Phosphorus Sources and Functions

Phosphorus Sources and Functions

All of the nutrient minerals work together to keep you healthy and feeling good. Here is a summary of the role of phosphorus, a major mineral, in your good health.

What it does Helps maintain healthy bones and teeth; Helps maintain acid-base balance; Forms part of every cell membrane; A component of phospholipids, the lipid transporters in the blood; Necessary for growth
Daily needs [Infants: 100-275 mg] [Children: 460-1,250 mg] [Men: 700 mg] [Women: 700 mg] [Pregnant: 700-1,250 mg] [Lactating: 700-1,250 mg]
Not enough Weakness; aching bones; increased susceptibility to infection
Too Much Calcification of soft tissues
Foods Most foods, particularly rich in animal foods

*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos.,higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.

Works with calcium

Although phosphorus is less abundant than calcium in the body, it is equally important for healthy bones and for overall good health. In fact, phosphorus works with calcium in keeping your bones healthy. There is some controversy about whether the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is a factor in good health, but the most important thing is that you have enough of both of these important minerals available to your body.

It’s ubiquitous!

In addition, phosphorus is present in all the cells of the body, as part of the cell membrane, and works in a buffering capacity to help your body to maintain a proper acid-base balance. It is also part of the process that gives you the energy to do the things you want to do; without enough phosphorus; you will feel weak and sluggish.

Kids need more

Phosphorus is vital for growth. You will notice that in the table above, the daily recommendation for older children is higher than for adults. This is due to the fact that children are still growing and need more phosphorus for that purpose.


There is a group of fats called “phospholipids” that are necessary to transport nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins, into and out of the cells. If you guessed that the name phospholipids indicates that these fats contain phosphorus, you are right. Emulsifiers, such as lecithin, also fall into this category of phosphorus-containing fats.

Most foods have it.

There is not much likelihood of phosphorus deficiency, since most foods have some. Foods from animal sources, such as meat, eggs, milk and fish are particular rich in phosphorus.

Fun Fact about Phosphorus Sources and Functions:

The phosphorus from plant sources is often in the form of phytic acid, making it less available for your body for absorption. However, yeasts used to leaven breads, are able to break down the phytic acid. As a result, the phosphorus found in whole wheat is more available to your body when it is in yeast breads, than when it is in other wheat products, such as cereal.

Processed foods 

Phosphorus is also abundant in processed foods, since it forms part of many of the additives used by food companies. Most soft drinks also contain phosphoric acid, the substance that makes them fizzy. For this reason, the intake of phosphorus in developed countries has increased as the food supply has changed to include more processed foods and soft drinks.

Caveat for Phosphorus Sources and Functions: There is some concern about the increased intake of soft drinks and consequently, of phosphorus, and its effect on the body. The thing we know for sure is that soft drinks have replaced nutritious drinks such as water, milk and juice in the diet, especially of children. The long-term effect of this change has yet to be determined, but many health experts feel that this has led to lower levels of calcium and other important nutrients in the diet, especially of children.

Upper Limit for Phosphorus Sources and Functions

The upper intake level that has been established for adults for phosphorus is 4,000 mg per day.

Click here to go from Healthy Eating Minerals 5 - Phosphorus Sources and Functions to Calcium page.