Understand phosphorus and phosphorus targets in the Nutrient Explorer

What it is

Phosphorus is an essential mineral.

What it does

Phosphorus plays several diverse roles in the body. It’s a key component of bones and teeth, it’s incorporated into DNA and RNA, it’s a component of the primary fats in cell membranes (phospholipids), and it’s a necessary component of ATP (the primary energy currency in the body). Furthermore, the process of phosphorylation – attaching a phosphorus-containing functional group to another biomolecule – is involved in too many biochemical reactions to list. 

Recommended intake

The recommended intake for phosphorus is 700mg per day.

The safe upper limit for phosphorus intake is 4000mg per day for most populations, but is a bit lower for adults over 70 years old (3000mg per day) and pregnant women (3500mg per day).

Likelihood of tracking completeness: Very low

Phosphorus is not a nutrient that food manufacturers are required to disclose on nutrition labels. The vast majority of food and beverage manufacturers do not voluntarily list phosphorus content on nutrition labels, so most branded products in the MacroFactor database lack information on phosphorus. So, if you’d like to accurately track your phosphorus intake, you’ll need to make a point of mostly tracking “common foods,” which come from research-grade databases that have full nutrient reporting.

For more on when you can track using branded foods versus common foods when you’re trying to accurately monitor your intake of particular nutrients, you should check out this article.

Likelihood of insufficient intake: Very low

Inadequate phosphate intake is very rare – most adults in developed countries consume at least 1.5 to 2 times the minimum recommended amount of phosphorus.

For more on nutrients with a greater likelihood of insufficient or excessive intake, you should check out this article.

Signs of deficiency

Phosphorus deficiencies are almost always the result of severe general malnutrition, or a disease that interferes with phosphate absorption or metabolism. But, when it occurs, it can cause a decrease in appetite, anemia, weak bones, decreased immune function, numbness, poor motor control, weakness, and confusion.

Good sources

Fruits aren’t particularly rich in phosphorus. Just about everything else is – grains, vegetables, meat, dairy, fungi, etc. Very few people need to worry about identifying and consuming foods that are exceptionally rich in phosphorus. Dairy products, mushrooms, and shellfish tend to be the richest sources of phosphorus, though.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about micronutrients generally, there’s a five-part series on the MacroFactor website you might enjoy.

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