A to Z Health Guide

Phosphorus and Your CKD Diet

What is phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a mineral found in your bones. Along with calcium, phosphorus is needed to build strong healthy bones, as well as, keeping other parts of your body healthy.

Why is phosphorus important to you?

Normal working kidneys can remove extra phosphorus in your blood. When you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), your kidneys cannot remove phosphorus very well. High phosphorus levels can cause damage to your body. Extra phosphorus causes body changes that pull calcium out of your bones, making them weak. High phosphorus and calcium levels also lead to dangerous calcium deposits in blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart. Phosphorus and calcium control are very important for your overall health.

What is a safe blood level of phosphorus?

A normal phosphorus level is 2.5 to 4.5 mg/dL. Ask your doctor or dietitian what your last phosphorus level was and write it down to help keep track of it.

Will dialysis help with phosphorus control?

Yes. Dialysis can remove some phosphorus from your blood. It is important for you to understand how to limit build-up of phosphorus between your dialysis treatments.

How can I control my phosphorus level?                           

You can keep you phosphorus level normal by understanding your diet and medications for phosphorus control. Phosphorus can be found naturally in foods (organic phosphorus) and is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans and dairy products.  Phosphorus found in animal foods is absorbed more easily than phosphorus found in plant foods. 

Phosphorus that has been added to food in the form of an additive or preservative (inorganic phosphorus) is found in foods such as fast foods, ready to eat foods, canned and bottle beverages, enhanced meats, and most processed foods. Phosphorus from food additives is completely absorbed.  Avoiding phosphorus additives can lower your intake of phosphorus. Phosphorus additives are found on the list of ingredients on the nutrition facts label. Look for “PHOS” to find phosphorus additives in the food.

Phosphorus additives found in foods include:     

  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Disodium phosphate                     
  • Monosodium phosphate
  • Phosphoric acid      
  • Sodium hexameta-phosphate     
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate
  • Tetrasodium pyrophosphate      

Your dietitian and doctor will help you with this. Below is a list of foods high in phosphorous:

                              HIGH PHOSPHORUS FOOD TO LIMIT OR AVOID

 Beverages

beer/ale

chocolate drinks

 

cocoa

dark colas

 

 

drinks made with milk
canned iced teas

pepper type soda (Dr Pepper)

 

bottled beverages with phosphate additives

 

 

Dairy Products

 

cheese

 

liquid nondairy creamer

 

custard

ice cream

 

milk

pudding

 

cream soups

yogurt (Greek type acceptable)

 

Protein

 

oysters

 

sardines

 

beef liver

chicken liver

 

fish roe

organ meats

 

 

 

Other foods

 

 

chocolate candy

caramels

oat bran muffin

 

 

most processed/prepared foods

pizza

brewer’s yeast

What medications are for phosphorus control?

Your doctor may order a medicine called a phosphate binder for you to take with meals and snacks. This medicine will help control the amount of phosphorus your body absorbs from the foods you eat.

There are many different kinds of phosphate binders. Pills, chewable tablets, powders, and liquids are available. Some types also contain calcium, while others do not. You should only take the phosphate binder that is ordered by your doctor or dietitian.

Read more about Phosphorus and Your CKD Diet.

Phosphorus Infographic

The National Kidney Foundation would like to thank the
Council on Renal Nutrition for the development of this fact sheet.
Date Reviewed: 
January 10, 2017

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.