By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder

Don't Forget Phosphorous If You Want to Keep Your Bones and Teeth Strong!



When it comes to our health, certain minerals tend to get celebrity treatment. They become popular and household words.

Good examples of these celebrities are calcium and iron.  And then there are others that, while equally important for our health, are not as well known or talked about – if they are at all. 

Phosphorous is a good example of one of these overlooked – and at times misunderstood – minerals. It is an essential mineral. The name comes from the Greek word for “bringer of light.” It was discovered in 1669 and one form of phosphorus does, in fact, glow in the dark

Phosphorous is as important to our health Calcium

It turns out that this mineral is just as abundant in your body as is calcium and makes up a little more than 1 percent of your body’s mass.  About 85 percent of the phosphorus in your body is in your bones and teeth.  The rest can be found in your blood and soft tissues.

Phosphorous is as important as calcium. Both work together to build strong bones and tooth enamel.  It’s also a key ingredient in the recipe for energy-producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in your cells, which means this mineral is important for how your body stores and uses energy.

Phosphorus is needed to make proteins like the one responsible for the oxygen-carrying capabilities of our red blood cells, and it is needed to repair cells.  It also helps your body maintain a healthy pH level in the fluids that surround your cells.  

Phosphorus plays a role in muscle contraction, the nervous system, cognitive health, hormonal balance, and heartbeat regulation.

RDA for Phosphorous

Since phosphorus is so important, there is a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for it.  Remember that the RDA is an amount that will meet the nutritional needs of approximately 98 percent of healthy individuals.  The RDA for phosphorus for men and women over 19 years of age is 700 mg.  It is 460 mg for children aged 1 to 3; 500 mg for ages 4-8; and 1,250 mg for those 9-18.  You should work with a competent healthcare specialist when planning your diet to ensure you are getting enough phosphorus in your diet, especially if a nutrient test shows you have an imbalance or deficiency. 

Phosphorous rich foods

This mineral can be found in many foods, and especially in fish.  A yellowfin tuna steak, for example, would give you almost the entire RDA for an adult.  Other great fish sources are salmon, haddock, mollusks, cuttlefish, scallops, sardines, pike, trout, and mackerel.  With this many options, you are bound to find a fish that is to your liking.  In addition to being a great source of phosphorus, fish also is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

The healthiest ways to cook fish are poaching, steaming, grilling, and baking. One technique that I like to use is combining baking with steaming.  I have found this makes cooking fish almost foolproof and makes clean-up a breeze.  To do this, wrap the fish in aluminum foil with your favorite spices (I use dill, salt, pepper, garlic) and a few slices of lemon.  Then just bake it at around 375 degrees for a half hour or so.  I serve it with a colorful salad – the more colors the better – along with some quinoa and steamed broccoli

Dairy products are also good sources of phosphorus as are lean pork and chicken.  Nuts, legumes, grains, and vegetables provide phosphorus as well, but plant sources of this mineral are not as readily absorbable as from animal sources.

Many processed foods also contain phosphorus in the form of phosphates such as sodium polyphosphate and phosphoric acid.  They are used to preserve food color and stabilize frozen food.  I would not suggest, however, they you rely in processed food for your phosphorus, especially since avoiding these types of foods is important to a healthy diet.  Also, our bodies are better at absorbing and metabolizing nutrient from real food. 

Phosphorous Imbalance

Even though phosphorus is readily available in many healthy foods, it is possible to have a phosphorus imbalance or deficiency.  While a person’s genetics may cause this, it also can happen for other reasons.  These include:

  • Taking large quantities of antacids that contain magnesium and/or aluminum
  • Being diabetic
  • Taking diuretics, certain blood pressure medications, anticonvulsant medications, blood thinners
  • Having Crohn’s disease or another condition that reduces nutrient absorption
  • Severe burns
  • Being a long-distance runner
  • Long-term problems with your lungs
  • Vomiting or hyperventilation, both of which can cause your body to lose acid
  • Alcoholism

Having too little phosphorus can increase your risk for infection as well as cause muscle weakness, joint pain, anemia, loss of appetite, paresthesia (a prickling or burning sensation usually in your extremities), and fatigue.

You also may have too much phosphorus because of a diet heavy in processed foods that have phosphorus additives, overusing laxatives containing phosphorus, having kidney disease, or are undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma or leukemia.  Having too much of this mineral can cause joint and muscle pain, diarrhea, and problems absorbing vitamin D.

 If you have kidney disease, you should talk with your doctor about whether a phosphorus-reduced or restricted diet is indicated to keep your phosphorus at an ideal level for you.  As with other nutrients, you don’t want too much or too little phosphorus.  Your body needs it to be in balance.

Enjoy your healthy life!


(For more information about important minerals, read here)


The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses, and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products, and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.



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