Phosphorous is an essential mineral that your body uses to build healthy bones, create energy and make new cells. While it benefits most people, it can be harmful if you consume too much.
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many aspects of health. The daily value for phosphorus is 1,250 milligrams (mg) per day.
Phosphorus deficiency is rare in developed countries, as most adults eat more than the recommended amount every day.
Phosphorus is found in most foods, but some foods are excellent sources. However, people with kidney disease can have trouble removing it from their blood and may need to limit their phosphorus intake.
This article lists 12 foods that are exceptionally high in phosphorus.
1. Chicken and turkey
Each 3-ounce (oz), or 85-gram (g), serving of roasted chicken or turkey contains 194–196 mg of phosphorus, which is nearly 16% of the daily value. It is also rich in protein, B vitamins, and selenium.
Light poultry meat contains slightly more phosphorus than dark meat, but both are good sources.
Cooking methods can also affect the phosphorus content of the meat. Roasting preserves the most phosphorus while boiling reduces levels by about 25%.
Summary: Chicken and turkey are excellent sources of phosphorus, especially light meat. Each 3-oz (85-g) serving provides nearly 16% of the daily value. Roasting preserves more phosphorus than boiling.
A typical 3-oz (85-g) portion of cooked pork, including pork chops and pork tenderloin, contains around 18% of the daily value for phosphorus.
Like with poultry, cooking methods can affect the phosphorus content of pork.
Dry heat cooking preserves 90% of the phosphorus. Meanwhile, boiling has been shown to reduce phosphorus levels by roughly 25% in chicken and beef, though more research is needed on pork specifically.
Summary: Pork is a good source of phosphorus, containing around 230 mg per 3 oz (85 g). Dry heat cooking is the best way to preserve the phosphorus content.
3. Organ meats
Organ meats like brain and liver are excellent sources of highly absorbable phosphorus.
One 3-oz (85-g) serving of pan-fried cow’s brain contains almost 26% of the daily value.
Chicken liver, which is often used to make the French delicacy pâté, contains 30% of the daily value per 3 oz (85 g).
Organ meats are also rich in other essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, and trace minerals. They can make a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet.
Summary: Organ meats are incredibly nutrient-dense and contain large amounts of phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals. Brain and liver contain 26%–30% of the daily value per 3-oz (85-g) serving.
Many types of seafood are good sources of phosphorus.
Cuttlefish, a mollusk related to squid and octopus, is one of the richest sources, supplying 39% of the daily value in each 3-oz (85-g) cooked serving.
Other fish that are good sources of phosphorus include:
- Carp: 451 mg (36% of the daily value)
- Sardines: 417 mg (33% of the daily value)
- Pollock: 241 mg (19% of the daily value)
- Clams: 287 mg (23% of the daily value)
- Scallops: 362 mg (29% of the daily value)
- Salmon: 214 mg (17% of the daily value)
- Catfish: 258 mg (21% of the daily value)
- Mackerel: 236 mg (19% of the daily value)
- Crab: 149 mg (12% of the daily value)
- Crayfish: 230 mg (18% of the daily value)
Some of these foods, like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, are also good sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that may protect against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Summary: Many different types of seafood are rich in phosphorus. Cuttlefish is one of the best sources, with 493 mg of phosphorus per serving.
Dairy products like cheese and milk are among the top sources of phosphorus in the average diet.
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Just 1 oz (28 g) of Romano cheese contains 215 mg of phosphorus (17% of the daily value), while 1 cup (244 g) of skim milk contains 21% of the daily value.
Low-fat and non-fat milk and yogurt contain the most phosphorus, while full-fat versions contain slightly less.
Meanwhile, full-fat cottage cheese is slightly higher in phosphorus than low-fat cottage cheese.
Summary: Dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of phosphorus, providing at least 10% of the daily value per serving.
6. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also contain large amounts of phosphorus.
Each ounce (28 g) of roasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds contains roughly 26%–27% of the daily value for phosphorus.
However, remember that 60%–90% of the phosphorus found in seeds is in a stored form called phytic acid, or phytate, which humans cannot digest.
Nevertheless, pumpkin and sunflower seeds can still be enjoyed as a snack, sprinkled on salads, blended into nut butter, or used in pesto, and are an excellent alternative for people who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.
Summary: Sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain large amounts of the storage form of phosphorus called phytic acid, which humans can’t digest. However, they can be a versatile and nutritious addition to your diet.
Most nuts are good sources of phosphorus, but Brazil nuts top the list. Just 1 oz (28 g) of Brazil nuts provides 16% of the daily value.
Other nuts containing at least 10% of the daily value per oz (28 g) include cashews, almonds, pine nuts, and pistachios.
They are also excellent sources of healthy fats, antioxidants, and minerals. Eating them regularly is linked with better heart health.
Like seeds, most of the phosphorus in nuts is stored as phytic acid, which is not digestible by humans. Soaking may help, though not all studies agree.
