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All About Magnesium supplements

Updated: Jul 12

Magnesium is an essential mineral with a lot of important roles.

magnesium pills

This article got a bit long because I kept finding more things to add. Sorry about that!


Most people do not get enough magnesium in their diet, and this is because there are not many foods with large amounts of magnesium. This is why a significant portion (48%) of the population consumes less magnesium than they need each day. Most of the magnesium in the body is stored in the bones and tissues, so blood tests for magnesium levels are not a good way of knowing if you are getting enough magnesium. There is currently no test that accurately shows magnesium levels in the body. Please don’t fall for hair mineral testing or finger prick tests for microscope analysis; they are not an accurate way of showing magnesium levels or deficiencies in the body.


Here is how much magnesium you need at a minimum each day:

RDA for magnesium

The key to getting the most magnesium out of foods is preparing and sourcing them properly. Many magnesium-rich foods contain compounds that can reduce absorption or have other drawbacks, such as heavy metal contamination.


Some foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Sea lettuce

    • It is a type of seaweed with higher levels of magnesium than almost any other food. Choosing a clean source is essential as many sea lettuce products are very high in heavy metals and other contaminants. Emerald Isle is a great source.

    • This is an excellent low omega-six source of magnesium.

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Chia seeds

    • Eat them sprouted to get the most magnesium. 

  • Almonds and cashews

    • Eat them sprouted to get the most magnesium.

  • Spinach

    • It should be well boiled or eaten in soups to get the most magnesium.

  • Black beans

    • Eat them sprouted and cooked to get the most magnesium.

  • Grass-fed plain full-fat yogurt

  • Cacao


Because most people are not getting enough magnesium, many turn to supplements. However, since there are so many types of magnesium supplements, most people have no idea which one might be best for them.


One of the most important things to know about magnesium supplements is that they are not all labeled the same. Two measurements matter when it comes to magnesium labels: the full weight of the compound versus the elemental weight. 


For example, magnesium gluconate is around 5.4 percent elemental magnesium. So, a tablet containing 600 milligrams of magnesium gluconate would only contain about 35 milligrams of elemental magnesium. The amount you want to focus on is the elemental weight, not the full weight. The full weight does not mean anything, as that is not the amount of magnesium you are getting. Many companies use just the full weight or show the full weight on the front of the bottle because it is good for marketing; don’t fall for that nonsense. 

Magnesium gluconate 600 mg

While the front may say 600, the side panel, showing thirty-five milligrams, is the actual amount you are getting.


Unfortunately, some companies do not list the elemental weight, only the full weight, so they can make it seem like their product is a good deal. It can be hard sometimes to tell if a company is doing this if you do not know the elemental magnesium percentages. For example, if a type of magnesium is only 5.4 percent magnesium, you will not be able to get a pill containing 500 mg of elemental magnesium because it would be impossible to swallow. 


This is how the labeling on a magnesium supplement facts panel should look:

Moss Nutrition Magnesium Select Supplement Facts

It should say: Magnesium (form) elemental amount, like this: Magnesium (Citrate) 120 mg.


That shows the form of magnesium and the amount of elemental magnesium you are getting. Each capsule contains 150 mg of elemental magnesium. The full weight does not matter, only the elemental amount. Unfortunately, this is not a foolproof method of knowing as many companies sell products that are properly labeled but contain higher amounts of elemental magnesium than would be present in that type of magnesium. For example, Bluebonnet Magnesium Aspartate capsules were tested and found to contain 26% elemental magnesium, but magnesium aspartate is only about 16% (at most) elemental magnesium.  This means another form of magnesium was added without being listed on the label. This is done for several reasons, but none are good. This is the second time BlueBonnet has had issues with their magnesium. The first time was when magnesium glycinate was sold mixed with magnesium oxide, but the label did not list the magnesium oxide. This is why proper labeling is not a foolproof way of getting a good magnesium supplement. It is also a great example of why we need better enforcement of regulations.

magnesium gummies

This is an example of a product that does not list the elemental amount of magnesium. There is no way to get 1400 mg of elemental magnesium citrate and glycinate in two gummies. They would have to be massive in size. The elemental amount, if the product contains those forms of magnesium (which, at the price listed, they probably do not), would be about 216 mg, but people are going to think they are getting 1400 mg, which is unfortunate as they would be getting nowhere near that amount.


We are very proud that we only sell magnesium supplements that list the elemental weight on the supplement facts panel, so there is no confusion.


So, what are the different types? There are a lot of them, so this next part is a little dry and boring. If you don’t want to read through it all and want to know what our favorite magnesium supplement is, click here.


  • Magnesium carbonate

    • This is magnesium that gets dug up out of the ground; it’s a rock. It has poor absorption and requires higher levels of stomach acid to be absorbed well, but it lowers stomach acid. 

    • Only use this form if you are looking for a laxative effect. If you want magnesium for other reasons, choose a different form.

    • It contains about 28.57% elemental magnesium.

  • Magnesium Oxide 

    • It is made by “burning” magnesium carbonate, which forms magnesium oxide. 

