Vegan Guide to Magnesium

Here I’m going to answer some of the most common questions I get from vegans about Magnesium. Some of the themes overlap because some of the most frequently asked questions ask more or less the same thing, just in different ways. So you may want to use the table of contents to go right down to the content that interests you.

Is Magnesium Vegan?

Yes, magnesium is vegan. It’s found in numerous plant foods. Though it’s present in bone, magnesium used in everyday materials isn’t extracted from animals as it’s found abundantly in the earth.

China (a big exporter of the mineral) mines a lot of their magnesium from the earth’s crust. The mineral can also be obtained from the sea. Magnesium is one of the most abundant dissolved ions present in seawater along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and sulfate.1

In the US, magnesium is mostly obtained by electrolysis of fused magnesium chloride from seawater and brine.2

Are Magnesium Supplements Vegan?

The common supplemental forms of magnesium that are considered vegan include:

  • Magnesium sulfate (MgSO4)
  • Magnesium chloride (MgCl2)
  • Magnesium acetate
  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium citrate
  • Magnesium gluconate
  • Magnesium oxide (MgO)

There are a few more variants we’ll tackle one by one.

Is It Vegan? Magnesium Edition

Is Magnesium Stearate Vegan?

Magnesium stearate can be vegan but is often produced from animal-derived stearic acid. Stearic acid can be sourced from plants, and many supplements use magnesium stearate made from non-animal-derived stearic acid. Look for, “magnesium stearate (vegetable source).”

You may be thinking, “but, I thought you said magnesium supplements tend to be vegan.” Magnesium stearate isn’t supplemental magnesium. It’s a substance that’s often used as an anti-adherent in medical tablets and powders.3,4

It’s very common to run across this ingredient in supplements as it’s the most commonly used lubricants in tablets.5

However, it’s an additive and not present in pills in order to help consumers meet magnesium needs.

Is Magnesium Taurate Vegan?

Whether or not magnesium taurate qualifies as vegan depends on how the taurine was sourced. Amino acids are either synthesized or sourced from plants, animals or humans (hair and nails). Taurine is abundant in animals, but it’s also commonly synthesized.6

To find out about a particular product, you will need to contact the manufacturer.

PETA does not list either taurine or magnesium taurate in their list of animal-derived ingredients.7

Then again, they state that the list isn’t comprehensive.

Is Magnesium Threonate Vegan?

Magnesium threonate is typically considered vegan. Amino acids, like threonine, are either made via chemical synthesis or acquired from plants, animals or humans. Threonine happens to be an amino acid that’s generally produced microbially.8

Is Magnesium Malate Vegan?

Yes, magnesium malate is vegan. Malic acid is a common organic acid found in apples and other fruit. Industrially, it’s produced from non-animal-derived precursors.9

Is Magnesium Glycinate Vegan?

Some magnesium supplements use glycine to improve absorption. Glycine is an amino acid present in cartilage and can be obtained via hydrolized protein. Thankfully, this isn’t a concern as the isolation of glycine from animal protein tends not to be used industrially, as it’s much more convenient to manufacture the amino acid via chemical synthesis.10

Is Magnesium Myristate Vegan?

Magnesium myristate can be vegan, but you will have to contact the manufacturer to inquire about specific products. Myristic acid can be extracted from a number of sources, both animal and plant, including:11-13

  • Nutmeg butter which has 75% of its fat content as trimyristin, the triglyceride of myristic acid.
  • Palm kernel and coconut oil
  • Orris root
  • Bovine milk (8-14% myristic acid)
  • Butterfat
  • Spermaceti, derived from the sperm whale

Is Magnesium Carbonate Vegan?

Magnesium carbonate is vegan. It’s used for a number of reasons including the production of magnesium oxide, a common supplemental form of magnesium. It’s also used in antacids and for color retention.14

Does the Vegan Diet Lack Magnesium?

No, 100% plant-based diets do not lack magnesium. In fact, if you look at the NIH list of high-magnesium foods, you will find that 22 of the 28 foods listed are of plant origin.15

In regards to older adults (a group at risk for magnesium deficiency), Elaine Fleming and Richard W. Hubbard of Vegetarian Nutrition Volume 3, state, “The elderly vegetarian or vegan has a significant advantage for dietary sources of magnesium because seeds, nuts, legumes, unmilled cereal grains, and dark green vegetables are high in magnesium, while diets high in refined foods or dairy products are low in magnesium.”16

Is Magnesium-Diasporal Vegan?

Yes, magnesium-diasporal uses magnesium citrate thus it is considered vegan.48

What Is Vegan/Plant-Based Magnesium?

If a magnesium supplement is marketed as vegan or plant-based it can mean one of two things:

  1. The supplement uses a vegetarian-friendly capsule (no gelatin).
  2. The mineral is extracted from vegetation instead of land.

