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Nutrition Basics: What Is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods. One important function it performs in your body is working with calcium to build strong, healthy bones. When you have kidney disease, it's harder for your kidneys to remove extra phosphorus, causing a harmful buildup. Following your prescribed dialysis meal plan can help you maintain a healthy level of phosphorus and feel your best.

How much phosphorus do I need? 

The amount of phosphorus in your body will be measured through regular labs. A target phosphorus level for people on dialysis is 3.0-5.5 mg/dL.

What if my phosphorus level is too high or too low?

If your phosphorus level is too high in your lab results, work with your dietitian. He or she will talk to you about limiting processed foods, taking your phosphate binders and completing all dialysis treatments exactly as prescribed for the full treatment time.

If your phosphorus level is too low, your dietitian can work with you to make sure you’re getting enough protein and calories in your diet.



Avoid added phosphorus (PHOS).
Phosphoric acid, sodium phosphate, polyphosphate, monocalcium phosphate, hexametaphosphate


Your healthiest choices will be foods with no added phosphorus (PHOS). When reading food labels, look for any ingredient with the letters "PHOS"—and avoid it.

What are phosphorus binders and why do I need them?

Phosphorus binders (sometimes called phosphate binders) are a type of medication that helps prevent your body from absorbing phosphorus from the food you eat. Dialysis only removes a small amount of phosphorus from your blood. Taking phosphorus binders at every meal can help manage your phosphorus level. Your doctor or dietitian can help you understand exactly how many to take and when to take them.


The renal pharmacists at FreseniusRx can help you understand and manage all of your prescribed medications, including phosphorus binders.

What is phosphate? Is it the same thing as phosphorus?

While phosphorus occurs naturally in many foods, phosphates are chemicals added to foods to alter taste, texture or shelf life. Basically any "PHOS" word in an ingredient list means that phosphorus is being added to your food—and it all has the same unhealthy effect on your body.
Explore kidney friendly recipes


When you cook for yourself, you can take charge of your own phosphorus, sodium, and more. For more help crafting your own kidney-friendly diet, check out our recipes!

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