• Home
  • Health Library

Health Library

What Is Phosphorous?

Phosphorous is a mineral found in food and our bones. Phosphorous has many functions in the body, including helping to build strong and healthy bones.

Why Should I Follow a Low-Phosphorous Diet?

A low-phosphorous diet may be necessary if you have kidney disease. The kidneys help to filter excess phosphorous out of the blood. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, phosphorous levels can build up in your blood. Your body’s response is to lower these levels by drawing calcium from your bones. In turn, your bones are weakened. This puts you at greater risk for fractures and osteoporosis long term. High levels of phosphorous in the blood may lead to cardiovascular complications.

Food Choices on a Low-Phosphorous Diet

Phosphorous is found in protein-rich foods. Examples include dairy products, meat, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as whole grains, chocolate, and cola.

Food Category Foods Recommended Foods to Avoid
Grains
  • Refined grains
  • Breads, rolls, muffins, and crackers made from white (or refined) flour
  • Pasta
  • White rice
  • Couscous
  • Refined cereal (rice cereal, corn cereal)
  • Cream of wheat
  • Grits
  • Breads, rolls, and crackers made with whole grains (like whole wheat, oats, rye)
  • Breads, rolls, and crackers containing seeds
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice, wild rice
  • Whole wheat couscous
  • Whole grain cereal, bran cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Biscuits, quick breads, and pancakes or waffles made with baking powder
Vegetables

All

Dried, split, and black-eyed peas

Fruits

All

None

Milk
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese
  • Rice milk
  • Sour cream

Most, including:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Hard cheeses (including Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey Jack) and ricotta
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ice cream, frozen yogurt
  • Cream-based soups
Meats and Beans
  • All natural meats and poultry
  • Fresh or frozen beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, and shellfish
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Low-sodium peanut butter
  • Dried peas and beans
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Dried beans and peas (including baked beans, chick peas, black beans, lima beans, northern beans, split peas, and soy beans)
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Carp
  • Crayfish
  • Beef liver
  • Chicken liver
  • Fish roe
  • Organ meats
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Processed meats, such as bologna, ham, and hot dogs
Fats and Oils

All

Peanut butter, nut butters

Snacks, Sweets, and Condiments
  • Fruit-flavored hard candy
  • Fruit-flavored jelly beans
  • Sherbet
  • Chocolate
  • Pudding
  • Custard
  • Caramel
Beverages

Most beverages

  • Colas
  • Chocolate milk
  • Hot cocoa
  • Drinks made with milk
  • Canned iced tea
  • Ale and beer
Other Non-dairy creamer
  • Baking powder
  • Brewer’s yeast

Suggestions on Eating a Low-Phosphorous Diet

  • Use nondairy creamers in place of milk in your coffee, tea, sauces, and cereal.
  • In addition to choosing foods low in phosphorous, you may need to take medication called a phosphate-binder. Phosphate-binders soak up extra phosphorous so that it passes out in your stool.
  • Read food labels to track your phosphorous intake. Look for products with 5% or less of the Daily Value (DV) for phosphorous.
  • Be mindful. Many manufacturers may add thickeners containing phosphorus to improve product texture and taste.
  • Work with a dietitian to develop an individualized eating plan.
  • Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    http://www.eatright.org

  • Nutrition

    http://www.nutrition.gov

  • Dietitians of Canada

    http://www.dietitians.ca

  • The Kidney Foundation of Canada

    http://www.kidney.ca

  • Phosphorus and your CKD diet. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/phosphorus. Accessed November 22, 2016.

  • The renal diet—phosphorus. UNC Health Care website. Available at: https://unckidneycenter.org/files/kidney-health-library-files/renaldiet%5Fphosphorus.pdf. Accessed November 22, 2016.