Nutrition 101: Phosphorus

Written By: Carolyn Berry, RD

Title: Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

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 Group Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) per Day Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) per Day *
19 to 70 years 700 mg 4000 mg
70 years and up 700 mg 3000 mg
Kids and Youth
1 to 3 years 460 mg 3000 mg
4 to 8 years 500 mg 3000 mg
9 to 13 years 1250 mg 4000 mg
14 to 18 years 1250 mg 4000 mg
Special Considerations
Pregnant women 14 to 18 years 1250 mg 3500 mg
Pregnant women 19 to 50 years 700 mg 3500 mg
Lactating women 14 to 18 years 1250 mg 4000 mg
Lactating women 19 to 50 years 700 mg 4000 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.

Food Phosphorus per serving
Sardines, canned in oil, 3 oz 442 mg
Pumpkin & squash seeds, without shell, 1/4 cup 432 mg
Processed cheese slices, cheddar, 1.5 oz 377 mg
All Bran cereal, 1 cup 350 mg
Rice Bran, raw, 20 g 335 mg
Scallops, cooked, 3 oz 305 mg
Salmon, canned, 3 oz 293 mg
Wheat bran, raw, 1/2 cup 270 mg
Venison, tenderloin, roased, 3 oz 269 mg
Milk, skim, 1 cup 261 mg
Yogurt, plain, 3/4 cup 261 mg
Cheddar cheese, 1.5 oz 256 mg
Sunflower seeds, shelled, 1/4 cup 241 mg
Pork, tenderloin, roasted, 3 oz 230 mg
Cheese, brick, 1.5 oz 226 mg
Buttermilk, 1 cup 212 mg
Pine nuts, 1/4 cup 197 mg
Oatmeal, cooked, 3/4 cup 171 mg
Yogurt, flavoured, 3/4 cup 167 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.

Nutrition 101

micronutrient - minerals, minerals, phosphorus, vitamins - minerals


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