium
Magnesium


This is one in a series of fact sheets containing information to help you select foods that provide adequate daily amounts of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber as you follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Guidelines are -

  • Eat a Variety of Foods
  • Maintain Desirable Weight
  • Avoid Too Much Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol
  • Eat Foods with Adequate Starch and Fiber
  • Avoid Too Much Sugar
  • Avoid Too Much Sodium
  • If You Drink Alcoholic Beverages, Do So in Moderation
[If you are taking cholesterol reducing drugs, Click here]

WHAT IS MEANT BY A GOOD FOOD SOURCE?

A good food source of magnesium contains a substantial amount of magnesium in relation to its calorie content and contributes at least 10 percent of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (U.S. RDA) for magnesium in a selected serving size. The U.S. RDA for magnesium is 400 milligrams per day. (The U.S. RDA given is for adults, except pregnant or lactating women, and children over 4 years of age.)

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The U.S. RDA for magnesium is the amount of the mineral used as a standard in nutrition labeling of foods. This allowance is based on the 1968 Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for 24 sex-age categories set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. The 1989 RDA has been set at 280 milligrams per day for women 19 to 50 years of age and 350 milligrams for men 19 to 50 years of age.

As you can see, in 1985 and 1986, about 25 percent of the magnesium in diets of women was supplied by grain products and another 25 percent by fruits and vegetables. Meat, poultry, and fish provided about 18 percent of the magnesium. Fats, sweets, and beverages supply 14 percent of the magnesium; however, they are not considered in our list of "good sources" because they are high in calories compared to the amounts of vitamins and minerals they provide. Foods that contain small amounts of magnesium but are not considered good sources can contribute significant amounts of magnesium to an individual's diet if these foods are eaten often or in large amounts.

WHY DO WE NEED MAGNESIUM?

Magnesium, a mineral, is used in building bones, manufacturing proteins, releasing energy from muscle storage, and regulating body temperature.

DO WE GET ENOUGH MAGNESIUM?

According to recent USDA surveys, the average intake of magnesium by women 19 to 50 years of age was about 74 percent of the RDA. Men of the same age got about 94 percent of the recommended amount. About 50 percent of women had intakes below 70 percent of their RDA.

HOW CAN WE GET ENOUGH MAGNESIUM?

Eating a variety of foods that contain magnesium is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. Intakes of magnesium tend to be low in relation to recommendations, and there aren't that many foods that are really good sources; thus, it may take special care to ensure an adequate intake. The list of foods will help you select those that are good sources of magnesium as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods tables used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service.

HOW TO PREPARE FOODS TO RETAIN MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is lost in cooking some foods even under the best conditions. To retain magnesium:

  • Cook foods in a minimal amount of water
  • .
  • Cook for the shortest possible time.

WHAT ABOUT WHOLE-GRAIN CEREALS?

Whole-grain ready-to-eat cereals usually contain 10 percent of the U.S. RDA for magnesium. Since cereals vary, check the label on the package for the percentage of the U.S. RDA for a specific cereal.

WHAT IS A SERVING?

The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amount of nutrient in a serving depends on the weight of the serving. For example, 1/2 cup of a cooked vegetable contains more magnesium than 1/2 cup of the same vegetable served raw, because a serving of the cooked vegetable weighs more. Therefore, the cooked vegetable may appear on the list while the raw form does not. The raw vegetable provides the nutrient - but just not enough in a 1/2-cup serving to be considered a good source.

WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF MAGNESIUM?

FOOD SELECTED PERCENTAGE OF SERVING SIZE U.S. RDA (1)

BREADS, CEREALS, AND OTHER GRAIN PRODUCTS

Bread, whole-wheat 2 slices +
English muffin, whole-wheat 1 +
Muffin, bran 1 medium +
Multigrain cereal, cooked 2/3 cup +
Noodles, whole-wheat, cooked 1 cup +
Pita bread, whole-wheat 1 small +
Ready-to-eat cereals,
whole-grain (2) 1 ounce +
Rice, brown, cooked 2/3 cup +
Spaghetti, high-protein, cooked 1 cup +
Wheat germ, plain 2 tablespoons +

VEGETABLES

Artichoke, globe (french), cooked 1 medium +
Beans, lima, cooked 1/2 cup +
Broccoli, cooked 1/2 cup +
Chard, cooked 1/2 cup +
Okra, cooked 1/2 cup +
Plantain, green or ripe, boiled 1 medium +
Spinach, cooked 1/2 cup +

MEAT, POULTRY, FISH, AND ALTERNATES

Fish and Seafood
Croaker; mackerel, or sea bass; baked or broiled 3 ounces +
Oysters:
Baked, broiled, or steamed 3 ounces +
Canned, undrained 3 ounces +
Scallops, baked, broiled, boiled, or steamed 3 ounces +
Dry Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Beans; black-eyed peas (cowpeas), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), soybeans, or white; cooked 1/2 cup +
Soy milk (not baby formula) 1 cup +
Tofu (bean curd) (3) 1/2 cup cubed +

Nuts and Seeds
Almonds; roasted, dry-roasted, or unroasted 2 tablespoons +
Brazil nuts, filberts (hazelnuts), or pine nuts (pignolias) 2 tablespoons +
Cashews, roasted or dry-roasted 2 tablespoons +
Mixed nuts, roasted 2 tablespoons +
Peanut butter 2 tablespoons +
Pumpkin or squash seeds, 2 tablespoons +
hulled, unroasted
Sesame seeds 2 tablespoons +
Sunflower seeds, hulled, unroasted 2 tablespoons +

MILK, CHEESE, AND YOGURT

Milk, chocolate, made with skim milk 1 cup +
Yogurt, plain, made with nonfat milk 8 ounces +

(1) A selected serving size contains -

+ 10-24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age

++ 25-39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age

+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age

(2) See section on whole-grain cereals.

(3) If made with magnesium chloride or nigari (a coagulant derived from seawater).

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