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Top 10 Foods Highest in Phosphorus

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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Top 10 Foods Highest in Phosphorus

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient required for proper cell functioning, regulation of calcium, strong bones and teeth, and for making ATP (adenosine triphosphate) a molecule which provides energy to our cells.

A deficiency of phosphorus can lead to lowered appetite, anemia, muscle pain, improper bone formation (rickets), numbness, and a weakened immune system. Phosphorus is found in almost every food, and as such, deficiency is rare.

Conversely consuming too much phosphorus causes the body to send calcium from the bones to the blood in an attempt to restore balance. This transfer of calcium weakens bones and can cause calcification of internal organs, increasing risk of heart attack and other vascular diseases.

Some scientific research suggests that phosphorus is more easily absorbed from meat products, and you can only absorb half of the phosphorus contained in plant foods. The amount of phosphorus absorbed differs from person to person, and the plant sources of phosphorus are still listed here and recommended.

Foods high in phosphorus include fish, pork, tofu, milk, chicken, scallops, lentils, squash seeds, beef, and whole grains. The daily value (%DV) for phosphorus is 1250mg. (2)

Below is a list of high phosphorus foods by common serving size, use the complete nutrient ranking of phosphorus foods to sort by 100 gram or 200 calorie serving sizes.

People with chronic kidney disease looking to reduce phosphorus intake can also see the article on foods low in phosphorus.

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List of High Phosphorus Foods

1 Tuna (Yellowfin)
Tuna Fillet

More Fish High in Phosphorus

-45% DV in a 6oz salmon fillet
-38% DV in a 6oz mackerel fillet
-33% DV in a 5.3oz haddock fillet

See all fish high in phosphorus.
2 Lean Pork Chops
A pork chop

More Pork High in Phosphorus

-31% DV in 1 cup of lean cured ham
-24% DV in 1 rack of pork ribs
-20% DV in 3oz of pork tenderloin

See all meats high in phosphorus.
3 Firm Tofu
A block of tofu

More Soy Products High in Phosphorus

-35% DV in 1 cup of tempeh
-34% DV in 1 cup of boiled green soybeans
-12% DV in a 16oz glass of soymilk
4 Low-Fat Milk
A glass of milk

More Dairy High in Phosphorus

-33% DV in a 16oz glass of whole milk
-28% DV per cup of low-fat yogurt
-16% DV per oz of parmesan

See all dairy foods high in phosphorus.
5 Lean Chicken Breast
A roast chicken

More Poultry High in Phosphorus

-39% DV in 6oz of lean groud turkey
-31% DV in 6oz of turkey breast
-24% DV in 1 chicken thigh

See all meats high in phosphorus.
6 Scallops
Scallops

More Shellfish High in Phosphorus

-51% DV in 20 small clams
-21% DV in 3oz of shrimp
-17% DV in 3oz of oysters
7 Lentils
Lentils

Beans High in Phosphorus

-24% DV in 1 cup of small white beans
-23% DV in 1 cup of great northern beans
-22% DV in 1 cup of chickpeas

See all beans high in phosphorus.
8 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

More Nuts and Seeds High in Phosphorus

-37% DV in 1oz of hemp seeds
-20% DV in 1oz of chia seeds
-16% DV in 1oz of brazil nuts

See all nuts and seeds high in phosphorus.
9 Beef (Skirt Steak)
A steak on a plate

More Red Meat High in Phosphorus

-17% DV in 3oz of beef roast
-17% DV in 3oz of buffalo steak
-16% DV in 3oz of beef stew

See all meats high in phosphorus.
10 Quinoa
A bowl of quinoa

More Whole Grains High in Phosphorus

-14% DV in 1 cup of oatmeal
-12% DV in 1 cup of brown rice
-12% DV in 1 cup of whole wheat pasta

Note: *While bran and germ (the components of whole grains) are high in phosphorus, they are in a storage form called phytin, which is not absorbed. (5). See all grains high in phosphorus, and breakfast cereals high in phosphorus.

See All 200 Foods High in Phosphorus

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People at Risk of a Phosphorus Deficiency

  • Alcoholics - Alcohol can draw phosphorus supplies from bones, lowering overall levels in the body.(3)
  • People Taking Salt Substitutes - Salt substitutes which contain potassium may reduce phosphorus levels in the long term.(3)
  • Long distance athletes - People who exercise over long distances lose electrolytes via sweat and need to replenish their sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus levels.
  • Dehydration - People who consume excess alcohol, or suffer diarrhea, or can be otherwise dehydrated need to replenish their sodium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus levels.
  • Drugs which may Lower Phosphorus Levels(3)
    • Antacids - Antacids with aluminum, calcium, or magnesium, can hamper phosphorus absorption in the digestive system.
    • Anticonvulsants - Anticonvulsants, such as phenobarbital and carbamazepine or Tegretol, can lower levels of phosphorus in the body, and create enzymes which hamper absorption.
    • Bile Acid Sequestrants - Bile acid sequestrants used to lower cholesterol can prevent phosphorus being absorbed by the body.
    • Corticosteroids - Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone (Medrol), can increase excretion of phosphorus in unrine.
    • Insulin - Insulin in high doses may lower phosphorus absorption.
    • ACE Inhibitors (Blood Pressure Medication) - ACE Inhibitors such as Benazepril (Lotensin), Captopril (Capoten), Enalapril (Vasotec), Fosinopril (Monopril), Lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil), Quinapril (Accupril), and Ramipril (Altace) may lower levels of phosphorus.
    • Cyclosporine (Immune Suppressant)
    • Cardiac Glycosides (Digoxin or Lanoxin)
    • Heparins (Blood-thinning Drugs)
    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (ie: Ibuprofen or Advil)

Warnings

People with kidney failure should regulate their intake of phosphorus foods, and avoid phosphorus foods if their level is high. Normal phosphorus levels range between 3.5 to 5.5 mg/dL. The National Kidney Foundation can provide more guidance on kidney failure and phosphorus foods. Also see the article on low phosphorus foods and the nutrient ranking of all foods low in phosphorus.

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  2. USDA Food Label Guidelines
  3. Linus Pauling Institute on Phosphorus
  4. Medline Plus article on Phosphorus in Diet
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