Phosphorus: The Mineral You Need To Know

Phosphorus works with calcium to build strong bones and keep other parts of your body healthy. And phosphorus is found in many foods.

When your kidneys can no longer keep your phosphorus at the right level, it builds up. At this point, phosphorus becomes harmful to your body. High-phosphorus levels cause:
  • Increased risk of hip fractures
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is a disease of the heart and blood vessels
Bottom line: You need to keep your phosphorus levels in check to stay healthier with chronic kidney disease.


Get the latest news in kidney care plus delicious kidney-friendly recipes and great advice from people just like you.

What foods are high in phosphorus?

Dairy is a big one. Chocolate, too. There is also hidden phosphorus in many processed foods and drinks. They`re known as added "PHOS." And they are foes to heart and bone health.

What can you do to limit your phosphorus? Start by learning some basic high- and low-phosphorus foods.

High-phosphorus foods


  • Phosphoric acid
  • Sodium phosphates
  • Polyphosphates
  • Monocalcium phosphates
  • Anything with "PHOS" 

Low-phosphorus foods


Swap out high-phosphorus foods for lower ones. Read ingredients to hunt down hidden phosphorus (phosphates) so you can keep your level where you want it.

Hidden phosphorus: what nutrition labels don't tell you

Phosphorus occurs naturally in foods like dairy products, fish, poultry, red meats, nuts, whole grains and beans. And phosphorus is commonly added in the form of phosphates to foods that never contained them before. Why?

Phosphates are added to:

  • Enhance the flavor and color of foods
  • Improve the texture and prevent lumpiness
  • Extend the shelf life of food
For everyone, phosphate additives are bad for bone and heart health. Food companies don't even have to include these additives in the nutrition label. However, they are required to be in the list of ingredients.

All phosphorus is not created equal. Naturally occurring phosphorus in foods is absorbed less readily than chemical phosphorus additives. Look for "PHOS" in food labels and try to steer clear of them!


  • Meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Beverages
  • Bakery products
  • Instant puddings & gelatins
Packaged meats

Meats loaded with hidden phosphates

  • Processed meats
  • “Reconstructed meats” like chicken nuggets
  • Hot dogs
  • Deli meats
Soda has hidden phosphorus

Drinks with hidden phosphates

Many enhanced waters or carbonated sodas contain hidden phosphates. Look for these additives on the label:
  • Sodium hexametaphosphate (flavored waters)
  • Phosphoric acid (carbonated drinks)
Drinks in glass bottles are dialysis friendly

Choose drinks in glass bottles

Believe it or not, even the kind of bottle your drink comes in is a clue for hidden phosphates. Drinks in glass bottles contain fewer phosphates than ones in plastic bottles or cans since they need fewer preservatives. Avoid these drinks in plastic bottles or cans:
  • Iced teas
  • Sports drinks 
  • Flavored waters
  • Fruit punch
Best advice for dialysis diet

Best advice: talk to your doctor or dietitian to create a kidney-friendly meal plan

If it seems hard to know exactly what to eat, you’re not alone. Everyone starts off with questions about what’s okay for meals and how much they can have. And once you start dialysis, your diet will change again. So work with your doctor or dietitian to develop a meal plan you’ll enjoy. Touch base with them regularly to see what needs to be adjusted. Knowing the ropes—for your particular dietary needs—will help you eat healthy and thrive.
Water is dialysis friendly

Go with plain H2O. Skip vitamin waters.

Vitamin waters contain more phosphates than vitamins. Really. You can make your own iced tea or flavor your water with refreshing lemon, lime, or cucumber slices - and you'll know you're avoiding hidden phosphates.