Low-phosphorus diet

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Teens preparing lunch

What is phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a mineral found in foods such as milk and milk products. It works with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Phosphorus and the kidneys

Although phosphorus is needed to keep your body healthy, too much can be dangerous. One of the jobs of the kidneys is to get rid of extra phosphorus in your blood. When the level of phosphorus in your blood is too high, calcium is drawn out of your bones, which can make them weaker.

Keeping your phosphorus levels in a normal range

There are two ways to change the amount of phosphorus in your blood: diet (what you eat) and medicines.


All foods contain phosphorus. To have less phosphorus in your diet, you simply need to eat fewer foods that are high in phosphorus. This way, you can control the amount of phosphorous your kidneys need to remove and reduce the phosphorus levels in your blood.


Some medicines make it harder for phosphorus to reach the kidneys. These medicines act like sponges and soak up phosphorus in food while it is in the stomach. They are called phosphate binders. To work properly, these medicines must be taken with meals and snacks.

Read food labels 

Some food labels will show the amount of phosphorus in a food. But remember that even if phosphorus is not marked on the label, it may still be in the food.

Fast food and processed foods (such as chicken fingers or boxed macaroni and cheese) are very high in phosphorus because they contain high amounts of phosphate additives. Here is a list of additives to watch for.

​P​hosphate additives in fast foods​
​Phosphoric acid​Sodium polyphosphate
Pyrophosphate​Sodium tripolyphosphate
​Polyphosphate​Tricalcium phosphate
​Hexametaphosphate​Trisodium phosphate
Dicalcium phosphate​​Sodium phosphate
Monocalcium phosphate​​Tetrasodium phosphate
​Aluminium phosphate​

Choose foods that have less than 100 mg of phosphorus per serving.

​Food labels: Nutrition Facts (one serving)
Amount % Daily Value
PhosphorusLess than 100 mg10% or less

Low-phosphorous food choices

Vegetables and fruit

Best choicesFoods to avoid
Plain vegetables and fruitVegetable dishes made with cream or cheese sauces
Coconut waterCoconut milk; coconut flesh
Limit: avocado, asparagus, corn, lotus root, mushrooms, peas, bean sprouts, artichoke, heart of palm, potato, figs, jujube, longan, lychee, dry peaches, tamarind

If you on a low-potassium diet, speak to your dietitian for further food choice tips.

Breads and cereals

Best choicesFoods to avoid
White bread, light rye bread, Italian and French breadsWhole wheat bread or scones, bran, dark rye bread, soda bread, multigrain bread, corn bread, pumpernickel bread
White English muffins, white plain bagels, white rolls, croissants, brioche, crumpetsWhole wheat English muffins, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat rolls
Chapatti, roti, challah, pittu, pita, tortilla, papseco made with white wheat or rice flourChapati, roti, pittu, pita, tortilla, papseco made with whole wheat flour
Crackers made with white flourCrackers made with whole wheat flour (brands include Wheat Thins, Bretons, Triscuit)
Rice crackers, Crispers, matzo, graham crackers, rusk toast, soda crackers, Ritz regular, vegetable crackers (such as Vegetable Thins)Ritz Bits sandwiches made with cheese or peanut butter
Cereals: cream of rice, cream of wheat, puffed rice and wheat, corn-based (brands include Corn Flakes, Corn Pops, Corn Chex, Crispix, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, Honey Bunches, Honeycomb, Just Right, Rice Krispies, Rice Chex, Special K, Alphabits, Reese Puffs, Sugar Crisp, Golden Grahams, Magix, Trix, Cap'n Crunch)Cereals: bran cereals (such as All-Bran, Bran Flakes, Raisin Bran), whole grain cereals (such as Life, Shreddies, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Vive, Vector, Mueslix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch); oat cereals, porridge, instant oatmeal; cereal with dried fruits, raisins or nuts
White pastas, rice noodles, egg noodlesWhole wheat pasta, macaroni and cheese
White riceBrown or wild rice
Couscous, quinoa, soba, hominy, barleyBuckwheat, bulgur, wheat germ
Homemade pancakes, waffles, biscuits, French toast (1 medium)Store-bought biscuit mixes, waffles, pancakes
Flour made from quinoa, soy, corn (cornmeal, masa), chickpeas, barley, brown rice, rye or whole wheat
Cookies, cakes, muffins, donuts or pastries containing whole wheat flour, bran, peanut butter, molasses, nuts, seeds, raisins, cinnamon, caramel or chocolate (brands include Chocolate Twinkie, Swiss Cake Rolls, Wagon Wheels)

Milk and alternatives

Best choicesFoods to avoid
Rice, almond or soy drink, unsweetened and not fortified with calcium (brands include Rice Dream, Almond Breeze, SoNice natural, VitaSoy vanilla delight)Cow's milk (homogenized, 3.2%, 2%, 1% or skim); goat milk; fortified soy or rice drinks
Cream cheese, brie, bocconcini, soft goat cheese, Romano or Parmesan cheese (max 2 tablespoons a day)All other cheeses, including all processed cheese
Rice Dream frozen dessertPudding, custard, flan, rice pudding
Non-dairy whipped topping; whipped or sour cream (max 2 tablespoons a day)Yogurt; frozen yogurt
SherbetIce cream; ice cream bars

Meat and meat alternatives

Best choicesFoods to avoid
Meat and poultry such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, duck, goat, vealOrgan meats such as kidney, liver, heart
Luncheon meats; hot dogsSausages, bologna, luncheon meat packaged with crackers and cheese (such as Lunchables or Lunchmates)
Cod, snapper, haddock, bass, troutFish eggs (fish roe, caviar), smelt, carp, flounder
Shrimp, lobster, squid (calamari), crabClams, oysters, mussels
Canned tuna and salmon, drained, with bones removedCanned salmon or sardines with bones included
Soft tofuFirm tofu
Egg whites (up to three whites a day); egg subsitute (such as Naturegg)Whole eggs
Chestnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans (1/4 cup or about 50 grams)All other nuts; all seeds; trail mix
Peanut butter (up to 1 tablespoon a day)Chocolate/hazelnut spread (such as Nutella)
Peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils (canned or dry); dal; hummus; baked beans; pork and beans


Best choicesFoods to avoid
Light teaStrong coffee or tea
Non-dairy creamers (brands include Coffee Rich or Coffee Mate) Drinks made with milk, buttermilk, coconut milk, chocolate milk, malted milk
PopsiclesSports drinks such as Gatorade
Non-cola soft drinks or pop such as Sprite, ginger ale and root beerCola soft drinks or pop
Beverages made without phosphorus additives (such as some iced teas and Kool-Aid)Chocolate- and malt-based drinks such as hot chocolate, Milo, Horlicks and Ovaltine; coffee substitutes such as Postum and Caflib
Fruit juices*Beer

*Avoid grapefruit juice.


Best choicesFoods to avoid
Hot dogs; plain burgerCheeseburgers; fish sandwiches with cheese; tacos and burritos (all kinds); pizza
Popcorn, corn or tortilla chips, rice cakes, Goldfish, