Magnesium Requirements and Dietary Sources

Nuts are high in magnesium.
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Magnesium is a major mineral, and it's the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About half of the magnesium in your body is stored in your bones, while the rest is at work in the cells of your organs and other tissues.

Magnesium is required for hundreds of biochemical reactions to occur. It's crucial for normal muscle and nerve function and helps maintain a regular health beat. You also need magnesium for strong bones and a healthy immune system.

Dietary Reference Intakes

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division has determined the dietary reference intakes (DRI) for magnesium. The suggested daily intake varies by age and by sex. In addition, women who are pregnant need more magnesium.

  • Ages 1 to 3: 80 milligrams per day

  • Ages 4 to 8: 130 mg/day

  • Ages 9 to 13: 240 mg/day

  • Ages 14 to 18: 360 mg/day

  • Ages 19 to 30: 310 mg/day

  • Ages 31 and up: 320 mg/day

  • Women who are pregnant: 360 mg/day

  • Women who are breastfeeding: 320 mg/day

  • Ages 1 to 3: 80 mg/day

  • Ages 4 to 8: 130 mg/day

  • Ages 9 to 13: 240 mg/day

  • Ages 14 to 18: 410 mg/day

  • Ages 19 to 30: 400 mg/day

  • Ages 31 and up: 420 mg/day

Sources of Magnesium

Magnesium-rich foods include:

  • Artichokes
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Legumes, such as peas, black beans, and edamame
  • Nuts, including almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews
  • Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds
  • Potatoes
  • Whole grains

Deficiency Symptoms

Magnesium deficiency is rare in healthy people, but can occur when you don't consume enough foods that contain magnesium. It can also happen if you suffer from certain health problems or take medications that may result in the loss of magnesium or reduce the amount your body can absorb in your small intestine. Diabetes, alcoholism, Crohn's disease, celiac disease, or intestinal surgery may result in magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency aren't common, but they can mimic other disorders. Not getting enough may increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases and decreases your immune system function.

You may feel weak and tired, lose your appetite, become nauseated and start vomiting if you have a deficiency. Numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms can develop as the deficiency progresses.

If you have these symptoms, you need to see a health care provider who can order blood tests to determine if a magnesium deficiency is a problem or if there are other causes.

Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium supplements may be beneficial for people who take certain medications that may cause loss of magnesium or reduce absorption, such as diuretics and antibiotics. The elderly, alcoholics, people who have difficulty controlling diabetes, and individuals who suffer from inflammatory bowel disorders may all benefit from taking supplements.

Taking Too Much Magnesium

Getting too much magnesium from the foods you eat is very unlikely, but taking large amounts of dietary magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Taking too much magnesium for longer periods of time may result in changes in mental status, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, weakness, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeat.

Don't take magnesium supplements in large doses, more than 350 mg, without speaking with your healthcare provider.

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