    • It is an osmotic laxative. It is poorly absorbed and works by drawing water into the colon, which softens stool and helps make it easier to have a bowel movement. 

    • Don’t use magnesium oxide unless you are looking for the laxative effect. If you want magnesium for other reasons, choose a different form.

    • It contains about 61% elemental magnesium.

  • Magnesium Hydroxide 

    • It is made in three different three ways.

      • It can be mined from the mineral brucite, hydration of magnesium oxide, or precipitated from seawater. 

    • It is poorly absorbed.

    • Supplements sold as seawater or marine magnesium are this type. It is also sold under the brand name Phillips Milk of Magnesia.

    • This form is also an osmotic laxative. Don’t use magnesium hydroxide unless you are looking for the laxative effect. If you want magnesium for other reasons, choose a different form.

    • It contains about 42% elemental magnesium.

  • Magnesium Citrate

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with citric acid.

    • It is better absorbed than magnesium oxide but still not well absorbed.

    • This form is also an osmotic laxative. Don’t use magnesium citrate unless you are looking for the laxative effect. If you want magnesium for other reasons, choose a different form.

    • Many companies sell products claiming to be magnesium citrate but are not. They mix together citric acid and magnesium carbonate into a powder blend but never react with them. This is much cheaper to produce but is not real magnesium citrate.

    • It contains about 16% elemental magnesium.

  • Magnesium Gluconate

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with gluconic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than citrate and oxide. 

    • It is only about 5.4% elemental magnesium, so it can take a considerable number of capsules to get enough magnesium using it. 

    • A 500 milligram capsule of magnesium gluconate contains about 27 milligrams of magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, it would take about eleven 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Orotate

    • Made by reacting magnesium carbonate with orotic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is only about 7% elemental magnesium, so it can take many capsules to get enough magnesium using it. 

    • For example, a 500 milligram capsule only contains about 35 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you need to take eight or nine 500 mg capsules. 

  • Magnesium Ascorbate

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is only about 7% elemental magnesium, so it can take a lot of capsules to get enough magnesium using it. 

    • A 500 milligram capsule only contains about 35 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take eight or nine 500 mg capsules. 

  • Magnesium Aspartate

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with aspartic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is about 16% elemental magnesium. 

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 90 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about four 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Lactate

    • Made by reacting magnesium carbonate with lactic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is about 12% elemental magnesium.

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 60 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about five 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Succinate

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with succinic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is about 14%-17% elemental magnesium.

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 90 milligrams of magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about five 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Chloride - The brand Slo Mag uses this form.

    • It is generally made in three ways.

      • Reacting magnesium carbonate with hydrochloric acid.

      • Reacting magnesium hydroxide with hydrochloric acid.

      • Reacting magnesium carbonate with mercury chloride. 

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is about 12% elemental magnesium, 

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 60 milligrams of magnesium. 

    •  If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about five 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Malate - A good form for muscle health.

    • It is made by reacting magnesium carbonate with malic acid.

    • It is about 12% elemental magnesium. 

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 60 milligrams of magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about five 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Threonate - A good form for brain and nervous system health.

    • It is made with magnesium hydroxide (put through a process to form heavy magnesium carbonate) and threonic acid.

    • It is better absorbed than oxide and citrate forms.

    • It is about 7.2% elemental magnesium.

    • A 500 milligram capsule only contains about 36 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need about nine 500 mg capsules.

  • Liposomal Magnesium - A good form for those with sensitive digestive tracts.

    • This can be made from many different forms of magnesium. It is produced by encapsulating the magnesium with a liposome. The resulting molecule is well absorbed and not broken down by the stomach. The liposome protects the nutrient and transports it directly through the intestinal wall. 

    • Unfortunately, most liposomal magnesium supplements are not true liposomes. They are just magnesium mixed with phospholipids. This is not the same thing and does not offer the benefits of a true liposome.

    • In addition, many of them are full of questionable flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives.

    • Never buy liquid liposomal supplements packaged in plastic. You will end up ingesting a lot of microplastics. Avoid foil packets as well. Always get them in dark glass.

    • Elemental amounts of magnesium will vary depending on which form was used.

    • It will have much greater absorption and be easier on the digestive tract than its non-liposomal counterpart of the same type of magnesium. For example, a true liposomal magnesium citrate will not be an effective laxative like traditional magnesium citrate because much more will be absorbed.

Are we there yet?

No, I'm sorry. This article kind of got away from me.


The next type of magnesium supplement is called chelates. Chelates are made by binding a mineral to an amino acid. These are much more expensive to make, so there is a lot of cheating. Many products mix magnesium carbonate carbonate with an amino acid powder and sell it as that specific chelate. This is not the same as magnesium bound to an amino acid and will not yield the same results. It is an illegal practice, but since companies rarely get in trouble for doing it, and the penalties are just a slap on the wrist, they continue to do it to make some easy money. It is especially prevalent on third-party sales platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Check out our blog to learn more.


