When I ask most people what foods contain phosphorus, the answer I get most is “soda”. Yikes! Let’s talk…
Phosphorus is one of those minerals that isn’t spoken of with the importance of some of its closest friends, like calcium. The truth is, phosphorus is extremely important in many roles including cell growth, energy metabolism, and bone mineralization to name a few. Those who have chronically low levels of phosphorus can experience impaired bone mineralization.
Phosphorus is found in the body as phosphate. Humans absorb phosphate extremely well, with 60%-70% being absorbed from a mixed diet, that’s twice as efficient as calcium. Like calcium, phosphate absorption is affected by vitamin D and helps with absorption.
So, why would I think that you might be getting too much? Here’s why. There are two forms of phosphate, organic and inorganic (and I don’t mean USDA Organic). Organic phosphate comes in two forms as well, animal or plant. Phosphate from meat is very well absorbed; a 70% absorption rate. Phosphate from plants is in the form of phytate and is not highly absorbed.
Inorganic phosphate is becoming a concern for health professionals. This type of phosphate is found in soft drinks and processed foods/additives/preservatives. This type is highly absorbed in the body and we all know there is a huge consumption of soda and processed foods in this country.
Will excess phosphorus hurt you? Well, let’s just say that phosphorus deficiency is rare. It can happen in premature infants and in those taking aluminum hydroxide antacids, which bind to phosphorus. For those who have an extremely high intake of phosphorus, symptoms can include tetany (muscle spasms), soft tissue calcification, and intestinal distress or diarrhea. Those with impaired kidney function need to be especially concerned with phosphate.
The RDA for phosphorus is 700mg/day for those ages 19-70. The RDAs vary for children and pregnancy/lactation. You can find phosphorus in many foods, which is why excess is becoming a concern. Meats such as pork, beef, chicken, and fish all contain high amounts of phosphorus. Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, nuts, beans, rice and cereals are also good sources of phosphorus.
There continues to be a conversation on the damage that processed foods, additives, and preservatives can have on general health. While it may be impossible to avoid completely, cutting back on the consumption of soft drinks and processed foods and replacing them with real food alternatives will help keep your phosphorus level in check.