Second only to calcium, phosphorous is the second-most abundant, inorganic element in the human body.
While phosphorus is an important essential mineral, it is possible to get too much phosphorus and it’s likely that there are other nutrients that you will need to prioritise.
- The Role of Phosphorus in the Body
- Phosphorus-Rich Food Sources
- High Phosphorus Recipes
- Low Phosphorus Recipes
- Symptoms of Deficient or Excessive Phosphorus Intake
- Do You Need More Phosphorus in Your Diet?
- How Much Phosphorus Do You Need?
- Availability of Phosphorus in the Food System
- Calcium: Phosphorus Ratio
- Optimal Phosphorus Intake
- Synergistic Nutrients That Work With Phosphorus
- Nutrient Profile of High Phosphorus Foods
- How Can I Calculate My Phosphorus Intake?
The Role of Phosphorus in the Body
You require dietary phosphorus to:
- keep your bones strong and healthy,
- help your cells produce and store energy,
- move your muscles,
- build strong teeth,
- enable your kidneys to filter waste,
- create DNA and RNA (the body’s genetic building blocks),
- utilise vitamins B and D and minerals like iodine, magnesium, and zinc,
- grow, maintain, and repair tissues and cells,
- maintain a regular heartbeat,
- facilitate nerve conduction,
- Allow your body to utilise carbohydrates and fats properly,
- create adenosine triphosphate (ATP),
- maintain the acid-base balance (pH) in your blood, and
- support muscle recovery after exercise.
Phosphorus-Rich Food Sources
So, what is the best source of phosphorus?
Some popular foods that are rich in phosphorus are listed below.
Phosphorus foods are plentiful in both plant and animal arenas. However, some foods have higher relative contents than others. For the most part, phosphorus is most abundant and bioavailable when sourced from leaner animal foods.
Animal foods are rich in amino acids, which all contain a phosphate group. As a result, animal foods arguably contain the highest amounts of phosphorus and are the most bioavailable source. For example, dairy products contain high amounts of calcium and phosphorus, which work together synergistically.
- cottage cheese
- cheese (low-fat dairy has the most concentrated amounts of phosphorus)
Fish, crustaceans, and shellfish from the sea also contain high amounts of phosphorus. Similar to animal foods, these forms of phosphorus are also relatively bioavailable.
For those on vegan and vegetarian diets, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds contain higher phosphorus than other plant foods like vegetables and fruits. However, these high amounts of phosphorus are often in the form of phytates that contribute to poor nutrient absorption.
It’s therefore essential to take proper precautions when eating these foods to lessen their phytate content so you get all the phosphorus you can. Soaking and sprouting have been shown to reduce phytate levels significantly.
- Brazil nuts
- pine nuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- beans (all)
- legumes (all)
While many vegetable sources of phosphorus exist, they are not particularly concentrated. Thus, it requires a large amount of these foods to get enough of this essential mineral.
- unrefined grains (if tolerated)
High Phosphorus Recipes
Some examples of phosphorus-rich NutriBooster recipes include:
- lean burgers, spinach & mushrooms
- broccoslaw with salmon (pictured)
- shrimp taco
- pumpkin & parsley pesto crusted fish
- lettuce wrap with prawn salsa
Low Phosphorus Recipes
Some examples of low phosphorus NutriBooster recipes include:
- berry & chocolate slice
- chocolate avocado protein pudding
- avocado, banana & cacao smoothie
- coconut blueberry smoothie
- lemon garlic green beans with almonds (pictured)
Symptoms of Deficient or Excessive Phosphorus Intake
High phosphate can result from deficiencies in other nutrients that work alongside phosphate, like calcium.
Aside from the symptoms listed above, hyperphosphatemia can appear with:
- muscle cramps and spasms,
- mouth numbness and tingling,
- weak bones,
- itchy skin,
- water retention, and
- low energy.
Other symptoms of low phosphorus intake can include:
- muscle weakness,
- bone pain,
- increased susceptibility to infection,
- confusion, and
Low phosphorus can result from poor lifestyle and dietary habits that push someone to eat a low-protein, processed, carb-rich diet. Dysfunctions of the small intestine can also affect phosphorus absorption. For this reason, low phosphate is more common than high phosphate.