With the latter, the idea is that plant- and algae-based minerals are somehow superior to mined minerals. This claim has more to do with “health” than ethics. So, if you’re trying to avoid using animal-based products for ethical reasons, you need only consider the capsule material if one is even used.

How Much Magnesium Do Vegans Need?

Magnesium needs for vegans are the same for everyone else. The below table lists the current RDAs for magnesium.17

From birth to 1 year, the FNB established an Adequate Intake (AI) for magnesium that’s equal to the mean magnesium intake in healthy, breastfed infants, with added solid foods for infants 7–12 months of age.17

Source: Office Of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium

What Vegan Foods Contain Magnesium?

Vegan foods having the highest magnesium content include:18

  • Nuts and Seeds. For example, 1 oz. of almonds has 75 mg or 19% DV. Peanut butter provides around 50 mg (12% DV) of the mineral per 2 tablespoons. Sunflower seeds provide around 40 mg (10% DV) of magnesium per ¼ cup.
  • Leafy green vegetables. Chlorophyll—the pigment that imparts the green color characteristic of many vegetables—contains magnesium. Spinach provides about 150 mg per 1 cup which comes to about 37% DV.
  • Legumes. For example, navy, kidney, pinto, and chickpeas provide around 40-50 mg per ½-cup or about 12% DV.
  • Whole-grain cereals. For example, ½ cup of oatmeal and 1 slice of whole-grain both provide about 25 mg of the mineral.
  • Corn. Corn provides 48 mg per cup or 12% DV.
  • Blackstrap molasses. If you can tolerate the taste, blackstrap molasses is a pretty dense source of magnesium providing 43 mg (10% DV) of the mineral.
  • Brown rice. Whole-grain rice provides around 40 mg or 10% DV per ½ cup
  • Beverages. Some beverages contain magnesium. For example, 2 oz of espresso provides about 48 mg or 12% DV. Magnesium is present in cocoa powder, so 6 oz cup hot chocolate provides about 25 mg magnesium or 6% DV. Finally, tap water can provide magnesium to varying degrees. “Hard water” is water high in magnesium while “soft water” contains sodium. Amounts can vary quite a bit depending on the source, so it’s not worth factoring into your daily intake.

Select Sources of Magnesium

Source: Office Of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium

The Vegan Diet and Magnesium Deficiency

Are Vegans Magnesium Deficient?

Vegans are not characteristically magnesium deficient. According to the NIH, groups considered at risk for magnesium deficiency include people with gastrointestinal diseases, people with type 2 diabetes, older adults, and people with alcohol dependence.15

The current RDA for magnesium, for adults 19-30 years of age, is 400 mg for men and 310 mg for women. At 31 years of age, it rises to 420 for men and 320 for women.15

In the EPIC-Oxford study, adult intakes of magnesium were shown to be 440 mg and 391 mg for men and women, respectively.19

The elderly comprise a population at risk for deficiency of magnesium. The elderly vegan has an advantage over older adults in other diet categories because nuts, seeds, legumes, unrefined cereals, and green leafy vegetables represent such good sources of magnesium, while the standard diet contains so little of the mineral.20

How Can Vegans Avoid Magnesium Deficiency?

Magnesium absorption is influenced by a number of dietary factors. When considering your own magnesium intake and status, you may want to keep the following in mind.

Factors that Can Impede Magnesium Absorption
The Presence of Other Minerals

Magnesium supplementation taken at the same time as supplements containing other minerals can impede the absorption of all minerals involved including magnesium.

In the diet, several minerals and all trace elements are consumed in much lower amounts compared to magnesium. Minerals consumed in equal or greater amounts include sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, and chloride.21,22

Many minerals compete for the same transport mechanism, thus co-consumption of these nutrients with magnesium could reduce its absorption. Trace minerals are no exception. Given that they are consumed in much smaller quantities, it’s unlikely that trace elements like iron and zinc would have a significant effect on magnesium absorption in a regular diet.

However, that doesn’t mean the same can be said for supplementing these trace minerals at pharmacological doses. For example, supplementation with 142 mg zinc/day significantly decreased magnesium apparent absorption and balance in humans, which suggests that both minerals likely compete for the same transport mechanism in the SI.

This is despite the fact that magnesium is thought to be absorbed in the distal portion of the SI and zinc in the proximal portion.23,24

Similarly, iron supplementation has been shown to negatively affect magnesium absorption.24

Competition for transport isn’t the only mechanism that can account for the influence that minerals exert on each other. Phosphorous inhibits magnesium absorption by forming the complex, Mg3(PO4)2 in the GI tract rendering both minerals unavailable for absorption.

This particular effect is more pronounced when phosphorous intake is high and magnesium consumption is low.25 Calcium and potassium also interact with magnesium.25

The Presence of Non-Fermentable Fiber and Phytic Acid

This one is perhaps most applicable to vegans, as those following plant-based diets tend to consume higher amounts of fiber compared to other diet groups. As discussed in other articles, dietary fiber can be categorized as non-fermentable (or insoluble fiber – e.g. cellulose and lignin) and fermentable (oligosaccharides and resistant starch, etc.).

