1. How modern food falls short of daily magnesium requirements:
Magnesium depletion in soil and water
Humans and animals can only get magnesium from mineral water and plants, and both have depleted levels of magnesium. Our tap and bottled water is deficient in magnesium, and in the World Health Organization’s report this has been linked with heart disease. Furthermore when we cook foods in this mineral-deficient water, it drains them of their magnesium content as well. 
As for our primary source of magnesium – whole foods – they get it from the soil they are grown in. However in our modern world the industrialization of farming – including the prevalence of pesticide use and genetic crop modification – not only reduces our soil’s magnesium, but also reduces our plants’ and their roots’ ability to absorb magnesium from the soil.  This explains why over a decade ago meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products were all shown to have substantially less magnesium than in the 1940s . The farming practices that cause this mineral depletion continue to rise, as magnesium expert Dr. Carolyn Dean MD explains:
”A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams. People do need to supplement with magnesium.”
The trend is to increase nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil, without replenishing nutrients like magnesium. This poses several problems, one of them being that high phosphorous consumption can impair the gut’s magnesium absorption.[6-9] It’s also deceiving because as crops loose nutrients, they grow bigger and look fuller due to their increased carbohydrate and water content. This poses another problem: because the human body must use micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) to process macro-nutrients (carbs, proteins and fats), these macro-rich yet micro-deficient foods are causing even greater mineral and magnesium depletion inside our bodies.
Organic is better – to an extent
While it has been shown that plants raised in organic soil are more nutrient-rich, there are still factors that make even an organic diet fall short in providing enough magnesium.
One factor is crop density per surface area of soil. Each plant needs a specific amount of nutrient-rich soil in order to absorb a healthy amount of minerals. However organic certification regulations don’t include how densely crops are planted and thus how much soil each plant gets.  Rather they focus on crop rotation – which is still beneficial – however the guidelines for crop rotation are vague and this raises another issue:
The requirements are that farms only be checked once per year, raising notable concern of whether or not organic certifications are achieved honestly. While the best option is to buy your produce fresh from local farms, even then one can rarely be sure of exactly what farming practices are used. Eating organic is the safer bet, however it’s not always enough.
Calcium fortification depletes magnesium
Calcium is known to have an antagonistic relationship with magnesium in our bodies.[12,13] In fact, we need magnesium to put calcium into our bones and keep it out of our soft organs. This means the more calcium we consume, the more magnesium we lose to calcium regulation and skeletal absorption. This is important because recent reports show that our modern food supply is over-fortified with calcium.
Due to magnesium’s central role in all major functions of the heart, and calcium’s damaging effects, it comes as no surprise that this rising dietary calcium-to-magnesium ratio coincides very closely with rising rates of cardiovascular disease. Simply put, increased levels of magnesium’s primary antagonist – calcium – makes it even more difficult to satisfy daily magnesium requirements from diet alone.
Iron overload, disease & magnesium loss
Iron is another mineral that is vital to our health yet very damaging when we consume too much, because it oxidizes and increases free-radical production which literally causes the rusting of our cells and organs. This depletes our magnesium because we need magnesium for our body’s free-radical-fighting systems; namely the production of our two main anti-oxidants, glutathione and melatonin.[17-20]
Unfortunately the U.S., Canada and many other countries have made iron enrichment mandatory for flour, bread, pasta, rice and cereals. Even worse is that metal filings are used to achieve this! These excess iron in our food is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity[21-23] all of which are lower in countries that don’t infuse their food supply with iron .
While dietary iron enrichment was mandated to help women with iron deficiency caused by menstruation, this theory has been shown to be misleading [25,26], and the consequences of dietary iron overload not only deplete our magnesium, but also cause oxidative damage and deterioration.
