Magnesium is a nutrient that is important for bone health, making it an important nutrient for kids. While true deficiency is rare, many people in the US are not consuming adequate amounts. It has become a more popular supplement in recent years, possibly helping with blood pressure, diabetes, and migraines. Most kids will not need a supplement, but can meet their needs through a diet with lots of variety.
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What does magnesium do?
Magnesium is used throughout many systems in the body. It plays a part in regulating muscle and nerve function, managing blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and making protein, bone, and DNA (1).
Where can you get magnesium?
Magnesium is found in a wide variety of foods. Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all considered good sources. As a rule of thumb, foods that contain fiber also contain magnesium.
We have recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for kids over 1 year old. RDAs are the average level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals (2). For infants < 1, there is an adequate intake (AI) established that is equivalent to the intake of breastfed babies with solid foods added for infants 7-12 months. The adequate intake is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy and is established when evidence is insufficient to determine an RDA.
What happens if you don’t get enough?
Our bodies will limit the amount of magnesium we excrete in our urine if we do not get enough magnesium in our diet. Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness (2). As a deficiency gets worse, symptoms progress to numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms (2). In very severe cases, hypocalcemia or hypokalemia can occur.
Can you get too much?
It’s unlikely for people to get too much magnesium from food alone, because the kidneys will excrete any excess in the urine. High amounts from supplements can result in diarrhea with nausea and abdominal cramping. There is an upper limit established for supplemental magnesium, but not for dietary magnesium.
Magnesium Rich Foods for Kids
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.