Phosphorous is an essential mineral that your body uses to build healthy bones, create energy and make new cells (1).
The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adults is 700 mg, but growing teens and pregnant women need more. The daily value (DV) was estimated to be 1,000 mg, but was recently updated to 1,250 mg to cover the needs of these groups (2).
While phosphorus is beneficial for most people, it can be harmful when consumed in excess. People with kidney disease can have trouble removing it from their blood and may need to limit their phosphorus intake (5).
Phosphorus is found in most foods, but some foods are especially good sources. This article lists 12 foods that are particularly high in phosphorus.
One cup (140 grams) of roasted chicken or turkey contains around 300 mg of phosphorus, which is more than 40% of the recommended daily intake (RDI). It is also rich in protein, B vitamins and selenium (6, 7).
Light poultry meat contains slightly more phosphorus than dark meat, but both are good sources.
Cooking methods can also affect phosphorus content of the meat. Roasting preserves the most phosphorus, while boiling reduces levels by about 25% (8).
Summary Chicken and turkey are both excellent sources of phosphorus, especially the light meat. One cup (140 grams) provides more than 40% of the RDI. Roasting preserves more of the phosphorus than boiling.
A typical 3-ounce (85-gram) portion of cooked pork contains 25–32% of the RDI for phosphorus, depending on the cut.
Like with poultry, cooking method can affect the phosphorus content of pork.
Dry heat cooking preserves 90% of the phosphorus, while boiling can reduce phosphorus levels by roughly 25% (8).
Summary Pork is a good source of phosphorus, containing around 200 mg per three ounces (85 grams). Dry heat cooking is the best way to preserve the phosphorus content.
Organ meats, such as brain and liver, are excellent sources of highly absorbable phosphorus.
One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of pan-fried cow’s brain contains almost 50% of the RDI for adults (12).
Chicken liver, which is often used to make the French delicacy pâté, contains 53% of the RDI per three ounces (85 grams) (13).
Organ meats are also rich in other essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron and trace minerals. They can make a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet.
Summary Organ meats are incredibly nutrient-dense, and contain large amounts of phosphorus and other vitamins and minerals. Brain and liver both contain roughly 50% of the RDI per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving.
Many types of seafood are good sources of phosphorus.
Cuttlefish, a mollusk related to squid and octopus, is the richest source, supplying 70% of the RDI in one 3-ounce (85-gram) cooked serving (14).
Some of these foods, like salmon, sardines and mackerel, are also good sources of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids that may protect against cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses (16, 20, 22, 25).
Summary Many different types of seafood are rich in phosphorus. Cuttlefish provides the most, with 493 mg of phosphorus per serving.
Summary Low-fat dairy products like milk, cottage cheese and yogurt are excellent sources of phosphorus, providing at least 30% of the RDI per serving.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also contain large amounts of phosphorus.
Soaking seeds until they sprout can help break down phytic acid, releasing some of the phosphorus for absorption (35).
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds can be enjoyed as a snack, sprinkled on salads, blended into nut butters or used in pesto, and are a great alternative for people who are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.
Summary Sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain large amounts of the storage form of phosphorus called phytic acid, which humans can’t digest. Sprouting the seeds can help make the phosphorus available for absorption.
Most nuts are good sources of phosphorus, but Brazil nuts top the list. Just a 1/2-cup (67 grams) of Brazil nuts provides more than 2/3 of the RDI for adults (36).
They are also great sources of plant-based protein, antioxidants and minerals. Eating them regularly is linked with better heart health (41).
Like seeds, most of the phosphorus in nuts is stored as phytic acid, which is not digestible by humans. Soaking may help, though not all studies agree (42).
Summary Many nuts, and especially Brazil nuts, are good sources of phosphorus, containing at least 40% of the RDI per 1/2-cup (67-gram) serving.
Many whole grains contain phosphorus, including wheat, oats and rice.
Most of the phosphorus in whole grains is found in the outer layer of the endosperm, known as the aleurone, and the inner layer, called the germ (46).
However, like seeds, most of the phosphorus in whole grains is stored as phytic acid, which is hard for the body to digest and absorb.
Summary Whole grains like wheat, oats and rice contain a lot of phosphorus. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting the grains may make it more available for absorption.
While amaranth and quinoa are often referred to as “grains,” they are actually small seeds and are considered pseudocereals.
Like other seeds, soaking, sprouting and fermenting can increase phosphorus availability (56).
Summary Ancient grains like amaranth and quinoa are highly nutritious and are good sources of phosphorus. One cooked cup (246 grams) contains at least 40% of the recommended daily intake.
Just one cup (198 grams) of boiled lentils contains 51% of the recommended daily intake and over 15 grams of fiber (59).
Summary Beans and lentils, especially when soaked, sprouted or fermented, are rich sources of phosphorus, containing at least 250 mg per cup (roughly 160–200 grams).
Soy can be enjoyed in many forms, some higher in phosphorus than others.
Mature soybeans can be seasoned, roasted and enjoyed as a delicious crunchy snack that provides over 100% of the RDI per 2/3 cup (172 grams) (68).
Summary Whole soybeans and fermented soy products are good sources of phosphorus, providing up to 100% of the recommended daily intake per serving.
While phosphorus is naturally present in many foods, some processed foods also contain large amounts from additives.
Phosphate additives are nearly 100% absorbable, and can contribute anywhere from 300 to 1,000 mg of additional phosphorus per day (73).
Processed foods and beverages that often contain added phosphates include:
- Processed meats: Beef, lamb, pork and chicken products are often marinated or injected with phosphate additives to keep the meat tender and juicy (76, 77, 78).
- Cola beverages: Cola drinks often contain phosphoric acid, a synthetic source of phosphorus (79).
- Baked goods: Biscuits, pancake mixes, toaster pastries and other baked goods can contain phosphate additives as leavening agents (80, 81).
- Fast food: According to one study of 15 major American fast food chains, over 80% of the menu items contained added phosphates (82).
- Convenience food: Phosphates are often added to convenience foods like frozen chicken nuggets to help them cook faster and improve shelf life (80, 83).
To tell if prepared and processed foods or beverages contain phosphorus, look for ingredients with the word “phosphate” in them.
Summary Processed foods and beverages often contain phosphate additives to enhance quality and increase shelf life. They can contribute large amounts of phosphorus to your diet.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient required for bone health and many other bodily functions.
It can be found in many foods, but is especially high in animal proteins, dairy products, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes.
Many processed foods also contain phosphorus from phosphate additives used to prolong shelf life or enhance the taste or texture.
Artificial phosphates and animal sources of phosphorus are the most absorbable, while plant-based sources can be soaked, sprouted or fermented to increase the amount of absorbable phosphorus.
While phosphorus is good when consumed in moderation, getting too much from artificial additives may be bad for your health. People with kidney disease also need to limit their intake.
Understanding which foods are highest in phosphorus can help you manage your intake as needed.