Stress & intestinal magnesium absorption
This excess iron also impacts dietary magnesium absorption due to its negative effects on the microbiome of our intestine [27-29] – the main place where our body absorbs magnesium from our diet.[30,31] It also affects the structure and immunity of the intestine and causes damage via inflammation. This presents a double-edged sword: If we absorb the excess iron, it damages our cells and organs and depletes our magnesium for its anti-inflammatory uses. If the iron is not absorbed, it instead damages our gut directly and reduces magnesium absorption.
But iron fortification is not our only source of magnesium loss. Stress and inflammation in general go hand in hand with magnesium deficiency:
- All forms of stress directly deplete magnesium because the stress-response organs (adrenals) are magnesium dependent.
- Stress also directly causes inflammation, which depletes magnesium because the body’s anti-inflammatory systems are magnesium-dependent.
- Stress also specifically leads to inflammation and disease of our gut where magnesium is absorbed from diet. [33-36]
When we consider that magnesium-draining stress takes more forms than just psychological, (including Wifi, technology, pollution and intense exercise) it becomes clear that it is very difficult to satisfy daily magnesium requirements with only diet. Combined with the food supply’s magnesium depletion and calcium & iron overload, this raises the need for our institutions to increase their recommendations of daily magnesium intake, which is exactly what the experts are saying.
This makes it even more important to know which magnesium-rich foods are actually good for us and which foods contain excess iron, calcium and various anti-nutrients and toxins.
2. Which magnesium-rich foods have toxins and anti-nutrients:
Dangers of wheat, grains & cereals
The most popular magnesium foods are grains, cereals and wheat products, which in today’s western world are heavily processed, fortified with iron, and often raised using genetically modified crops and harmful pesticides.
“The problem with gluten is far more serious than anyone ever imagined. Modern structurally modified, hybridized grains contain gluten that’s less tolerable than the gluten that was found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago.” — Dr. David Perlmutter 
“This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more. It contains a super starch, amylopectin A, that is super fattening, a form of super gluten that is super inflammatory, and [acts like] a super drug that is super addictive and makes you crave and eat more” — Dr. Mark Hyman 
Besides harmful additives, they’re also treated with irradiation. In 1975, it was shown that irradiated foods fed to children caused abnormal cell formation and polyphoid lymph,  which lowers immune strength, damages kidneys, and decreases growth and fertility. The study was stopped at 5 weeks to prevent further harm to the children. Although the study was criticized because the subjects were a small group of malnourished children, a later study in 1987 done on healthy Chinese men found DNA damage from eating irradiated food.[39,40] Studies on different animal species including monkeys, rats, and mice also all found various harmful effects.[41-43]
In addition to increasing harmful polyphoid lymph in our bodies, wheat, grains, and cereals fall into a very large category of over 700 foods that lose substantially more than half of their nutrients when processed:
Magnesium 84%, Chromium 40%, Cobalt 89%, Copper 68%, Manganese 86%, Molybdenum 48%, Niacin 81%, Pantothenic acid 50%, Phosphorous 71%, Potassium 77%, Selenium 16%, Sodium 78%, Vitamin B1 77%, Vitamin B2 80%, Vitamin B6 72%, Vitamin E 86%, Zinc 78%.
Here are the chemicals used in wheat & grain processing – which can be absorbed during the process: Disulfoton (Di-syston), methyl parathion, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, diamba, andglyphosate, cyocel, chlorpyrifos-methyl, cy-fluthrin, malathion and pyrethrins, methyl bromide and phosphine-producing materials, and organophosphates. These products of wheat and grain farming have been associated with the following health effects:
- hormonal dysregulation, especially in teenagers
- linked to hormone-dependant cancers
- nervous system dysregulation
- neurotoxins that kill brain cells
- eye and skin corrosion
- kidney damage
- stunted child development
- respiratory, speech and motor disturbances, and genetic damage
- acetylcholine buildup causing lung paralysis and death
Wheat, grain and cereal usually do more harm than good if they’re derived from industrialized farming practices. The healthiest and most trustworthy way to eat wheat and cereals is to harvest and/or sprout them ourselves, and various helpful guides can be found online.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds may seem healthy but they can be quite damaging in the kinds of quantities needed to satisfy magnesium requirements, due to their phytic acid, lectin, inflammatory omega 6, and mold content.