Summary: Many nuts, and especially Brazil nuts, are good sources of phosphorus, containing at least 16% of the daily value per ounce (28 g).
8. Whole grains
Many whole grains contain phosphorus, including wheat, oats, and rice.
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Spelt contains the most phosphorus, with 291 mg, or 23% of the daily value per cooked cup (194 g).
Oats are also a good source of phosphorus, with 14% of the daily value per cooked cup (234 g), followed by brown rice, which provides 8% of the daily value per cooked cup (202 g).
Most of the phosphorus in whole grains is found in the outer layer of the endosperm, known as the aleurone, and the inner layer called the germ.
These layers are removed when grains are refined, which is why whole grains are good sources of phosphorus and why refined grains are not.
However, like seeds, most of the phosphorus in whole grains is stored as phytic acid, which is hard for the body to digest and absorb.
Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the grains can break down some phytic acids and make more phosphorus available for absorption.
Summary: Whole grains like wheat, oats, and rice contain a lot of phosphorus. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting the grains may make them more available for absorption.
9. Amaranth and quinoa
While amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as “grains,” they are actually tiny seeds and are considered pseudocereals.
Each cup (246 grams) of cooked amaranth contains 29% of the daily value for phosphorus, while the same volume of cooked quinoa contains 22% of the daily value.
Both of these foods are also good sources of fiber, minerals, and protein, and are naturally gluten-free.
Like other seeds, soaking, sprouting, and fermenting can increase phosphorus availability.
Summary: Ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa are highly nutritious and good phosphorus sources. Each cooked cup (185–246 g) contains at least 20% of the daily value.
10. Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils also contain large amounts of phosphorus, and eating them regularly is associated with a lower risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.
Just 1 cup (198 g) of boiled lentils contains 28% of the daily value and over 15 g of fiber.
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Beans are also rich in phosphorus, especially Great Northern, chickpeas, navy, and pinto beans, containing at least 250 mg per cup (164–182 g).
Like the other plant sources of phosphorus, legumes do contain phytic acid. However, cooking methods like boiling may decrease the phytic acid content in most types of legumes.
Summary: Beans and lentils are rich sources of phosphorus, containing at least 250 mg per cup (roughly 160–200 g).
Soy can be enjoyed in many forms, some higher in phosphorus than others.
Mature soybeans contain the most phosphorus, while edamame, the immature form of soy, contains 31% less.
Mature soybeans can be seasoned, roasted, and enjoyed as a delicious crunchy snack that provides over 50% of the daily value per cup (172 g).
Fermented soy products, like tempeh and natto, are also good sources, providing 253 mg and 304 mg per 3.5-oz (100-g) and 1-cup (175-g) serving, respectively.
Most other prepared soy products, like tofu and soy milk, are not as good sources of phosphorus, containing less than 15% of the daily value per serving.
Summary: Whole soybeans and fermented soy products are good sources of phosphorus, providing up to 50% of the daily value per serving.
12. Foods with added phosphates
While phosphorus is naturally present in many foods, some processed foods also contain significant amounts from additives.
Phosphate additives are nearly 100% absorbable and contribute around 155 mg of phosphorus daily.
Excessive phosphorus intake has been linked to bone loss, so it is essential not to consume much more than the recommended intake. Some research suggests that it may also increase the risk of death, though this may vary depending on factors like kidney function.
Processed foods and beverages that often contain added phosphates include:
- Processed meats: Beef, lamb, pork, and chicken products are often marinated or injected with phosphate additives to keep the meat tender and juicy.
- Cola beverages: Cola drinks often contain phosphoric acid, a synthetic source of phosphorus.
- Baked goods: Biscuits, pancake mixes, toaster pastries, and other baked goods can contain phosphate additives as leavening agents.
- Fast food: According to one study of 15 major American fast food chains, over 80% of the menu items contained added phosphates.
- Convenience food: Phosphates are often added to convenience foods like frozen chicken nuggets to help them cook faster and improve shelf life.
To tell if prepared and processed foods or beverages contain phosphorus, look for ingredients with the word “phosphate” in them.
Summary: Processed foods and beverages often contain phosphate additives to enhance quality and increase shelf life. They can contribute large amounts of phosphorus to your diet.
Phosphorus is essential for bone health and many other bodily functions.
It can be found in many foods but is exceptionally high in animal proteins, dairy products, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes.
Many processed foods also contain phosphorus from phosphate additives to prolong shelf life or enhance the taste or texture.
Artificial phosphates and animal sources of phosphorus are the most absorbable, while some plant-based sources can be soaked, sprouted, or fermented to increase the amount of absorbable phosphorus.
While phosphorus is good when consumed in moderation, getting too much from artificial additives may harm your health. People with kidney disease also need to limit their intake.
Understanding which foods are highest in phosphorus can help you manage your intake as needed.