Nutrition 101: Phosphorus

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Phosphorus is a mineral that is part of every cell in the body.  About 85% of phosphorus in the body can be found in bones and teeth.

Recom​mended Intakes

The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for phosphorus are shown below:

Age GroupRecommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per DayTolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) per Day *
19 to 70 years700 mg4000 mg
70 years and up700 mg3000 mg
Kids and Youth
1 to 3 years460 mg3000 mg
4 to 8 years500 mg3000 mg
9 to 13 years1250 mg4000 mg
14 to 18 years1250 mg4000 mg
Special Considerations
Pregnant women 14 to 18 years1250 mg3500 mg
Pregnant women 19 to 50 years700 mg3500 mg
Lactating women 14 to 18 years1250 mg4000 mg
Lactating women 19 to 50 years700 mg4000 mg

*This includes sources of phosphorus from food and supplements

What Does Phosphorus Do?

Phosphorus plays a critical role in the formation of bones and teeth. Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. These 2 important nutrients work closely together to build strong bones and teeth.

Phosphorus is a primary component of ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy. It also helps regulate many biochemical reactions by activating and deactivating enzymes. Phosphorus works with potassium inside the cell to maintain proper fluid balance.

Phosphorus is needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells, and for the production of the genetic building blocks, DNA and RNA. It is also a component of cell membranes.

Phosphorus also helps maintain normal acid-base balance (pH) by acting as one of the body’s most important buffers. Additionally, phosphorus also plays a role in regulating oxygen delivery to the tissues of the body.

Dietary phosphorus deficiency is rare because it is so readily available in the food supply. Excessively high levels of phosphorus in the blood is also uncommon, but occur in those with advanced kidney disease or severe dysfunction of their calcium regulation.

Top Phosphorus-Rich Food Sources

Phosphorus-rich food sources are found in protein rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, and legumes. Whole grains are also a source of phosphorus, and small amounts are found in fruits and vegetables.

FoodPhosphorus per serving
Sardines, canned in oil, 3 oz442 mg
Pumpkin & squash seeds, without shell, 1/4 cup432 mg
Processed cheese slices, cheddar, 1.5 oz377 mg
All Bran cereal, 1 cup350 mg
Rice Bran, raw, 20 g335 mg
Scallops, cooked, 3 oz305 mg
Salmon, canned, 3 oz293 mg
Wheat bran, raw, 1/2 cup270 mg
Venison, tenderloin, roased, 3 oz269 mg
Milk, skim, 1 cup261 mg
Yogurt, plain, 3/4 cup261 mg
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 oz256 mg
Sunflower seeds, shelled, 1/4 cup241 mg
Pork, tenderloin, roasted, 3 oz230 mg
Cheese, brick, 1.5 oz226 mg
Buttermilk, 1 cup212 mg
Pine nuts, 1/4 cup197 mg
Oatmeal, cooked, 3/4 cup171 mg
Yogurt, flavoured, 3/4 cup167 mg

Nutrition Facts Label and the % Daily Value

In the United States: The Daily Value (DV) for phosphorus is 1000 mg for ages 4 and older, which is higher than the RDA for adult males and females. The number you see on the Nutrition Facts label is a percentage calculated by dividing the amount of phosphorus in one serving of the food by the daily value. For example, 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds, which contains 432 mg, has 43% of the daily value (DV) for phosphorus.

In Canada: The Daily Value for phosphorus is 1100 mg, which is more than the RDA for adult males and females. Using the same example as above, 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds has 39% of the daily value for phosphorus. Listing the DV for phosphorus on the label is optional.

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