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Low Phosphorus Diet for Kidney Disease Patients

What is phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a mineral that works with other nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, to help build strong bones. Phosphorus is in almost everything you eat, including dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans and peanuts.

People who have kidney disease have to watch how much phosphorus they take in from food and beverages because when you have problems with your kidneys, phosphorus levels in your blood go up. This increase in phosphorus causes a condition called hyperphosphatemia that may be associated with serious illness, mineral deposits in the heart and blood vessels, bone disease and death. Hyperphosphatemia is simply an increase in phosphorus in the body.

There are usually no symptoms with hyperphosphatemia. Usually if the phosphorus in the body is at normal level, so is the calcium level. However, when the phosphorus level rises, the calcium level drops. This can lead to muscle cramps, spasms and weakened bones.

The calcium and phosphate also can form crystals (calcify) in body tissue, including within the walls of the blood vessels. Severe arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can result, leading to strokes, heart attacks, and poor circulation. Crystals can also form in the skin, where they cause severe itching.

Almost all foods contain phosphorus making it difficult to limit phosphorus in the foods you eat and still get enough protein and calories for a healthy diet. This is why most dialysis patients also take a medication called a phosphate binder to help control their phosphorus levels. Phosphate binders stop the phosphorus before it can be absorbed in the blood, and help patients keep blood phosphorus levels within the proper range.


Source: Bowes & Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 18th Edition


Suggestions for Better Phosphorus In-take
High Phosphorus Choice Lower Phosphorus Choice
1 cup milk 1 cup non-dairy creamer
½ cup ice cream ½ cup sherbet
1 ounce cheese 1 ounce cream cheese
½ cup pudding ½ cup Jell-O® (watch fluid intake)
½ cup bran cereal ½ cup cornflakes or rice cereal
½ cup oatmeal ½ cup grits or Cream of Wheat®
½ brown rice ½ cup white rice
1 slice whole wheat bread 1 slice white bread
½ cup legumes (kidney beans, lima beans, etc.) ½ cut green beans
½ cup nuts ½ cup unsalted popcorn or unsalted pretzels
2 tablespoons peanut butter 2 tablespoons jam or jelly
1 slice chocolate cake 1 slice angel food cake
12 ounce dark cola 12 ounce ginger ale, grape or lemon-lime soda