Hol3 Explained: Phosphorus

By: Charlotte Miller

Phosphorus’s role in the body and phosphates in food:

What is phosphorus? Phosphorus is a major mineral in the body- the second most abundant mineral behind calcium. Deficiencies are rare, which could be why phosphorus is not a popularly discussed mineral in dietary conversations. The recommended amount of phosphorus is around 1250mg per day. You may have heard of phosphates, which are the dietary version of phosphorus. In its’ organic form, phosphates are helpful for the body and act metabolically to get energy from nutrients; however, in an inorganic form, phosphate has been artificially added and can therefore be harmful and cause kidney problems (Watanabe, Barretti, & Caramori’s 2018).

In Sizer, Whitney, & Piché’s nutrition book, they review Phosphorus’s functions:  

  • Major Roles of Phosphorus  
    • Bone and teeth formation
      • Bone structure 
      • Phosphorus is mainly found here 
    • Part of genetic code – DNA and RNA
      • Tissue growth and renewal 
    • Metabolic functions
      • Gets energy from nutrients 
      • Releases energy during the metabolism of nutrients 
    • Cell structure
      • Maintains cell membrane 

In Watanabe, Barretti, & Caramori’s 2018 article they review phosphates in food: 

  • Foods Rich in Organic Phosphates  (dietary phosphorus) 
    • Milk/dairy products
    • Animal proteins 
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Grains
  • Foods Rich in Inorganic Phosphates (phosphate additives) 
    • Soda
    • Processed meat 
    • Frozen food
    • Cereals
    • Processed cheese
    • Instant products (microwavable meals) 

What are phosphate additives?

  • Mainly in processed foods 
    • Maintain the texture of food
    • Enhance flavors 
    • Increase the shelf life of food 
      • Prevents food from spoiling easily 
  • “Nutritional labels do not indicate phosphate quantities in foods” (Watanabe, Barretti, & Caramori’s 2018).
    • Look for ‘PHOS’ in the ingredients section of your food product’s nutritional label to limit the intake of phosphate additives 

Reference List:

Sizer, F. S., Whitney, E. N., & Piché, L. A. (2020). Nutrition: Concepts and controversies (15th ed.). Toronto, Ontario: Nelson.

Watanabe, M., Barretti, P., & Caramori, J. (2018). Attention to Food Phosphate and Nutrition Labeling. Journal of Renal Nutrition, 28(4), e29–e31. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.jrn.2017.12.013

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