There are also a lot of products that say magnesium chelate, magnesium amino acid chelate, magnesium amino acid complex, etc. Avoid these products because you have no idea what you are getting. The label should say which magnesium chelate is in the bottle, such as glycinate or taurate.


  • Magnesium Taurate - A good choice for heart and cardiovascular health.

    • Magnesium carbonate is bound to the amino acid taurine.

    • It is about 9% elemental magnesium.

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 45 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about seven 500 mg capsules.

  • Magnesium Glycinate - A good form for overall health.

    • Magnesium carbonate bound to the amino acid glycine.

    • It is about 14% elemental magnesium.

    • A 500 milligram capsule would contain about 70 milligrams of elemental magnesium. 

    • If you need 300 milligrams of magnesium, you would need to take about five 500 milligrams capsules.

    • This form of magnesium is one of the most expensive to make, so it is the one most subject to products not matching label claims.

    • Many products claim to be pure magnesium glycinate, but they are not. They are magnesium carbonate or oxide blended with glycine, not magnesium bound to glycine.

    • In addition, many companies mix magnesium glycinate with other forms but don’t list it on the label. For example, Bulk Supplements Magnesium Glycinate powder contained 19.6% elemental magnesium, despite magnesium glycinate only being 14% elemental magnesium. This means that other forms of magnesium are being added but not listed on the label. When contacted, the company said they only tested their powder for total elemental magnesium. This means they are not testing to verify that the magnesium completely matches the claimed type.

Buffered Magnesium Glycinate

If you see buffered magnesium glycinate on a label, it means that magnesium oxide was added. Notice how this label does not list the magnesium oxide, even though it is in the product. In an industry where regulations were enforced correctly, these things would result in steep penalties.


Buying a magnesium supplement with many different forms might seem tempting, but that is a mistake. Taking small amounts of various forms will not give you the benefits of all of them; it just looks good on the label and is excellent marketing. You won’t be getting enough of any particular one to get its benefits. Check out our blog, Fairy Dusting, to learn more.


Topical magnesium is very popular right now. However, a lot of topical magnesium sits on top of the skin and is not absorbed enough to provide any meaningful amount of magnesium in the body. Much of the claimed increased magnesium levels via topical administration are based on hair and urine analysis, which are not accurate measures of the amount of magnesium in tissues. If you must use topical magnesium, apply it near sweat glands and hair follicles. Choose one that is free of questionable preservatives and additives and that contains oils that are nourishing to the skin, as straight topical magnesium oil can be very drying.


Last but certainly not least is whole-food magnesium supplements. As you might have guessed, these are our favorites.


A whole-food magnesium supplement is one that contains whole foods rich in magnesium that have been properly processed and dried. That’s it, just whole food goodness. Whole-food supplements should include all of the compounds found in whole foods, in the complexes they naturally occur in


Now, before we get to our choice for whole-food magnesium supplements, we have to let you know that many companies claim to sell whole-food magnesium supplements, but those claims might not be what they seem. Check out our blog article, Whole Food Supplements 101, to learn more about real versus fake whole-food supplements.


Here are some examples of magnesium supplements that might not be what they claim.


First, we have a Nestle product (shocker, F*** Nestle).

Garden of life whole food magnesium powder

If you look at the front of the label, it clearly says whole food magnesium. So, what are the sources of magnesium in this product? The first is magnesium carbonate. Magnesium carbonate is a rock dug out of the ground. The second source is Organic Brown Rice Protein Magnesium Chelate. This sounds good, but is it whole food? It is made by binding magnesium carbonate to brown rice protein. You can tell us if those things are whole foods.

Whole food magnesium powder

The front of the label clearly says magnesium whole food powder. If you look at the other ingredients, the source of magnesium is magnesium carbonate, which is a rock dug out of the ground. You can decide whether that is a whole-food magnesium supplement. They do add a pinch of food, thirty-five milligrams, but that will only supply a couple of milligrams of magnesium, not anywhere near the 350 milligrams of magnesium claimed on the label.


Now, it’s on to our favorite whole-food magnesium supplement.


We have been looking for a whole-food magnesium supplement for a long time. We found a lot that claimed to be whole food (as you can see above), but they were not, and a lot that did not meet quality and ethical standards. 


Thankfully, after reading far too many magnesium supplement labels and way too much time researching what should have been a simple project (as you can tell from how long this article is), we finally found one.


It is made up of a blend of three organic seaweeds grown off the coast of France. The sea lettuce supplies the magnesium and the bladderwrack, and the Irish sea moss supplies other trace minerals and nutrients. The seaweed is harvested and dried at a low temperature. Pure water is the only solvent used in the manufacturing process to remove impurities, and it is tested for heavy metals, which can be a problem in many seaweed products. 

Organic Sea Vegetable Magnesium

When combined, these seaweeds provide a pure and potent whole-food magnesium supplement. Each capsule contains 125 milligrams of elemental magnesium.



Whole foods represent the best way to get nutrients, and it’s time magnesium supplements reflected that!

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