A healthy plant-based diet can provide sufficient amounts of magnesium. But most people are still not getting enough, despite water and food fortification. Due to the importance of magnesium and the increased needs during pregnancy, a supplement can be beneficial.
What is magnesium and why do I need it?
Magnesium is a mineral with an important role for proper bodily functions. Similar to calcium, it helps to build strong bones and teeth. It also helps to regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, muscle contractions, blood clotting, and nerve function, among hundreds of other biochemical reactions.
Magnesium is important in maintaining healthy levels of calcium and potassium. It follows that insufficient magnesium intake can lead to electrolyte imbalance, muscle cramps, and even seizures .
Magnesium is naturally occurring in many plants and can be synthesized for fortifying food, water, and supplements.
How much magnesium do I need?
The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) has the following Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for women :
- Women ages 14-18: 360 mg/day
- Women ages 19-30: 310 mg/day
- Women ages 31 and up: 320 mg/day
- Pregnant women under 18: 400 mg/day
- Pregnant women ages 19-30: 350 mg/day
- Pregnant women ages 31-50: 360 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women under 18: 360 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women ages 19-30: 310 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women ages 31-50: 320 mg/day
That’s a lot of specificity, but the main takeaway is that magnesium needs increase during pregnancy. NAM also notes that a mother breastfeeding multiples may require an even higher intake of magnesium (and calcium) due to increased milk production .
The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for all adults is 350 mg/day, but this only applies to intake from medications and supplements.
Can I get enough magnesium from my diet?
Yes, magnesium needs can be met through a healthy plant-based diet.
About 50% of magnesium consumed through food is absorbed . This value goes down for people consuming diets that are high in fiber. Conveniently, those same diets also tend to be high in magnesium, so this isn’t worth worrying about.
You body has a beautiful way of moderating magnesium levels by absorbing less with higher intake and flushing out the excess through urine.
Foods with high magnesium content include :
- Rice bran: 933 mg/cup
- Molasses: 816 mg/cup
- Pumpkin and squash seeds: 764 mg/cup
- Raw mung beans: 553 mg/cup
- Tofu: 513 mg/cup
- Sesame seeds: 505 mg/cup
- Brazil nuts: 500 mg/cup
- Raw amaranth: 479 mg/cup
- Almonds: 389 mg/cup
- Raw buckwheat groats: 362 mg/cup
- Raw spinach: 150 mg/cup
Realistically, few people are eating rice bran (the portion that is removed to make white rice) by itself and molasses in such large quantities. But other common foods such as the legumes, seeds, nuts, and dark leafy greens can help to meet the daily needs.
For example, your meals could include oats topped with pumpkin seeds, tofu scramble with spinach, and a handful of almonds per day to provide sufficient levels of magnesium.
It is also worth noting that your water likely contains trace amounts of magnesium, especially if you have “hard” water. On average, in the US, drinking 2 liters of tap water per day gets you about 6-31% of your daily magnesium needs . You can certainly find out how much your water contains and calculate our your intake, but it’s unnecessary. You cannot get too much magnesium from water.
Should I supplement with magnesium?
Numerous studies looking at vegetarians and non-vegetarians found that vegetarians had higher intakes of magnesium (along with many other nutrients) [5, 6]. However, the total intake was still lower than recommended. Due to the low nutrient status among the general population, many regions have fortified the drinking water .
It follows that vegans are consuming more magnesium than the average population, but likely still less than the RDA. Since the recommended intake of magnesium goes up during pregnancy and breastfeeding, a supplement may be beneficial. Studies support this, showing that supplementing with magnesium successfully increases levels in the body .
Vegan Supplements with Magnesium
All supplemental forms of magnesium are vegan, since it is a mineral, but not all are equally effective. A recent study has shown that the dimagnesium malate form (known as magSRT when combined with vitamins B6, B12, and folate) is well absorbed without causing constipation .
Ritual’s Essential Prenatal and Essential for Women supplements include 30 mg that particular form of magnesium. Just enough to bridge the gap for most vegans.
Many other multivitamins on the market contain different forms of magnesium that aren’t as effective. Supplements that are specifically for magnesium often contain concentrations that are higher than the safe upper intake level of 350 mg.
- Magnesium needs are increased for women who are pregnant and those who are breastfeeding multiples.
- Daily recommended intakes can be met through a healthy plant-based diet, but many Americans are still not consuming enough.
- Supplementing with magnesium can be beneficial, but be careful not to exceed the upper intake levels of 350 mg per day.