Is the Phosphorus in Your Diet Hurting Your Health?

Phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in your body next to calcium.(1)

Like calcium it is also essential for bone health. If your phosphorus balance is off it can weaken bones and lead to osteoporosis.(1)

Phosphorus is also essential for cell growth, maintenance, and repair. It helps to filter waste from the kidneys, creates DNA, and gives your body the ability to manage and store energy so you can get through your day. It is also important for your muscle and nerve cells. Phosphorus regulates muscle contraction, the beating of your heart, and can help reduce muscle pain from over performance.(1)

Other nutrients also depend on phosphorus for their enhanced absorption. This includes vitamins B and D as well as the minerals iodine, magnesium, and zinc.(1)

The RDA for phosphorus is 700 mg per day for healthy adults. This will keep the blood in a healthy level of 2.5 to 4.5 mg/dL.(1)


– Health condition like diabetes and alcoholism
– Medications like antacids, insulin, ACE inhibitors, corticosteroids, antacids, anti-convulsants
– Lack of calcium


– Heart disease
– Joint pain
– Fatigue


Phosphorus is commonly found in foods likes milk, nuts, eggs, and poultry. (1) Now more and more it is being used as a preservative in packaged foods and drinks.(2)

It is used in everything from breads and baked goods as well as sodas and meats. It acts as a leavening agent to help baked goods rise and an emulsifier for cheeses and canned soups. Phosphorus gives color to french fries and flavor to cola.(2)

Phosphorus salts have been added to meat, poultry and seafood in order create a juicier product after it is frozen and reheated.(2)

While phosphorus is a nutrient those with kidney disease should be aware of. If you have a diet high in processed foods you can be getting too much phosphorus. A lot of foods have phosphorus additives which can be damaging for kidney, bone health, and lead to hardening of the arteries.(3)

These additives are in everything from nut milk to soup, yogurt, cereal, snack food, cheese, prepared foods, condiments, sauces, canned vegetables, frozen foods, processed meat, ham, sausages, canned fish, baked goods, cola drinks, juices and soft drinks.(2)

The biggest problem with this is that the food label does not tell you how much phosphorus is in the product. You can be getting upwards of 100 to 170 mg of phosphorus in only a 1/2 cup (100 grams) serving! This is a lot when the recommended intake is only 700 mg for adults.(1)

Phosphorus is found in many vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. The form is phytic acid these levels are high in vegetables like pumpkin, peas, parsnips, corn, sweet potato, mushrooms, artichokes, broccoli, asparagus and spinach.

Animal products that naturally contain phosphorus are eggs, dairy products meat, poultry, and fish. These products contain as much as 200 mg in a 1/2 cup serving. These sources are more readily absorbed so if there are additional phosphorus additives you will be getting a high amount of phosphorus.(2)


With phosphorus being added to all these foods as a preservative people are getting more of it than the recommended amount.

For example a 12 oz cola has 60 mg of phosphorus in it. This is 9% of the RDA, while this seems low it if you are drinking a couple sodas a day the amount of phosphorus can triple. Pair that with some other phosphorus added foods and it can add up quickly.

Phosphorus additives are easily metabolized by the body. This can be concerning when research shows daily consumption can be over 1 gram (1,000 mg) when eating a diet high in processed foods.

Add just a few processed foods on top of your already high naturally occurring phosphorus foods and you can be getting more phosphorus than you need.

How to Spot Phosphorus

Look on the package for the word “phos.” Some examples are

  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Monosodium phosphate
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Sodium hexameta-phosphate
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate
  • Tetrasodium pyrophosphate

Even organic “healthy” processed foods have these additives so strive to eat a balanced diet with little or no processed foods to avoid overconsumption of phosphorus. If you have kidney issues or your phosphorus levels are high you need to be careful with your phosphorus intake and see what foods carry the most of this mineral.

How Much Phosphorus Is Too Much?

So how much is too much? The tolerable upper limit for phosphorus set by the US Food and Nutrition Board is between 3 and 4 grams per day. As you can see high consumption of phosphorus containing products may push your intake over the limit.

It is common to get too much phosphorus and especially if you are eating a lot of fast food and soda. This high intake of phosphorus can wreak havoc on your bones.

High-normal phosphate levels have also been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, calcium deposits, and hardening of the arteries in the heart. This has been seen even in healthy young men.

If you are concerned about the phosphate additives in your food I urge your to read food labels. If you see the words “phos” in the ingredient list that is an indication the food product contains phosphate preservatives.

To Sum it All Up

Avoid consuming too many processed packaged foods or you could end up with more phosphorus in your diet. The best advice would be to consume a diet rich in plant foods like vegetables and lean proteins. I advise clients to get about 9 to 10 servings of vegetables a day. This is about 4 and a half to 5 cups of veggies. Add at least 1 to 2 cups of veggies to each meal and you will reach the recommended intake.

Unsure of your phosphorus intake? Comment below with any questions.

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