For low phosphorus foods, see Top 100 Foods Low In Phosphorus.
Because of the roles of phosphate in the body, you may require more phosphorus if you:
- drink a lot of coffee,
- have diabetes,
- are sensitive to gluten,
- consume excess calcium,
- abuse antacids,
- have poor digestion,
- are pregnant,
- consume minimal amounts of protein,
- consume a Standard American Diet (SAD),
- are lactating, or
- have renal tubular dysfunction.
Our satiety analysis shows a robust satiety response when people consume more phosphorus per calorie.
People who consume higher phosphorus tend to consume 38% fewer calories overall than those who consume less phosphorus. However, phosphorus is not typically a nutrient that people need to prioritise if they’re eating a nutrient-dense diet with adequate protein as they will naturally obtain enough phosphorus.
The chart below shows the distribution of phosphorus intake (in mg/2000 calories) for our Optimisers. The average intake across our Optimiser population is 1.6 g/2000 calories, and the 85th percentile is 2.3 g/day.
Optimiser intakes are significantly more than the Estimated Average Requirement of 0.58 g per day and the Daily Recommended Intake of 1.0 g per day, but well below the Upper Limit of 4.0 g/day, which would be very hard to obtain from food alone.
Since the introduction of synthetic fertilisers in the 1940s, the content of phosphorus in food has been on the decline while obesity rates have steadily increased (data from USDA Economic Research Service). These fertilisers help crops grow more quickly, leading to fewer nutrients making their way into the crop. Soils also become depleted for future harvests.
Calcium and phosphorus work synergistically to perform most of their functions. They are also antagonists, meaning taking in too much of one can deplete the other.
While it is essential to get adequate phosphorus in our diet, it is more important to prioritise calcium rather than phosphorus. It is arguably even more important to get calcium and phosphorus in specific ratios. This prevents one mineral from depleting the other.
Higher calcium: phosphorus ratios tend to be associated with a reduced risk of obesity. A calcium: phosphorus ratio that is greater than 1:1.3 is thought to be optimal. The following chart shows the calcium:phosphorus ratio vs calorie intake, showing that a higher calcium: phosphorus ratio also aligns with a lowered overall calorie intake.
Nutrient Optimiser has its own calcium:phosphorus ratio calculator, which can help you ensure you do not prioritise foods and meals that contain too much phosphorus if calcium levels are low.
While we tend to have a strong satiety response to phosphorus in our diet, prioritising phosphorus alone can lead to imbalanced calcium: phosphorus ratio. As a result, we have limited our stretch target to 1.25 g/day for men and 1.0 g/day for women.
While it’s essential to consider calcium when consuming phosphorus because they are synergists, this isn’t the only relationship important to phosphorus. Aside from calcium, phosphorus works synergically with vitamin B6, vitamin D, magnesium, and sodium.
As a result, it is crucial to get your phosphorus from whole food sources that naturally come packaged with other necessary nutrients instead of relying on supplements.
The nutrient fingerprint below shows the availability of nutrients in foods that contain the most phosphorus. Foods with plenty of phosphorus tend to have more protein and plenty of other essential nutrients. So if you are getting adequate protein, you won’t need to be too concerned about getting more phosphorus.
How Can I Calculate My Phosphorus Intake?
If you’re interested in checking if you’re getting just enough dietary phosphorus, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge.
Level up your nutrient density
To help you level up your nutrient density, we’ve prepared a Nutritional Optimisation Starter Pack to ensure you are getting plenty of all the essential nutrients, including phosphorus, from the food you eat every day.
The free starter pack includes:
- Maximum Nutrient Density Food List
- Sample Maximum Nutrient Density Recipe Book
- Sample Maximum Nutrient Density Meal Plan.
To get started today, all you have to do is join our new Optimising Nutrition Group here.
Once you join, you will find the Nutritional Optimisation starter pack in the discovery section here.
Nutrient Density Index
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Thiamine (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin (B3)
- Pantothenic acid (B5)
- Vitamin B6
- Folate (B9)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K1