Phytic acid – a chemical farmers apply to nuts and seeds to prevent them from sprouting too early. When we consume this phytic acid it binds to minerals like magnesium in our gut and prevents their absorption. Consuming large amounts of phytic acid can have negative health consequences and should be limited.
Lectin – Another anti-nutrient found in grains, legumes, nuts, dairy and nightshade plants. When lectins bind to carbohydrates, they cause fermentation in our gut. They also bind to our gut’s microvilli whose function is to absorb nutrients into our bloodstream. High lectin consumption can reduce magnesium absorption, and lead to a damaged and inflamed intestine.
Omega 6 – Inflammation is at the root of most disease. Our body’s anti-inflammatory processes are magnesium-dependent. Most nuts and seeds contain high amounts of polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acids which are highly inflammatory. The optimal ratio for human omega 6 to 3 consumption is 1:1, but the modern diet is between 15:1 and 17:1. Eating lots of nuts and seeds increases this imbalance, and depletes our magnesium levels.
Mold – Because nuts and seeds are high in fat, they are vulnerable to absorbing toxic mold from various stages of processing.
Which nuts & seeds are ok?
Pumpkin, sesame, flax, and sunflower seeds are all high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids, each with 20-30 grams per 100 grams, and their consumption should be limited. Chestnuts and macadamia nuts are the lowest in phytic acid and omega 6 fats, while most other nuts have high amounts. Soaking these nuts in salt water for 24 hours helps reduce the phytic acid, and dehydrating afterwards at low temperatures can prevent more mold growth.
In addition to hindering magnesium absorption with their high phytic acid and lectin content, beans also contain trypsin inhibitors which decrease our digestion of protein, vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Some beans (soy especially) contain phytoestrogens which mimic estrogen in our body, a hormone whose imbalance can increase female characteristics in men. Phytoestrogens are also linked with infertility, menstrual problems, breast cancer, and thyroid problems. While sprouting, fermenting and cooking helps remove some phytic acid and lectin content, high bean and soy consumption can be problematic. Better sources of magnesium are definitely available.
Salmon & the OMEGA 3 question
Salmon has more magnesium than any other fresh water fish and is touted for its health benefits due to its high omega 3 fatty acid content. However the research behind omega 3 being “essential” is not very robust. A nutrient is “essential” if:
- A vital process in the body cannot function without the nutrient.
- Our body cannot synthesize the nutrient on its own.
To date, we have not been able to find any study that has identified a vital process that the body cannot perform without omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, several health experts including Biology PhD Dr. Raymond Peat have written extesnively-cited articles that show how omega 3 fatty acids have been touted as healthy by industry forces, when in reality they are associated with disorders of metabolism and thyroid, immunity, light sensitivity, cancer, and more.
Eating to sustain healthy magnesium levels is clearly not as simple as consuming any and all magnesium-rich foods. Below are the magnesium-rich foods without the health risks mentioned above.
3. Which magnesium-rich foods are safe and bioavailable sources:
Here are the best sources of dietary magnesium. Keep in mind that the amounts of magnesium (in mg) of the foods below, have not changed to reflect our soil’s/food’s magnesium depletion.
Fruits and vegetables
Spinach and Swiss Chard (avoid curly kale due to its high oxalate content) are healthy sources of magnesium, provided they are organic. One cooked cup (125 ml) of either provides up to 83 mg of magnesium.
Organic okra served cooked contains 50 mg of magnesium for every 125 ml serving.
The prickly pear has more magnesium than any fruit at 88 mg per pear, and a medium cooked potato with skin has between 47-52 mg of magnesium.
