What Is Manganese? Manganese Benefits and Food Sources

There are a lot of minerals we don’t pay much attention to on a day-to-day basis. Take manganese, for instance. What is it? What role does manganese play in health and nutrition? What foods provide the manganese we need? This essential mineral deserves a moment in the spotlight, as it’s involved in so many vital functions throughout the body. Here’s what to know about manganese and its benefits, plus healthy foods high in manganese that are part of any healthy, balanced diet.

What Is Manganese?

“Manganese is a trace mineral that plays a role in many important processes in the body,””says Amy Davis, RD, LDN, registered dietitian at FRESH Communications. An element labeled as “essential” is one that the body cannot make on its own, requiring us to consume it via external sources. Interestingly, manganese is one of the most abundant elements in the earth’s crust and is also naturally found in soil, rocks, and water, in addition to food.

The Health Benefits of Manganese

But when it comes to the jobs this element has a hand in throughout the body, the list is impressive. Here are some of the most noteworthy roles this mineral plays:

  • Metabolic Health: Manganese is a key component to the synthesis and activation of a host of enzymes involved in protein, carbohydrate, and cholesterol metabolism.
  • Bone Health: This mineral is well-known for being integral in bone formation. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the manganese stored in the body is found in our bones.
  • Immune Health: Manganese works together with vitamin K to optimize blood clotting, which is crucial for heart health and wound healing. Plus, this mineral helps to protect cells from oxidation or the work of disease-causing free radicals.
  • Brain Health: When it comes to the brain, this element assists in not only ammonia clearance—which can cause disorientation, confusion, and even coma—but also plays a key role in neurotransmitter synthesis.
  • Other Benefits: Additionally, adequate levels of manganese are associated with a few other benefits, including support of reproduction, overall bodily homeostasis, blood sugar regulation, and renal function.

How Much Manganese Do You Need Per Day?

In terms of daily needs, Davis shares, “while the body stores up to 20 milligrams (mg) of manganese, we can easily meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which is 1.8 mg for adult women and 2.3 mg for adult men, from food.” 

Manganese deficiency and toxicity are rare—but still not to be taken lightly. This is because deficiency can lead to impaired metabolism, bone density, and growth. While toxicity, on the other hand, can manifest as neuromotor dysfunction similar to Parkinson’s disease, weakness, confusion, and memory difficulties. 

Toxicity symptoms would only appear after consuming amounts of manganese well over the tolerable upper limit (11 mg for both adult men and women) over long periods of time. It’s nearly impossible to exceed this through diet alone, with toxicity usually occurring due to environmental exposures within occupations like mining or welding.

Foods High in Manganese

As Davis mentioned, meeting our relatively low manganese needs on a daily basis shouldn’t be too difficult, and there are so many tasty food sources rich in this mineral. Here are some healthy, high manganese foods to keep eating for all its benefits.


Greg DuPree

Shellfish of all varieties are going to offer notable amounts of manganese, but some stand above the rest. In three ounces of mussels you’ll find a whopping 5.8 mg and about 1 mg in the same amount of oysters and clams. These summertime favorites are delicious any way you can get them—raw, tossed with pasta, or simmered in flavorful broths served alongside crusty bread.

Black Pepper

Vladislav Chusov/Getty Images

Spices aren’t often thought of as meaningful sources of nutrients—but this couldn’t be further from the truth! As one of the most popular spices all over the globe, black pepper also provides some impressive micronutrients. A mere half teaspoon contains 0.2 mg of manganese, nearly 10 percent of your daily needs.

Soy Products

Caitlin Bensel

Whether you’re plant-based or not, there are so many delicious preparations of soy that everyone can enjoy, including tofu and edamame, and these favorites are rich in manganese. In one cup of firm tofu you can expect to find around 3 mg of manganese and 1.4 mg in the same amount of cooked edamame.

Sweet Potatoes

Victor Protasio

Sweet potatoes offer gut-health and immune-boosting nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A. And little do many know, they also deliver on manganese. In one cup mashed sweet potato, you’ll get 2.5 mg of this mineral.

Brown Rice

Christopher Testani

There are many reasons to love whole grains like brown rice, including the variety of vitamins, minerals, and satisfying fiber it offers. Just one of these said minerals includes manganese, with 1.1 mg in half a cup cooked. Whether served alongside protein and veggies, cooked into fried rice, or rolled into sushi, you won’t have trouble finding creative ways to enjoy this grain.


Greg DuPree

If you’re on a mission to up your manganese intake, look no further than legumes, including that be peas, lentils, chickpeas, or beans. In one cup cooked of each, you’ll find 2.1 mg in lima beans, 1.8 mg in chickpeas, 1 mg in lentils, and 0.6 mg in kidney beans.


Crystal Hughes

There’s much more to be gained from your morning cup of tea than just caffeine, including lots of plant compounds and some micronutrients like manganese. You’ll get 0.5 mg of this mineral in one cup of brewed black tea.


Victor Protasio

If you love tropical fruits, you can also find this mineral in pineapple. In just one cup of cut pineapple, you’ll find an incredible 1.5 mg of manganese. If not simply eaten on its own as the perfect snack, pineapple also pairs excellently in fried rice, salsas, and (of course) tropical fruit salads.


Caitlin Bensel

The subtle sweetness of spinach makes for a seamless addition to smoothies, egg dishes, salads, pastas, soups, pizza. This leafy green packs a punch when it comes to nutrition, containing 1.7 mg of manganese in one cup cooked.


Greg DuPree

A variety of nuts and seeds offer notable amounts of manganese, among many other sought-after nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber. In one ounce of each, you’ll find 1.6 mg of manganese in hazelnuts, 1.1 mg in pecans, and 0.5 mg in peanuts (technically a legume!). With these tasty options, you can make homemade trail mix, nutty granola, a variety of baked goods, oatmeal toppers, and chia pudding, and more.