Phosphorus, also known as phosphate, is the second most abundant mineral in the body (1). But it only makes up 1 percent of our body weight. It’s mostly in the bones and teeth, and it plays a big role in the strength and formation of those body parts (2). Phosphorus interacts with every cell in the body, and it intricately works with the function of essential B vitamins in the body (3, 4). There’s also a necessary balance between phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and iodine for optimal functioning (5). Calcium is the second most abundant mineral in the body, so it plays a role as well (6). Some areas of the body it maintains include proper kidney function, muscle and heart health, as well as nerve signaling (7, 8). Phosphorus repairs tissues in the cells and filters waste (9, 10).
It’s extremely rare and difficult to be deficient in phosphorus. It’s more common to have high levels of phosphorus. You can get your phosphorus levels down with a regimented exercise routine, limiting these types of foods, and monitoring vitamin D levels (11).
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Foods High in Phosphorus
Most protein-rich foods contain phosphorus, but here is a deeper dive into exactly what foods have the most phosphorus.
A 6-ounce plain, low-fat yogurt contains 245 milligrams of phosphorus (12), and that makes up 20% of the daily recommended allowance. You can see by this example; it can be extremely easy to get an adequate amount of phosphorus in your daily diet. Yogurt is one of the most popular foods in the world. Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, protein, and even fiber (13, 14). Some yogurts are fortified with fiber and extra vitamins and minerals, too.
It’s also considered a probiotic food, which is necessary for optimal microbiome health. Probiotics help to replenish good bacteria in the gut microbiome (15), and yogurt is a tasty way to eat feed your gut well. Diet has a direct impact on preventing chronic disease and improving overall gut health (16).
Salmon has tons of essential omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats, and phosphorus (17, 18). A 3-ounce piece of salmon contains 214 milligrams of phosphorus. Salmon is extremely easy to prepare with quick cook times and flavor techniques. One easy way to enjoy salmon is by using a combined seasoning with lemon, thyme, paprika, and olive oil. Slather your salmon in these seasonings and bake them at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes. It’s that easy. Since salmon is extremely high in phosphorus, you don’t even have to eat the whole piece. Share it with a family member with your favorite vegetables for a delicious and easy meal.
Scallops have 201 milligrams of phosphorus, and they are extremely beneficial for heart and brain health (19, 20). They help to control blood pressure and regulate blood circulation (21). That’s because scallops are an excellent source of calcium and magnesium (22). Scallops are also very easy to cook. They come frozen in a bag unless you buy them fresh. They cook in less than 10 minutes after thawed and will satisfy any palate.
Scallops have the least fishy flavor of any fish. So, if you have a family member who won’t eat fish, try scallops instead. They are delicious when cooked with butter, oil, salt, and pepper.
4. Mozzarella Cheese
Only 1.5 ounces of mozzarella cheese contains 197 milligrams of phosphorus (23). Mozzarella cheese is in many Italian dishes, so it can be easy to get too much in your diet. Cheese, especially mozzarella is best in moderation. Cheese and dairy, in general, are also a primary source of calcium (24), so it’s important to control portion sizes. Try to stick to sprinkling or adding cheese on as a flavor at the end of meals, instead of treating it like the front-runner of a recipe.
Cheese can be a healthy addition to a well-balanced diet. Keep in mind that cheese is very addictive, and since it’s high in phosphorus, so it can contribute to excessive amounts in many cases.
Chicken is also extremely high in phosphorus, at 182 milligrams per 3 ounces (25). Chicken is a lean source of protein, popular among many cultures. It’s filled with all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle and bone health as well (26). Phosphorus and calcium play a major role in muscle health and fatigue (27). Everyone needs adequate amounts of phosphorus and calcium to minimize muscle fatigue (28).
Chicken is also low in unhealthy fats, making it an excellent protein source for many. It can help to aid in weight loss when consumed with a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. If it’s an option, try to purchase free-range, hormone-free, grass-fed chicken for the most health benefits.
6. Lentils and Kidney Beans
Lentils contain 178 milligrams of phosphorus in only a one-half cup (29). Kidney beans are slightly lower but still have 115 milligrams per half-cup (30). Both are great sources of proteins as well as essential amino acids (31). They’re a great and often necessary staple food for vegans and vegetarians. Everyone needs all nine essential amino acids as well as phosphorus to maintain bone and muscle health (32, 33). Lentils are one of the few plant-based sources of essential amino acids for vegetarians (34) along with a few others like quinoa.
Lentils either come dried in a bag or canned. They’re can be very filling because of their high nutrient profile. You can substitute lentils for meat occasionally, to get more nutrients into your diet.
A 3-ounce ground-beef patty that’s 90% lean meat contains 172 milligrams of phosphorus (35). Ground beef can be helpful for many different reasons. It’s high in protein, amino acids, and it can even help with stomach acid production (36, 37). Many people have issues with stomach acid production, which can result in heartburn, acid reflux, and even gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (38, 39). One thing that can help to resolve these issues is an adequate diet, filled with quality lean protein in the right portions.
When lean beef is a part of a healthy diet, it can help to improve many health issues like the ones above. If you don’t like chicken, grass-fed beef is a great source of protein and phosphorus.
One medium baked potato contains 123 milligrams of phosphorus. Since potatoes are high in phosphorus and carbs (40, 41), they don’t have to be a part of your daily diet. They’re best to eat on days you exercise since they’re high in carbohydrates. Potatoes are healthiest when baked instead of fried. You can also lightly sauté potato slices in olive oil and garlic for a healthy and easy side dish.
Just one ounce of cashew nuts packs in 139 milligrams of phosphorus (42). Cashews are an ideal choice for those who are lactose intolerant because they can make an incredible vegan ricotta cheese or even vegan cream cheese. Cashews and nutritional yeast go wonderful together for a rich and creamy dairy-free cheese. Cashews are lower in phosphorus than dairy but still packed with tons of selenium, zinc, phosphorus, iron, and more (43, 44). They’re excellent for easy snacking and they go great with many different recipes.
10. Brown Rice
There are 102 milligrams of phosphorus in only one-half cup of brown rice (45). Brown rice is part of a healthy diet, but you don’t have to only eat brown rice. You can mix up your meals with jasmine rice, wild rice (a mix of many rice), white rice, and even Mexican rice. If you consume these in moderation and with the proper protein and vegetable content, they can be a healthy addition to any diet.
Make sure to rinse brown rice thoroughly as it can often contain small traces of arsenic (46). Rice is also extremely easy to cook, especially if you have a rice cooker. All you need to do is set it and forget it until the timer goes off.
Phosphorus is an important mineral in many types of food, and it’s necessary for optimal functioning in the body. Phosphorus is even in alcohol like beer and wine (47). The biggest problem with phosphorus is getting too much of it, so be sure to monitor your diet and portion sizes. Keep in mind that the standards for dietary phosphorus can often change based on the year (48).
If you think you might be getting too much phosphorus, you may experience symptoms like diarrhea, muscle or joint pain, and muscle weakness (49, 50). Vitamin D plays a large role in balancing out phosphorus levels (51), so if you feel you have too much, make sure to get your vitamin D levels tested by your doctor. It’s essential to get a balanced diet with plenty of vital nutrients for phosphorus to function well in the body. Look at your everyday diet closely and see where you may be lacking or even getting too much.