Our bodies contain only a very small amount of manganese, but this metal is important as a constituent of many key enzymes. The chemical structure of these enzymes is interesting: large protein molecules cluster around a tiny atom of metal.

Manganese plays a particularly important role as part of the natural antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which helps fight damaging free radicals. It also helps energy metabolism, thyroid function, blood sugar control, and normal skeletal growth.

The official US recommendations for daily intake of manganese are as follows:

  • Infants
    • 0-6 months: 0.003 mg
    • 7-12 months: 0.6 mg
  • Children
    • 1-3 years: 1.2 mg
    • 4-8 years: 1.5 mg
  • Males
    • 9-13 years: 1.9 mg
    • 14-18 years: 2.2 mg
    • 19 years and older: 2.3 mg
  • Females
    • 9-18 years: 1.6 mg
    • 19 years and older: 1.8 mg
    • Pregnant women: 2 mg
    • Nursing women: 2.6 mg

The absorption of manganese may be impaired by simultaneous intake of antacids or calcium or iron supplements.13-15

The best sources of dietary manganese are whole grains, legumes, avocados, grape juice, chocolate, seaweed, egg yolks, nuts, seeds, boysenberries, blueberries, pineapples, spinach, collard greens, peas, and green vegetables.