High Magnesium Foods & Recipes

Magnesium is a big deal!  It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and is required for over 300 enzymatic reactions. 

Despite its importance, 89% of the U.S. population is falling short of the recommended minimum requirement for magnesium. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to get the magnesium you need using the tools and charts that our Optimisers use in the Micros Masterclass.

Magnesium-Rich Foods Chart

Magnesium can be found in plant or animal foods.  However, magnesium is a vital component of chlorophyll which gives plants their green colour, so magnesium is particularly rich in vegetables, particularly green ones.   

The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of iron (per calorie) vs iron (per serve).  Foods towards the right will provide more magnesium per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more magnesium in the serving size we typically eat them.

For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.

Magnesium Rich Foods (Per Serving)

The popular foods listed below will give you more magnesium in the typical serving sizes we consume them in. 

  • chard
  • spinach
  • pumpkin seeds
  • cashews
  • hemp seeds
  • chia pudding
  • almond butter
  • quinoa
  • almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • brown rice
  • whole wheat bread
  • dark chocolate
  • chicken breast
  • potato
  • salmon
  • beef steak

Magnesium-Rich (Per Calorie)

The popular foods listed below provide more iron with fewer calories. 

  • chard
  • spinach
  • watercress
  • arugula
  • parsley
  • hemp seeds
  • zucchini
  • mustard greens
  • coriander leaf
  • broccoli seeds (sprouted)
  • pumpkin or squash seeds
  • kale
  • bok choy
  • endive
  • cucumber
  • lettuce
  • green beans
  • kimchi
  • flax seeds
  • butternut squash
  • celery

Magnesium-Rich Recipes

The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of magnesium vs protein %.  Recipes towards the right will help you boost your magnesium with fewer calories. 

To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer).  Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe. 

Some examples of magnesium-rich NutriBooster recipes are shown below. 

What are the Roles of Magnesium in Your Body?


Getting adequate magnesium is helpful for:

A lack of magnesium is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease.  Studies have shown people who die of heart attacks often have low magnesium levels.  

However, getting adequate magnesium has become difficult as our soils have become depleted and void of many nutrients, including magnesium, from soil degradation and over-farming.  

What Are Some Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency? 

Because magnesium plays a role in so many vital functions, lower intakes of magnesium are associated with a wide range of conditions, including:

Factors Increasing Your Demand for Magnesium

You may need more magnesium if you:

Satiety Response to Magnesium

Our satiety analysis shows that Optimisers who consume foods and meals with more magnesium tend to eat 32% fewer calories per day.

The medium magnesium intake for Optimisers is 400 mg/2000 calories, with an 85th percentile intake of 860 mg/2000 calories.  This is significantly greater than the Dietary Reference Intake of 320 mg per day. 

Magnesium Upper Limit, Toxicity, and Side Effects

An Upper Limit for magnesium of 350 mg from supplements is set based on gut tolerance.  While higher magnesium levels from food are not a problem, you could spend extra time on the toilet if you overdo your magnesium supplementation.

Magnesium draws water into the large intestine, forcing a bowel movement (when taken in high amounts).  Because excessive amounts of magnesium prompt a run to the bathroom, magnesium is an active ingredient in many laxative supplements.  

Optimal Magnesium Intake

Given the strong satiety response to magnesium and the numerous health benefits, we recommend a stretch target of 825 mg/2000 calories of magnesium from food.  

Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition.  For more details, see:

Magnesium Availability in the Food System

The amount of magnesium in the food system has declined since the widespread implementation of chemical fertilisers in the 1940s.  We now need to consume an extra 23% energy to get the same amount of magnesium that we did in the 1940s!

Magnesium-rich products are often unprocessed foods.  Thus, someone whose diet revolves around processed foods would struggle to get enough magnesium.  

Synergistic Nutrients with Magnesium

Magnesium works synergistically with vitamins B1, B6, C, and D, potassium, boron, calcium, and glucose.  This means it needs adequate amounts of each of these minerals (not just one) to work properly.  

Thus, magnesium supplementation of just magnesium often isn’t very effective.  Instead, consuming magnesium-rich foods usually contains the remaining spectrum of nutrients for this mineral to do its job.

Magnesium Absorption

Magnesium is absorbed in your duodenum and ileum.  Typical absorption rates are 30 to 40%.  Excess magnesium is excreted in the urine (and faeces, if in excess).  As noted above, magnesium is known to have an acute laxative effect, meaning supplemental magnesium is often not absorbed well. 

