First off, phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in our body – most of which are actually found in our bones and teeth. It’s also naturally present in many foods which can easily add up if we’re not cautious about the food we eat. Phosphorus has an important role in how our body uses carbs and fats, and store energy. It also helps in kidney function, muscle contraction, normal heartbeat, and nerve signaling.
Phosphorus deficiency is rare in the US. However, with the abundance of foods with phosphorus additives, there’s a good chance you’re getting extra phosphorus than you actually need. You see, our body absorbs less of the phosphorus from natural foods, but with phosphorus from food additives, everything is absorbed completely. The average daily recommended amounts depending on the age, for adults 19 years and older, the RDAs for phosphorus is 700mg.
A healthy kidney can remove extra phosphorus in your blood so you should be fine. However, if you have chronic kidney disease you can develop high phosphorus levels because your kidneys are not functioning properly. Your body can then react by taking calcium from your bones in order to lower these levels which can lead to weaker bones. These high phosphorus levels in the blood may even ultimately lead to cardiovascular problems.
For a considerably healthy person, phosphorus in the blood between 2.8 to 4.5 mg/dL is considered normal. This can be checked via a phosphorus blood test. A higher than normal level may be caused by getting too much phosphate in your diet. Although it’s not the only reason why you will have elevated phosphorus levels. It can also be due to liver disease, hypoparathyroidism, too much vitamin D, and other reasons. This is why it’s important to talk with your health care provider about your test result.
However, if you are ultimately advised to adapt to a low phosphorus diet, you’ll need to re-work your meal plans and include low phosphorus foods instead of phosphorus-rich ones. You will also have to be watchful of foods that have phosphorus additives in them. More on that plus more tips on how to keep your phosphorus level normal at the end of this low phosphorus food list.
Low Phosphorus Foods
Almond milk is a great substitute for dairy milk which is high in phosphorus. A cup of almond milk only contains 20mg while the same amount of dairy milk contains 233mg of phosphorus.
Almond milk is rich in vitamin E which helps in lowering the risk of certain health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
While most fruits are low in phosphorus, apples are especially low in them. One medium-size contains only 10mg. This makes apple sauce are also in the clear.
Apples are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. It’s good for boosting the immune system, aiding digestion, and lowering high cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Another fruit that is particularly low in phosphorus is blueberries, only 9mg per half a cup. So, you can keep enjoying them in your salads, smoothies, or cereals.
Blueberries contain fiber, folate, potassium, phytonutrient, and vitamins B6 and C. It’s good for boosting heart health, managing cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Aside from being gluten-free, chestnut is also rich in vitamin C. It’s also a good source of antioxidants. In fact, a couple of those, gallic acid and ellagic acid, even increase in concentration after cooking. So, keep enjoying chestnuts, a 100-gram serving has only 38mg phosphorus.
Its magnesium and potassium content helps in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Chestnut can also help in balancing blood sugar levels and improving digestion.
Couscous is a good alternative to brown rice, it contains only 20mg phosphorus per ½ cup. It’s a great side dish for soups and stews. You can easily flavor them up with spices or add them to salads and sauces.
Couscous is rich in selenium which is an antioxidant that aids in protecting our body by boosting the immune system. It also contains plant-based protein. Couscous may also help in reducing the risk of cancer.
Pasteurized egg whites contain only 15mg phosphorus every half cup so it’s a great addition to a low phosphorus diet. Both packaged or whole in the shell is safe to use uncooked in dishes or eat raw.
Egg whites are actually considered one of the most bioavailable and digestible sources of protein. They can be used the same way you’d use whole eggs. And because it’s pasteurized it’s safe to add in smoothies and salad dressing to up its protein content.
Not only is flatbread super easy to make, but it’s also kidney-friendly, an ounce only has 48mg of phosphorus.
Flatbreads are generally high in fiber and low in calories. It does contain a little fat. That’s the good thing about homemade flatbreads though, you know what’s in it – you can pretty much make it to your liking.
Keep snaking on your red grapes because it’s absolutely low in phosphorus, a cup only has 9.2mg. It comes in seeded and seedless varieties and is actually slightly more nutritious than other types of grapes.
Red grapes are high in flavonoids called resveratrol that benefits heart health and also protect against diabetes and cognitive decline. They are of course also high in vitamin C and other flavonoids and phytonutrients.
You can serve grits either as a sweet or savory dish. Say with lemon, coconut milk, and blueberries, sound pretty promising, right? And it’s very low in phosphorus, too. One cup of cooked grits only has 32mg.
Grits are known for their iron content which is very important in red blood cell production. It also contains folate, thiamine, potassium, pantothenic acid, calcium, and vitamin E.
