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Basic Description

Foods with most per 100 grams (Ordered by % of Daily Recommended Intake)
Food Percentage of DRI per 100 grams
Cinnamon, whole sticks
Cinnamon, ground
Black pepper
Hemp Seed
Sea vegetables
Pumpkin seeds
Cumin seeds
Nutmeg Ground
Sesame seeds
Mustard seeds

Basic Description

When you think of dietary minerals, you probably think first of calcium or iron. If you spend a lot of time thinking about nutrition, you may also think about zinc or magnesium. But there are a whole group of trace minerals, which are not generally as well known, that we derive from our diets in very small amounts that are just as critical to healthy lifestyles.

One of these is manganese. In the 1930s, researchers discovered that our bodies require small amounts of dietary manganese each day. Since then, it has been determined that each adult has about 15-20 mg of manganese stored in his or her body. Needless to say, this isn't very much, and in fact some people occasionally eat this much dietary manganese in a single day.

Largely plant-based diets—like those we promote at the World's Healthiest Foods—tend to be rich sources of manganese. Of the World's Healthiest Foods, we currently rate 21 as excellent sources of manganese. We also have 38 very good sources and 26 good sources. Added together, these foods represent 85% of all WHFoods! This large variety gives you many options for obtaining the manganese you need.

Role in Health Support

Bone Production

We know from animal studies that very low intakes of manganese are associated with poor bone formation. This phenomenon is thought to be due to altered formation of the protein matrix that keeps minerals like calcium in place.

Whether low or marginal manganese intake is a common contributor to bone loss is not known currently. Given that U.S. diets tend to be well above total manganese needs, it appears unlikely that increasing manganese intakes is necessary or helpful in prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.

Skin integrity

Manganese is a required co-factor for an enzyme called prolidase, which is in turn necessary to make collagen as a structural component of skin. This role of manganese in collagen production makes this mineral important for everyday skin health. In addition to its collagen production role, manganese also functions as an antioxidant in skins cells and other cell types. It helps protect skin against oxygen-related damage and also against damage from ultraviolet (UV) light. In at least one human study, participants on manganese-deficient diets over a period of weeks developed skin rashes that the researchers associated with too little dietary manganese. After the participants resumed consumption of a manganese-rich diet, these rashes disappeared. There can be an extremely wide variety of reasons for development of skin rashes, and so this study did not mean to suggest that whenever a person has a skin rash, there may very likely be some problem with manganese intake. But this study did point out that manganese deficiency can sometimes play a role in skin problems, including rashes.

Blood Sugar Control

Manganese is needed to help multiple enzymes in a process called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is the scientific term for conversion of substances like amino acids or organic acids into sugar. Our cells routinely engage in this process, and some of the enzymes involved (like PEPCK, or phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase) require manganese to function properly.

Scientists aren't sure about the relationship between diseases involving poor blood sugar control and dietary intake of manganese. In animal studies, manganese-depleted diets can lead to high blood sugars similar to those seen in diabetics. Whether this is true in humans has not been determined.

Either way, we suspect that manganese deficiency is probably not a common contributor to human diabetes. People with diabetes do not consistently have lower manganese intake than people without diabetes. Also, supplementation with large doses of manganese—doses at the top end of what would be seen with plant-based diets—do not appear to improve blood sugar control in diabetes. However, even though manganese deficiency may not directly increase risk of diseases related to blood sugar control (like diabetes), it is still likely to play a very helpful role in everyday blood sugar control.

Protection Against Free Radical Damage

As noted above, manganese is a co-factor for an enzyme called manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD), which is a potent antioxidant associated with protection against free radical damage. Diets low in manganese have been linked to conditions marked by increased free radical damage to cells and tissue,,including skin problems and asthma.

Summary of Food Sources

As noted above, the World's Healthiest Foods contain a large number of excellent and very good sources of manganese. These represent a variety of food groups, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.

Unlike most minerals, we see foods on the list that contain close to or the entire Daily Value (DV) for manganese in a single serving. One quarter cup of dried oats, for example, provides 96% of the DV for manganese.

It's worth pointing out that among our 85 WHFoods that rank as excellent, very good, or good sources of manganese, none are animal foods. That's because animal foods are typically low in manganese, and provide 5% or less of the DV.