Non-fermentable fibers (cellulose, etc.) and phytic acid have both been shown to impair the absorption of magnesium, though the effect is small.26

Many fibrous plant foods contain high amounts of both non-fermentable fiber and phytic acid.

Unabsorbed Fatty Acids

This one is limited to folks with GI conditions affecting fat absorption (pancreatitis, etc.), and thus won’t be applicable to most readers. With steatorrhea (fat malabsorption), there are high amounts of unabsorbed fatty acids present in the feces. Fatty acids in the GI tract can bind magnesium forming soaps. The magnesium-fatty acid soaps are then excreted in the feces.27

Factors that Can Improve Magnesium Absorption
The Presence of Proteins

Several (but not all) human studies have found a positive effect conferred by proteins on magnesium absorption. For example, in one study by Schwartz et al. magnesium absorption was found to be significantly increased in adolescent boys when consuming 265 mg vs. 125 mg protein/(kg x d) during 30 day periods in an RCT.28

Similarly, Hunt and Schofield reported higher apparent absorption of magnesium in subjects with consumptions of 30 g/day compared to those consuming 20 g protein/day and 48 g/day compared to 34 g protein/day during 30 day periods. Apparent magnesium absorption was 46.1% vs. 28.3% and 57.7% vs. 42.4%, respectively.29

The Presence of Fermentable Fibers

Fermentable carbohydrates include:30

  • Fructo-oligosaccharides
  • Resistant starch (RS)
  • Gums
  • Inulin
  • Lactulose
  • Various other non-digestible sugars and sugar alcohols
  • Lactose (if not digested due to lactase deficiency)  

Pectin and hemicellulose are partially fermentable.31

The exact mechanism by which fermentable fibers enhance magnesium absorption remains speculative.32

One theory is that the acidic fermentation results in a lower luminal pH, improved solubility which enhances absorption of Mg.33,34

Whatever the mechanism, it seems that carbohydrates, specifically fructose and oligosaccharides, may increase the absorption of magnesium.35

The Presence of Vitamin D

In pharmacological doses, vitamin D has been shown to improve magnesium absorption in some studies.36 Several studies have noted this effect, but few have offered potential mechanisms.37-39

The Use of Effervescent Tablets

Absorption of magnesium may be better when effervescent tablets are used compared to capsules. It’s thought that this may be due to the fact that the effervescent tablets are dissolved in water prior to ingestion resulting in the magnesium becoming ionized—a precondition for absorption.40

What Are the Best Vegan Magnesium Supplements?

There are no vegan-specific considerations when it comes to choosing a magnesium supplement other than ensuring the capsule doesn’t contain gelatin.

Other than people with inadequate intakes, magnesium supplements are often needed for people with certain GI diseases such as IBD and diseases of the pancreas. These conditions are related to fat malabsorption which leads to loss of the nutrient in the feces.

Like most nutrients, magnesium used in supplements comes in a few different forms. Widely available supplemental forms of the nutrient include: 25

  • Magnesium Sulfate—MgSO4, or Epsom salts
  • Magnesium chloride (MgCl2)
  • Magnesium acetate
  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium citrate
  • Magnesium gluconate
  • Magnesium oxide (MgO)

Absorption of the mineral from magnesium oxide tends to be poor compared to other magnesium supplements. For this reason, magnesium oxide tends to cause digestive issues in some individuals. Though better than magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate tends not to absorb quite as well as the other magnesium salts.41-45

Magnesium for Raw Vegans

Great sources of magnesium for raw vegans include:18

  • Spinach. 1 cup provides about 150 mg or 37% DV.
  • Almonds, raw. 1 oz. contains 80 mg or 20% DV.
  • Avocado. 1 cup cubed provides 44 mg or 11% DV.
  • Oats, raw. 1 packet contains 36 mg or 9% DV.
  • Banana. 1 medium contains 32 mg or 8% DV.
  • Beet greens. 1 cup offers 26.6 mg or 7% DV.46
  • Flaxseed. 1 Tbsp. provides 27.4 mg or 7% DV.47

Other than spinach, most of the dense sources of plant-based magnesium require being cooked prior to consumption. The above are just a few examples of foods that are commonly eaten raw yet still contain meaningful amounts of magnesium.

What Are The Best Practices to Avoid Nutrient Loss/Deficiency

Certain food processing and preparation methods can significantly reduce the magnesium content of foods. The refining whole wheat, for example, eliminates the germ and outer layers, reducing its magnesium content by over 75%. Eating less processed foods and/or choosing foods that have been fortified with magnesium (breakfast cereals, etc.) can help mitigate this problem.


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