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Phosphorus and Kidney Disease: What You Need to Know

How to Manage Phosphorus In Your Diet

By Kaitlin Williams MPH, RD, LD

If you have kidney disease, you may have heard at some point that it’s important to reduce intake of foods that are high in phosphorus, including meat, beans, nuts, dairy and whole grains. That’s a lot of food to worry about! Well I would like to give you a little bit more information about phosphorus and what exactly you should be looking for in the foods you are buying! 

First off, let’s talk about the role of phosphorus in the body. Phosphorus is a major component of our bones and teeth, it is vital for the production and storage of energy in our bodies, and it also is a component of fat, protein and cell membranes (the outer layer that protects the cell). The kidney is responsible for removing extra phosphorus from the blood, so if you have kidneys that are working well, you do not need to worry so much about phosphorus building up. However, in kidney disease, the kidneys are not able to filter out phosphorus if the levels become too high.

Effects of high phosphorus include:

  • Bone and heart problems
  • Low blood calcium (interacts with calcium absorption), so calcium is taken from the bones
  • Calcification (hardening of tissues), which happens when calcium and phosphorus buildup in soft tissues, like arteries 

You may be wondering how you can maintain a normal range of phosphorus in your blood. Nutrition and eating will play a huge role in this. One step you can take to manage your phosphorus levels is to look out for phosphorus additives in food. New research is saying that avoiding food with additives is more important than avoiding foods with natural sources of phosphorus. Natural (or organic) phosphorus is absorbed at a much lower level than phosphorus additives (or inorganic phosphorus). 

Read the Nutrition Facts Label

To avoid these additives, you will need to start reading ingredient lists on the nutrition facts label! Below is a list of some (not all!) common terms that mean there is phosphorus adding to the food:

  • Phosphoric acid
  • Sodium polyphosphate
  • Mono-, di- or tricalcium phosphate
  • Ferric phosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate

Nutrition Facts Taste the Sweet Rebellion

Some brands you might want to look for that are phosphate free are….

  • Bread: Ezekiel bread, Arnold Whole Wheat Bread, Rudi’s gluten free, Manna’s Organic bread
  • Hot dogs: Applegate farms organic hot dogs, Hebrew National
  • Tuna fish: Chicken of the Sea, Starkist
  • Rice: Uncle Ben’s Brown Rice, Minute-Whole Grain Medley and Multi-grain Medley
phosphorus additives

Food for Life breads do not contain phosphorus additives…check your bread labels!

Your dietitian can help you navigate the grocery store and the nutrition label. She can also discuss with you a nutrition plan to assure you are getting the right amount of each nutrient. She will be sure to create an individualized plan to support your lifestyle. Call our office today at 301-474-2499 or click here to set up an appointment.

3 Comments

  1. Great article! It can be so hard for people with kidney disease to know what products are ok for their diet and this really helps clear up some of the confusion!

  2. Phosphorus can definitely be pretty tricky to avoid if you don’t know what to look for.. Great tips!

  3. Such a great compilation of information and tips. Will keep on hand to share with any of my renal clients. Thanks!

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