Lettuces are in the clear, especially red leaf lettuce which contains only 7.8mg phosphorus in every cup. The same amount of Romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, or green lettuce has between 10-14mg phosphorus. Butterhead lettuce contains the highest phosphorus among them, 18.2 every cup, but is still relatively low.
Lettuces generally contain a significant amount of vitamin A. It also contains vitamins K and C, B vitamins, folates, zeaxanthin, and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Lettuces are great for hydration since it’s mainly water. It’s also good for supporting eye and bone health. It may also contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.
Keep enjoying this pasta because macaroni is in the clear, it only has 40mg phosphorus for every ½ cup. Just find a kidney-friendly macaroni and cheese dish and you’re all good.
Pasta in general is low in sodium and cholesterol-free. Most are also enriched with several essential nutrients including iron and B vitamins.
Instead of milk use non-dairy creamer in your coffee, tea, desserts, and even soups. Half a cup of non-dairy creamer without phosphate additives contains only about 40-53mg phosphorus.
Non-dairy creamers not only keeps longer than milk or cream, but they’re also usually lower in calories, too. Check the list of ingredients and make sure that sugar or oil is not first on the list.
Fresh pineapples are also in the clear. With only 6mg phosphorus per ½ cup, you can freely snack on this fruit any time.
Pineapples are rich in vitamin C. It also contains calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, E, and K. It can help in lowering inflammation, boosting the immune system, speeding up recovery time after surgery or intense exercise, and relieving diarrhea, muscle soreness, arthritis, and gout.
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of different species of pine cones. It can be used in desserts and savory dishes. Say tars, cookies, dips, or salads. An ounce of dried pine nuts only has 9.9mg of phosphorus
Pine nuts contain magnesium, iron, zinc, protein, and antioxidants. It’s good for keeping blood sugar levels stable, managing diabetes, and supporting heart health. Its omega 3 fatty acids content can help in building and repairing cells in the brain.
Rice bran oil
Aside from the healthy olive and canola oil, rice bran oil is also a good choice. It contains no phosphorus and even has a higher smoking point than the two previously mentioned oil.
Rice bran oil is an excellent source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and K. It can help in improving blood cholesterol levels and decreasing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
A cup of Japanese soba noodles only has 28.5mg of phosphorus, so keep enjoying this one – whether it’s a hot or cold dish.
Soba noodles contain potent plant compounds, soluble fiber, and protein. It’s also gluten-free and has a lower GI response. It’s good for managing blood sugar levels, supporting cardiovascular health, and keeping the immune system healthy.
You can keep using sour cream in your savory dishes, dressings, dips, sandwiches, and even in your baked goods because a couple of tablespoons only has about 20-40mg phosphorus.
Since it’s not eaten in big quantities, it’s not exactly a significant source of nutrients, the same reason why you can still include it in a healthy diet in spite of its high fat and calories content. In fact, sour cream may even help in promoting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Some even contain probiotics.
Tips for Keeping your Phosphorus Level Normal
For one, you would want to work on your diet to include low phosphorus foods like the ones mentioned in the list above and then limit foods that are high in phosphorus content. Aside from that, here are additional tips that can help you in keeping your phosphorus level normal.
Read food labels
We can’t stress enough the importance of reading food labels. Take the time to scan through it and have a good gauge of what you’re putting inside your body. If you’re concerned about your phosphorus intake, go for products with less than 6% Daily Value (DV) for phosphorus in it.
Use nondairy creamers
In place of milk, opt for nondairy creamers for your coffee, tea, cereals, and even when making sauces. You’d think it won’t amount to much, but if you come to think of it, you’re having coffee at the very least, once a day. Not to mention that cereals are probably one of your go-to breakfast.
Avoid or limit foods with phosphorus additives
Take note that phosphorus from food additives is completely absorbed by the body so try to avoid or at least limit fast foods, enhanced meats, ready-to-eat foods, canned and bottled drinks, and most processed foods. Look for ‘Phos’ to find these additives, for example, dicalcium phosphate, monosodium phosphate, trisodium phosphate, and more.
Create a meal plan
You need to work with a dietician to make a meal plan that is more suitable for your current state of health. This is especially true if you already have kidney problems. Having a dialogue as well with a health professional about your eating habits will greatly affect your confidence in carrying out any given diet plan.
Sometimes a prescription for a medicine that can help in controlling phosphorus levels will be given. These medicines are formulated to soak up extra phosphorus in the body. There are some cases where it’s necessary to take such medications with meals and snacks. If that’s the case with you, then follow the doctor’s orders and keep at it. Again, only if it is ordered by your doctor.