Phosphorus is an essential mineral that your body needs for nearly all of its functions. This nutrient is found in many foods and is often bound to calcium, showing how these two minerals work in conjunction within the body.
Phosphorus is found throughout the body, but it’s most abundant in the bones and teeth. In fact, almost 85% of your body’s phosphorus is found in your skeletal system.
Why You Need Phosphorus
Phosphorus helps support your health in a variety of ways and is an important component for several body systems. The good news is that because phosphorus is found in many foods, it is often abundant enough to help you avoid phosphorus deficiencies.
Nevertheless, its vital presence in body functions means that you need to maintain your intake of this mineral. Generally, the recommended daily phosphorus intake for youth and teens is about 1,250 milligrams and for adults is about 700 milligrams.
Phosphorus helps support the health of several body systems:
Musculoskeletal and Nerve Health
Your bones, teeth, muscles, tendons, joints, cartilage, and connective tissues make up the musculoskeletal system, and they need phosphorus to function properly. Phosphorus helps repair and strengthen bones and teeth, support muscle contraction, and maintain nerves and cells.
Cell and Tissue Health
Along with helping your muscles and nerves stay healthy, phosphorus is important for your overall cell and tissue health as well. Phosphorus is a part of most cells, especially in nucleic acid and cell membranes, and it supports energy storage and the formation of DNA and RNA.
Hemoglobin needs iron to help transfer oxygen from the lungs to the blood, but it also needs phosphorus. The molecule 2,3-diphosphoglycerate, which contains phosphorus, works alongside iron to help your blood stay oxygenated.
Foods With Phosphorus
Phosphorus is found in a wide variety of foods, but its bioavailability (the portion of phosphorus that is absorbed by your body) depends on the type of food source. Plant-based foods have a lower bioavailability of 20% to 50%, because phosphorus in these foods is a component of phytates, which the body doesn’t absorb as easily.
Animal-based phosphorus is more readily absorbed, but you should take care with highly processed foods, which can cause your body to absorb too much of this mineral at any one time.
The following five foods are a healthy source of phosphorus and other essential nutrients:
Seafood is an excellent source of dietary phosphorus, but the amount depends on the type of seafood. For example, salmon has about 315 milligrams per serving, while halibut has about 244 milligrams, and scallops have about 201milligrams. Seafood is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart and brain health.
Dairy has plenty of important nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, and potassium. It is also rich in phosphorus. While milk and yogurt average 250 milligrams of this mineral, cheese offers slightly less at about 197 milligrams per serving.
Lentils are a good source of phosphorus, even with reduced absorption. They’re also rich in folate, fiber, magnesium, and copper. The average serving of lentils contains about 356 milligrams of phosphorus, which means you could absorb up to 50%, or about 180 milligrams per meal. That amount is already 26% of your recommended daily intake.
Poultry is another excellent source of essential phosphorus. While turkey offers about 217 milligrams, chicken comes in second with 180 milligrams. You can also enjoy eggs, which contain about 86 milligrams of phosphorus per egg.
Like lentils, peas are a good source of dietary phosphorus. This legume offers about 94 milligrams of phosphorus per serving, roughly 50% of which your body readily absorbs. Aside from this mineral, peas are rich in vitamin K, manganese, folate, fiber, vitamin C, and copper. They’re also a good source of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients like catechin, epicatechin, and alpha-linolenic omega-3 fatty acids.