Organic dark chocolate (raw cacao powder)
Raw cacao powder is the single most magnesium-rich and anti-oxidant-rich food in the world. It is also the most expensive. 1 tablespoon of raw cacao powder has 27 mg of magnesium, and satisfying the institution’s low RDA of magnesium with raw cacao powder would cost 10-15$ per day.
Although turmeric root is hard to find, you can find it in health food stores specializing in organic produce. While most people find the taste overwhelming, research shows that turmeric is one of the healthiest foods we can eat! Perhaps one of the reasons is that it is the second most magnesium-rich food on the planet: a mere 100 grams of raw turmeric root contains 193 mg of magnesium!
The best magnesium sources from sea food are those with low levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids: Cooked halibut (80mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), cooked Atlantic mackerel (73mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), cooked Atlantic pollock (64mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving), and cooked Atlantic crab (47mg of magnesium per 75 gram serving).
At 43 mg of magnesium for every 100 gram serving, ginger isn’t as rich as turmeric or cacao but it has the added benefit of aiding our digestion. Ginger has a powerful protein-digesting enzyme called xingybain making it a phenomenal addition at the end of any protein-laden meal. Its ability to increase our stomach acid during a meal is also a powerful aid in preventing bacterial overgrowth which otherwise prevents magnesium absorption.
4. A full chart of all magnesium-rich foods:
Below is a chart of the most magnesium-rich foods, sourced from Health Canada. Grey, italicized foods contain the least amount of toxins and anti-nutrients mentioned above.
Food & portion
Magnesium content (in mg)
Fruits & Vegetables
Prickly pear 1 fruit
Spinach, cooked 125 mL (½ cup)
Swiss chard, cooked 125 mL (½ cup)
Tamarind 125 mL (½ cup)
Potato, with skin, cooked 1 medium
Okra, cooked, 125 mL (½ cup)
Cereals, All Bran, 30 g
Wheat germ cereal, toasted, 30 g (¼ cup)
Quinoa, cooked 125 mL (1/2 cup)
Milk and Alternatives
Cheese, soy, 50 g (1½ oz)
Yogurt, soy, 175 g (¾ cup)
Legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)
Edamame/baby soy beans, cooked 125 mL (½ cup)
Peas, black-eyed peas/cowpeas, cooked, 175 mL (¾ cup)
Tempeh/fermented soy product, cooked, 150 g (3/4 cup)
Soybeans, mature, cooked, 175 mL (¾ cup)
Soy nuts, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Beans (black, lima, navy, adzuki, white kidney, pinto, Great Northern, cranberry, chickpeas), cooked, 175 mL (¾ cup)
Tofu, prepared with magnesium chloride or calcium sulfate, 150 g (¾ cup)
Baked beans, with pork, canned, 175 mL (¾ cup)
Lentils, split peas, cooked, 175 mL (¾ cup)
Nuts and seeds
Pumpkin or squash seeds, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Brazil nuts, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Sunflower seed butter , 30 mL (2 Tbsp)
Sunflower seeds, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Almonds, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Cashews, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Pine nuts, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Flaxseeds, 30 mL (2 Tbsp)
Sesame seeds, 30 mL (2 Tbsp)
Peanuts, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Chestnuts, without shell, 100 grams
Macadamia nuts, 100 grams
Hazelnuts, without shell, 60 mL (¼ cup)
Fish & Seafood
Salmon, Chinook, cooked, 75 g (2 ½ oz)
Halibut, cooked, 75 g (2 ½ oz)
Mackerel, Atlantic, cooked, 75 g (2 ½ oz)
Pollock, Atlantic, cooked, 75 g (2 ½ oz)
Crab, Atlantic snow, cooked, 75 g (2 ½ oz)
Ginger 100 grams
Turmeric 100 grams
Cacao powder, 1 table spoon
Yeast extract spread (marmite or vegemite), 30 mL (2 Tbsp)