Magnesium Benefits & Sources: A Complete Guide

Jun 01, 2021 Bone HealthLifestyle Tips 6 MIN

What is magnesium?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Magnesium is a mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining good health
  • Magnesium-rich foods include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables
  • Over half of the U.S. population doesn’t get enough magnesium from food 1
  • Magnesium supplement benefits include supporting bone health, nerve and muscle function, and helping convert food into cellular energy

Did you know that even if you eat a balanced, nutritious diet, you might not get enough magnesium every day? In fact, more than half (54%) of the U.S. population consume less than the required amount of magnesium from food, according to research.1 As an important mineral, magnesium helps with hundreds of metabolic reactions in the body—from supporting nerve function to regulating muscle function to support bone health.

But what is magnesium good for and what is the best source of magnesium? Let’s dig deeper to find out more about magnesium health benefits and where to find this key nutrient.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, with 50 to 60% stored in our bones, 1% found in our blood, and the remaining magnesium stored in cells and tissues.1 Most commonly identified as an electrolyte and touted for its role in maintaining mineral balance, magnesium plays a key role in many bodily functions. Despite the importance of magnesium, many American adults fail to consume the recommended daily amount (RDA).2 A magnesium supplement, such as Nature Made Magnesium 250 mg Softgels, may help fill nutrient gaps for this essential mineral.

What Are The Benefits Of Taking Magnesium?

As a key nutrient vital to good health, magnesium plays a variety of important roles in the body, with both men and women reaping the benefits of taking magnesium. Involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, magnesium helps convert food into cellular energy and helps support essential nerve function and nerve health.2 Magnesium also helps control muscle and nerve function, and helps support bone health.3 Magnesium also works as an electrical conductor, helping to contract and relax muscles and helps to maintain a normal heart function. With more than half of the body’s magnesium stored in bones and teeth, the rest of this mineral lives in various tissues throughout the body.4† 

How Does Magnesium Support Cellular Energy?

Magnesium helps our bodies break down the food we eat. For example, it turns carbohydrates and fat into cellular energy. Magnesium is required by cells to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body’s main source of energy. Magnesium is also involved in over 300 essential metabolic reactions , making this mineral a key player in cellular energy production.

Magnesium Side Effects

Since the kidneys generally remove excess magnesium, Magnesium side effects aren’t common. However, if you take large doses of magnesium supplements and/or take certain laxatives containing magnesium, you may experience side effects.5 Side effects of too much magnesium may include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping.3 If you experience these effects when taking a magnesium supplement, consider switching to a supplement with magnesium glycinate, as this form is gentle on the stomach. As always, it's best to first consult with your healthcare professional to determine which magnesium supplement is right for you.

Who Should Take Magnesium?

Because magnesium benefits both men and women (as well as growing children and teens), and is an essential nutrient, everyone needs magnesium. But what does low magnesium mean? Over half of U.S. adults (54%) don’t consume enough magnesium in their daily diet.1 Low levels of magnesium can occur due to reduced consumption of magnesium through the diet (food + supplementation), inadequate absorption and/or increased excretion of magnesium through the body.9 Health experts recommend a daily intake of 400–420 mg/day for men and 310–320 mg/day for women and 350-360 mg during pregnancy.3 So, if you’re consuming less than the recommended amount of magnesium each day, you might have low levels of magnesium and should consider taking a magnesium supplement

Who might not get enough magnesium? As previously mentioned, magnesium is a shortfall nutrient in the United States. However, there are key population groups at risk for magnesium inadequacy which include older adults and people with certain conditions.6, 10 Finally, people who eat diets high in protein, calcium, or Vitamin D might face an increased need for magnesium.5

Who shouldn’t take magnesium? If you have chronic kidney disease, or other health conditions, you should not take a new supplement, including magnesium, without first discussing it with your healthcare practitioner.7 

What should you not take with magnesium? Magnesium supplements can interact with some types of antibiotics, and acid-suppressing drugs and possibly some others, so check with your doctor before using if you are taking prescription medications.8

What Is The Best Way To Get Magnesium?

The best way to get the recommended amount of magnesium lies in eating a balanced diet full of nutritious foods, such as whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables, but more than half (54%) of American adults are not meeting their magnesium requirements from diet alone.1

That said, what food is highest in magnesium? According to the USDA National Nutrient Database the foods with the most magnesium (per one cup serving) include rice bran, molasses, and pumpkin seeds. But a variety of other foods contain this key nutrient, too. Some other food sources of Magnesium include:

  • Fruit: avocado, banana, mango, raisins
  • Green leafy vegetables: spinach, Swiss chard
  • Legumes: black beans, chick peas, lima beans, mung beans, soybeans, white beans, yellow beans
  • Meat/Poultry/Seafood: beef, chicken, mackerel, salmon
  • Molasses
  • Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds sesame seeds
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt
  • Whole Grains: amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, quinoa

Chocolate lovers will be pleased to know that dark chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa also contains magnesium!

What About Magnesium Supplements?

When it comes to supplements, which type of magnesium is best? You can find magnesium supplements in several forms, including magnesium oxide, magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium citrate salts.6 Your healthcare provider might recommend a magnesium supplement if your body is having problems absorbing the nutrient. For instance, Nature Made’s High Absorption Magnesium Glycinate capsules are a high absorption form of magnesium, helps support muscle relaxation, bone, heart, and nerve health and is in a formula that’s gentle on the stomach. In addition, Magnesium Citrate also absorbs better due to citrate form, as compared to magnesium oxide. 

Should I Take a Magnesium Supplement?

If your diet is lacking in magnesium-rich foods, a magnesium supplement may be a good choice to ensure your magnesium needs are met. Some people need magnesium supplements due to certain medications or health conditions. Talk to your healthcare professional to determine if a magnesium supplement fits into your supplement regimen. 

When Should You Take Magnesium?

Is it okay to take magnesium every day? Absolutely! But if you’re wondering whether it’s better to take magnesium at night or during the day, the timing doesn’t really matter. The key is to take your magnesium supplement consistently, so do what works best for you. For many people, taking supplements first thing in the morning is an easy way to remember. (Tip: Put your supplement next to your coffee machine if that’s how you start your day.) The best time to take magnesium is when you’re more likely to remember. If after dinner works better for you, that’s fine, too. And a bonus is that magnesium supports muscle relaxation, which you may want to experience closer to bedtime. 

It is important to take your magnesium supplement with food. Why? Because doing so may alleviate some of the digestive issues (such as nausea and diarrhea) that some people experience when taking magnesium supplements. As always, it’s best to follow the directions on the package regarding when and how to take the supplement. And if you do experience gastrointestinal side effects from taking magnesium with a meal, as mentioned, you may wish to switch to Magnesium Glycinate which is gentle on the stomach. Talk to a healthcare professional if you have any questions.

Learn More: When is the Best Time to Take Vitamins?

The Bottom Line

What does magnesium do for the body? It plays many crucial roles, from supporting muscle and nerve function to cellular energy production and supporting bone health. You can find magnesium in a variety of foods, especially nuts, seeds, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. If your diet is lacking in magnesium-rich foods, taking a magnesium supplement can help ensure your magnesium needs are met.† 

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

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    Lisa Beach

    NatureMade Contributor

    Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at

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    Melissa Dorval Pine, RD

    Senior Manager, Medical and Scientific Communications

    Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and provides leadership to Pharmavite’s Medical and Scientific Education team. She has over 20 years of experience educating consumers, healthcare professionals, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements, and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Affairs department and worked as a clinical dietitian throughout Southern California. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veteran’s Hospital in East Orange New Jersey.

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