Magnesium is a chemical compound which is essential for good health [1]. Many people are deficient in this vitally important nutrient [2]. Why is magnesium important, and how can we get more of it into our bodies?

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Mg. It is atomic number 12. It is an alkaline metal, in group 2 of the periodic table with five other metals. It is the 4th most abundant metal in the human body [3].

Why is magnesium so important?

Magnesium is involved with [4]:

  • Converting carbohydrates into energy
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Neural pathways and neurotransmitters
  • Protein formation from amino acids
  • DNA and RNA repair

Magnesium deficiency and disease

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to conditions such as alzheimers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, migraines and osteoporosis [5].

Why are we so deficient in magnesium?

Due to the use of convenience, processed foods in the Western diet, there is a huge deficiency in many nutrients including magnesium [6]. The new recommended daily allowance (RDA) ranges from 80 mg/day for children 1–3 year of age to 130 mg/day for children 4–8 year of age. For older males, the RDA for magnesium ranges from as low as 240 mg/day (range, 9–13 year of age) and increases to 420 mg/day for males 31–70 year of age and older. For females, the RDA is 240 mg/day (9–13 year of age) to 360 mg/day for females 14–18 year of age. The RDA for females 31–70 year of age and above is 320 mg/day [6].

What food is magnesium in?

The most magnesium rich foods are [7]:

  • Halibut
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Oats

Other foods with moderate levels of magnesium include, salmon, black beans, quinoa and plain yoghurt.

Ideas for magnesium rich meals

  • Mackerel with spinach, sprinkled with almonds. Plain yoghurt, cashew nut butter and dark chocolate for dessert.
  • Halibut and quinoa, with a black bean spinach salad.
  • Oats sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and served with a dollop of plain yoghurt.
  • Salmon, quinoa, avocado and swiss chard


Magnesium is an element which is integral for the body’s processing. There needs to be more education that is visible to the general public regarding the importance of this chemical with information on how to combat deficiency. More research needs to be done on the most effective ways of educating people on nutrition, motivating change and increasing levels of awareness.


  1. Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015 Sep 23;7(9):8199-226.
  2. Moshfegh A., Goldman J., Ahuja J., Rhodes D., LaComb R. What We Eat in America, NHANES 2005–2006: Usual Nutrient Intakes from Food and Water Compared to 1997 Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Magnesium. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service; Washington, DC, USA: 2009.
  3. Razzaque M. S. (2018). Magnesium: Are We Consuming Enough?. Nutrients, 10(12), 1863.
  4. Al Alawi A.M., Majoni S.W., Falhammar H. Magnesium and human health: Perspectives and research directions. Int. J. Endocrinol. 2018;2018:9041694.
  5. Song Y, Ridker PM, Manson JE, Cook NR, Buring JE, Liu S. Diabetes Care. 2005 Jun; 28(6):1438-44.
  6. Rude R.K. Magnesium. In: Ross A.C., Caballero B., Cousins R.J., Tucker K.L., Ziegler T.R., editors. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 11th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; Baltimore, MA, USA: 2012. pp. 159–175.
  7. Yamamoto S, Uenishi K. [Nutrition and bone health. Magnesium-rich foods and bone health]. Clin Calcium. 2010 May;20(5):768-74.

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