Nutrient Rating Chart

Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the World's Healthiest Foods that are either an excellent, very good, or good source of manganese. Next to each food name, you'll find the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition, the calories contained in the serving, the amount of manganese contained in one serving size of the food, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.
World's Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
Foods Rating
Cloves2 tsp11.52.53127197.8excellent
Oats0.25 cup151.71.929611.4excellent
Brown Rice1 cup216.41.76887.3excellent
Garbanzo Beans1 cup269.01.69855.7excellent
Spinach1 cup41.41.688436.5excellent
Pineapple1 cup82.51.537716.7excellent
Collard Greens1 cup62.70.974913.9excellent
Cinnamon2 tsp12.80.914663.8excellent
Raspberries1 cup64.00.824111.5excellent
Black Pepper2 tsp14.60.743745.7excellent
Beet Greens1 cup38.90.743717.1excellent
Swiss Chard1 cup35.00.582914.9excellent
Strawberries1 cup46.10.562810.9excellent
Kale1 cup36.40.542713.4excellent
Turnip Greens1 cup28.80.492515.3excellent
Mustard Greens1 cup36.40.38199.4excellent
Summer Squash1 cup36.00.38199.5excellent
Turmeric2 tsp15.60.341719.6excellent
Sea Vegetables1 TBS10.80.311625.7excellent
Garlic6 cloves26.80.301510.1excellent
Basil0.50 cup4.90.241244.3excellent
Bok Choy1 cup20.40.241210.6excellent
Pumpkin Seeds0.25 cup180.31.47747.3very good
Tempeh4 oz222.31.46735.9very good
Rye0.33 cup188.51.44726.9very good
Soybeans1 cup297.61.42714.3very good
Tofu4 oz164.41.34677.3very good
Barley0.33 cup217.11.19604.9very good
Quinoa0.75 cup222.01.17594.7very good
Wheat1 cup151.11.11566.6very good
Walnuts0.25 cup196.21.02514.7very good
Sweet Potato1 medium180.00.99505.0very good
Lentils1 cup229.70.98493.8very good
Lima Beans1 cup216.20.97494.0very good
Navy Beans1 cup254.80.96483.4very good
Sesame Seeds0.25 cup206.30.89453.9very good
Green Peas1 cup115.70.72365.6very good
Buckwheat1 cup154.60.68344.0very good
Beets1 cup74.80.55286.6very good
Almonds0.25 cup132.20.53273.6very good
Blueberries1 cup84.40.50255.3very good
Winter Squash1 cup75.80.38194.5very good
Cranberries1 cup46.00.36187.0very good
Green Beans1 cup43.80.36187.4very good
Brussels Sprouts1 cup56.20.35185.6very good
Flaxseeds2 TBS74.80.35184.2very good
Cabbage1 cup43.50.33176.8very good
Broccoli1 cup54.60.30154.9very good
Asparagus1 cup39.60.28146.4very good
Leeks1 cup32.20.26137.3very good
Tomatoes1 cup32.40.21115.8very good
Fennel1 cup27.00.1795.7very good
Cauliflower1 cup28.50.1685.0very good
Romaine Lettuce2 cups16.00.1588.4very good
Miso1 TBS34.20.1583.9very good
Cumin2 tsp15.80.1478.0very good
Mushrooms, Crimini1 cup15.80.1055.7very good
Oregano2 tsp5.30.10517.0very good
Mustard Seeds2 tsp20.30.1054.4very good
Celery1 cup16.20.1055.6very good
Dried Peas1 cup231.30.78393.0good
Pinto Beans1 cup244.50.77392.8good
Black Beans1 cup227.00.76383.0good
Kidney Beans1 cup224.80.76383.0good
Peanuts0.25 cup206.90.71363.1good
Sunflower Seeds0.25 cup204.40.68343.0good
Cashews0.25 cup221.20.66332.7good
Millet1 cup207.10.47242.0good
Potatoes1 medium160.90.38192.1good
Banana1 medium105.00.32162.7good
Onions1 cup92.40.32163.1good
Carrots1 cup50.00.1793.1good
Mushrooms, Shiitake0.50 cup40.60.1583.3good
Corn1 each73.90.1371.6good
Eggplant1 cup34.60.1162.9good
Bell Peppers1 cup28.50.1053.2good
Peppermint2 TBS5.30.09515.2good
Soy Sauce1 TBS10.80.0957.5good
Chili Peppers2 tsp15.20.0955.3good
Cucumber1 cup15.60.0844.6good
Thyme2 TBS4.80.08414.8good
Kiwifruit1 2 inches42.10.0741.5good
Figs1 medium37.00.0631.5good
Dill0.50 cup1.90.06328.3good
Parsley0.50 cup10.90.0534.1good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing

Manganese content of foods tends to be stable throughout their shelf life, provided that they are stored properly for the recommended period of time. If you would like to learn more about how to best keep foods, each of our World's Healthiest Food profiles contains a section on How to Select and Store for best quality.

In legumes, cooking does not appear to lead to much or any loss of manganese. With vegetables, you may expect a little more loss of manganese with cooking. Still, you'll be able to minimize this loss by reducing cooking time and contact with cooking water. For instance, the manganese loss after cooking spinach with a brief boil time was less than 10%. Our food profiles always provide you with precise recommendations for cooking times and cooking methods that will help you preserve nutrients, including manganese.

