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Phosphorus Foods for a Plant Based Diet

Posted on 22 July 2016 by Leonie Satori

Phosphorus is an often overlooked nutrient when it comes to a eating a healthy diet. While other minerals such as iron, magnesium and calcium can become the focus of attention, their distant and unpopular cousin phosphorus can be left in the dark.

Phosphorus Rich Millet

Phosphorus as a helper nutrient

With phosphorus playing a big role in the circulatory system, digestive and nervous systems, it seems silly to overlook this important nutrient in a healthy diet. Often thought of as an accessory or helper nutrient, phosphorus plays an important role in the utilisation of macro nutrients: fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

Phosphorus foods and health

Phosphorus plays an important role in the framework structuring the body, it is required for cellular function and the manufacture of energy. Phosphorus is a key player in calcium regulation, making it essential for strong bones and healthy teeth, also making it an essential nutrient for growth and development, and especially important for women wanting to conceive, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

In fact, a majority of phosphorus in the body is concentrated in the muscles, bones and teeth. Along with calcium, phosphorus plays a role in muscle contraction and heart function, it is also required for nerve impulses in the brain, making it essential for maintenance of the cardiovascular system and healthy blood pressure.

As phosphorus is required for the upkeep and maintenance of the nervous system, some of my old nutrition texts suggest that phosphorus is excellent for those “at their wit's end”. Interestingly, most B group vitamins, which are often used for energy manufacture and to support the nervous system during stress actually require adequate phosphorus for absorption. A mineral rich diet, including grounding, phosphorus rich foods helps to support the nervous system, and is excellent for those who tend to low energy, anxiety or nervousness.

Phosphorus and deficiency causes

It is quite surprising, how many organs and systems are influenced by this nutrient phosphorus, from a cellular level to the bones, muscles and teeth. While deficiencies of phosphorus are considered to be quite rare, there are many 'anti-nutrients' in modern busy life that can have a major impact on phosphorus absorption. Factors increasing the body's demand for phosphorus include antacid use, steroid medications, excess calcium supplementation and excessive coffee intake. Those with digestive problems and absorption issues may also experience difficulty with obtaining enough phosphorus, especially on a standard Western diet.

Excess Phosphorus and processed foods

Phosphorus is also present in many processed foods, but this is not the natural phosphorus that you would find in natural whole foods. The phosphoric acid in soft drinks especially can cause imbalances in the body with kidney function and cause irregularities with calcium distribution in the body. Excess phosphorus can be considered to be unusual with a whole foods plant based diet, however processed foods can contribute to phosphorus excess symptoms associated with the kidneys, heart and bones.

So, we are not suggesting to rush out and buy a phosphorus supplement, hold back, re-read this article and have a look through the list of phosphorus rich foods below. Nature provides us with an abundance of nutrients, including phosphorus in whole foods.

Phosphorus Rich Foods

Chlorella, spirulina, sunflower seeds, most nuts & seeds, whole grains, millet, molasses, wild rice, oat bran, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, chick peas, tahini, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, flax seeds, poppy seeds, tempeh & lentils.

In summary, to improve phosphorus absorption, we encourage you to reduce reliance on coffee, antacids and soft drinks and embrace a more natural approach to whole, unprocessed foods. Whole foods have nutrients in balance with nature, and in a bio-available or a more easily absorbed format. Natural nutrition from real food beats synthetic supplements hands down every time.




Leonie Satori Herbalist Naturopath Lismore

About the Author

Leonie is a Naturopath & Medical Herbalist with a passion for good food, healthy living and of course, herbal medicine. When she is not consulting in her wellness clinic in Lismore or blogging about nutrition, Ayurvedic Medicine or natural health, she is studying yoga, growing her own herbs and vegetables or quietly walking in the natural bush land in Northern Rivers NSW.

Contact our health centre in Lismore to book an appointment with Leonie in our naturopathic clinic.


The content of this website and any provided materials, research, or communications are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified health practitioner with any questions you may have regarding your health condition.

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