Phosphorus Food Sources

While some essential nutrients are found in large supply in only a few foods, that is not the case for phosphorus.  This mineral makes its way into just about everything we eat All of the following foods have a naturally high phosphorus content.

• Proteins—meat, poultry, fish, eggs
• Milk and milk products
• Nuts and seeds
• Legumes (e.g. peas and dried beans)
• Cereals and grains

More than 60% of the absorbed phosphorus comes from the first two categories. While nuts, seeds, legumes, and cereals and grains are also good sources of phosphorus, its absorption is less efficient due to the high phytic acid content.

Less than 10% of our supply of phosphorus comes from fruits and fruit juices, coffee, tea, vegetable oil, and spices. On the other hand, surprising significant additional sources of phosphorus are process foods and soft drinks. Phosphorus is added to many foods for preservation, improved moisture retention, and to make the food or drink smoother and more flavorful. Unfortunately, the “enrichment” process does not include other important nutrients, so the end product while loaded with phosphorus, is of little nutritional value otherwise.

The average American diet contains too much phosphorus and not enough calcium. Frequent eating in fast food restaurants and snacking on convenience foods contribute to this problem. For example, a typical fast food order of a cheeseburger on a bun and soda and apple pie will be much heavier in phosphorus content than calcium content. But the ideal ratio of the two nutrients should be equal amounts of both. Only the cheese has a significant amount of calcium. Meat has 10-20x as much phosphorus as calcium, and a single soft drink could have as much as 500 mg. of phosphorus and no calcium at all. By including more dairy products and fruits and vegetables in the diet, a better balance of the two minerals can be achieved.

Furthermore, phosphorus is absorbed more easily than calcium. The usual absorption rate from the intestines (all foods combined) is about 70%.