Storage of Magnesium

Magnesium is stored in your bone, teeth, muscles, liver, pancreas, and non-muscular soft tissue.  The body regularly releases this mineral into the bloodstream to buffer and maintain a constant pH.

Calcium:Magnesium Ratio

Calcium and magnesium are closely interrelated.  Your body needs adequate magnesium to use calcium properly, and vice versa.  Magnesium deficiency, therefore, affects calcium metabolism and alters certain hormones that regulate calcium.

At the same time, calcium and magnesium compete with one another and interfere with the other’s functions if they are out of balance.

High intakes of calcium through supplementation interfere with magnesium status by reducing intestinal absorption and increasing urinary losses.  Additionally, magnesium deficiency is known to induce calcium deficiency.  Excess magnesium may prevent calcium from contracting muscles when the ratio of magnesium to calcium is imbalanced and when magnesium levels are far too high.

Our satiety analysis shows that people who get more calcium than magnesium tend to eat less.  So, if weight loss is your goal, you should prioritise getting adequate dietary calcium.   

In our Micros Masterclass, Optimisers use Nutrient Optimiser to help you manage your calcium:magnesium ratio to ensure that you’re not emphasising nutrients that exacerbate existing imbalances.

Magnesium Bioavailability

Minerals like magnesium are more likely plentiful in fresh and raw meat.  But minerals are lost from the blood and juices of animal foods through processing and cooking. 

However, magnesium absorption does not appear to be affected by consuming a plant-based versus animal-based diet.  Magnesium is a nutrient absorbed similarly from plant and animal foods whether you consume a carnivorous or plant-based diet. 

Does Keto Cause Magnesium Deficiency? 

Magnesium is one of the minerals whose deficiency contributes to “keto flu” when people switch to a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

The kidneys regulate magnesium levels, and your body upregulates insulin to help the kidneys hold onto essential minerals like magnesium that can be harder to find on a reduced carbohydrate diet.

Dietary carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in muscles.  Around three grams of water is stored in the muscles for every gram of glycogen.  When dietary carbs are decreased, all of this water is released along with the minerals stored in the tissues.

Magnesium on a Keto

Several essential minerals tend to be harder to get on a keto diet because it limits high-carbohydrate plant-based foods.  Hence many people on a keto diet feel better when they supplement magnesium.

In addition, foods highest in magnesium, like non-starchy green vegetables, tend to be lower in fat and higher in fibre.  Therefore, if you prefer a lower carb or ketogenic diet, you should make an extra effort to prioritise non-starchy green vegetables to ensure you are getting adequate magnesium.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium is a nutrient worth supplementing if you consistently fall short of your recommended daily intake from your diet.  However, this can be challenging because you will need to consume a quantity of powder or pills to boost your magnesium intake if your diet is low. 

This can be problematic because this is a large volume of powder to consume.  Secondly, it may give you diarrhea if your body is not used to absorbing magnesium in this form or this quantity, particularly if you have digestive issues.  Hence, you should strive to get as much magnesium as possible from food and only use supplements to top up, if necessary.  As always, start slowly. 

Does Magnesium Help with Constipation? 

A lower-carb diet is known to have diuretic effects, resulting in someone following the diet peeing out many of their electrolytes, such as magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium.

Because magnesium is harder to find on a ketogenic diet that does not emphasise non-starchy vegetables and is excreted more rapidly, we can see symptoms of low levels like constipation.  

As a result, supplying the body with adequate magnesium can help to regulate bowel movements.

How Much Magnesium Should I Take on Keto? 

Someone following a ketogenic diet should aim for the same stretch targets of all of their nutrients as someone who is not.  This is to avoid deficiency with consuming too little and prevent imbalances from consuming too much.

To determine how much magnesium you should be consuming as a supplement on a ketogenic diet, get an idea of how many milligrams you naturally consume on your low-carb diet by tracking your foods for a few days on Cronometer.

Once you get a baseline of what you’re getting already, look to supplement the milligrams you’re falling short of.  This method will prevent you from getting too much or too little magnesium if you’re unaware of how much you get from food.

Green and leafy vegetables like chard and spinach, nuts, dark chocolate, and other green vegetables are keto-compliant foods high in magnesium.

If you are eager to supplement with magnesium, check out our Optimised Electrolyte Mix recipe that contains potassium, magnesium and sodium in optimal ratios.  These are all excellent ways to incorporate sodium supplementation without overdoing any of these minerals.

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible.  To help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including magnesium, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:

Nutrient Series



Fatty acids