Risk of Dietary Deficiency

Typical non-vegetarian diets contain about 2 to 7 mg of manganese daily. Vegetarians tend to have more manganese and can approach 10 or more mg daily. As reflected in the Food Source section,both dietary patterns should typically be able to meet or surpass the 2 mg per day Daily Value (DV) recommendation.

lt would be almost impossible to eat a diet that was based on the World's Healthiest Foods and not get plenty of manganese, especially if that diet contained plenty of our World's Healthiest plant foods. Nearly all of our listed foods contain at least some of this mineral, and 85 of our plant foods rate as good, very good, or excellent sources of manganese.

Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency

Since we are not aware of any studies showing widespread manganese deficiency among any population groups within the U.S., and because dietary deficiency of manganese appears to be the foremost cause of manganese deficiency in all countries that have been studied by researchers, we have not been able to identify circumstances outside of your dietary intake that might put you a greater risk for manganese deficiency. Of course, like all nutrient deficiencies, manganese deficiency can be caused by unusual medical problems. For example, we've seen studies showing a connection between bowel surgeries and manganese deficiency. However, when people have unusual medical problems, they often develop multiple nutrient deficiencies, and these kinds of problems require the involvement of the individual's healthcare team.

Relationship with Other Nutrients

Animal studies suggest that iron deficiency can increase the absorption of dietary manganese. The converse—that high levels of iron can interfere with absorption of manganese—also appears to be true. It's not clear, however, exactly what these animal studies mean for humans, except to suggest that we typically want to avoid extremely high or extremely low intake of either mineral. We have seen some human studies on manganese in children who are iron deficient, and in some of these studies, these children have shown elevated levels of manganese in their blood that may be of possible concern. These studies are further evidence of a special relationship between manganese and iron. In a practical sense, the bottom line here for us is simple: when talking to your healthcare provider about possible concerns with either mineral, it makes sense to ask questions about the other mineral as well. (Please see our profile for iron for more information on this nutrient.)

Calcium and magnesium also can compete with manganese for absorption. Although this has not been reported as a cause of manganese deficiency in humans, it is possible that high calcium and/or magnesium diets may slightly impair manganese nutrition. However, from a practical standpoint, many diets that are high in calcium and/or magnesium—especially if these minerals are primarily obtained from plant foods—are simultaneously high in manganese, making the risk of manganese deficiency relatively low.

Risk of Dietary Toxicity

In 2001, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 11 mg for total daily manganese intake for adults 19 and older. This level was based on the uppermost amount of manganese found in the diet of healthy people.. While we support the establishment of this UL recommendation from the NAS, we would also point out that it was not based on evidence about unwanted health consequences if this dietary level was exceeded. In other words, the NAS did not have evidence about health problems that might occur if dietary intake of manganese routinely exceeded this 11 mg level. The NAS only had evidence that no such problems had been observed in U.S. adults whose average daily manganese intake was as high as 11 mg. So the NAS adopted this 11 mg UL level to err on the conservative side in its public health recommendation.

Dietary manganese levels can be surprisingly high in some populations. In fact, unlike most required dietary minerals, it is not especially difficult to exceed the UL of 11 mg with very reasonable dietary intake. For example, if you eat one serving from each of our Top 10 manganese-rich foods in one day, you will exceed the manganese UL. As described above, we are not aware of any reason to deliberately avoid manganese-rich foods, provided that you consume an overall balanced diet with optimal intake of other minerals and do not have health problems that might compromise your body's handling of these minerals,

Disease Checklist

  • Osteoporosis
  • Tardive dyskinesia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Dermatitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Asthma

Public Health Recommendations

In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for manganese. These DRIs were Adequate Intake levels, or AIs. Here are those recommendations as established by the NAS:

  • 0-6 months: 0.003 mg
  • 7-12 months: 0.6 mg
  • 1-3 years: 1.2 mg
  • 4-8 years: 1.5 mg
  • 9-13 years, female: 1.6 mg
  • 9-13 years, male: 1.9 mg
  • 14-18 years, female: 1.6 mg
  • 14-18 years, male: 2.2 mg
  • 19+ years, female: 1.8 mg
  • 19+ years, male: 2.3 mg
  • Pregnant women: 2.0 mg
  • Lactating women: 2.6 mg

These 2001 DRI guidelines also established a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) of 11 mg for total daily manganese intake. For more information about this UL recommendation, please see our Risk of Dietary Toxicity section.

The Daily Value (DV) for manganese is 2 mg per 2000 calories. This is the recommendation that is used in the food charts below, and it is also the standard that we adopt as our WHFoods standard.


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  • Cabrera-Vique C, Bouzas PR. Chromium and manganese levels in convenience and fast foods: In vitro study of the dialyzable fraction. Food Chem 2009;117:757-63.
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2001;394-419.
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  • Much grattidtude to George Mateljan,and the George Mateljan Foundation for