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Phosphorous is an essential mineral, and the second most abundant mineral in the body. Eighty percent of phosphorous is found in the bones and teeth. The other 20 percent works in body functions. It is found in every cell of the body.

What food source is the nutrient found in? 
Almost all of the food groups contain phosphorous. The best sources are foods that are high in protein. These include milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Legumes and nuts are also good sources. Fortified milk, which has Vitamin D added to it, helps the body absorb phosphorous and calcium.

Diets that have enough protein and calcium will usually have enough phosphorous. Phosphorous is common enough in plant foods that vegetarians who eat a varied diet will get enough of the mineral.

Following are some common foods and the amount of phosphorous found in them:
  • milk (1 cup) - 230 milligrams (mg)
  • lean ground beef (3 ounces) - 60 mg
  • tofu (1 cup) - 120 mg
  • peanut butter (2 tablespoons) - 105 mg
  • cheddar cheese (1 ounce) - 145 mg
  • cooked kidney beans (1/2 cup) - 125 mg
How does the nutrient affect the body? 
Phosphorous has many important functions in the body. It combines with calcium to form strong teeth and bones. It is part of the genetic material present in every cell. Phosphorous plays key roles in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that come from the diet. It helps to move fat through the bloodstream. It also helps activate the B vitamins and is vital to the growth, maintenance, and repair of all body tissue. Phosphorous is important in muscle contraction (including the heart), kidney function, and nerve transmission. The functions of phosphorous are closely related to those of calcium and magnesium.

The recommended amount of phosphorous a person should get each day is similar to that of calcium. The recommended dietary Intake, or RDI, for adults is 800 mg. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should get 1200 mg daily.

It is quite easy to get enough phosphorous because it is found in so many foods. Deficiencies are rare. A person who takes an antacid with aluminum hydroxide for a long time could have symptoms of a deficiency, including: Getting too much phosphorous, from drinking too many carbonated drinks or eating too much meat, can cause adverse affects. High phosphorous levels can interfere with calcium absorption. This can eventually lead to poor bone maintenance and osteoporosis, or brittle bones. Excess phosphorous can also interfere with the absorption of iron.

Author: Kimberly Tessmer, RD, LD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 19/10/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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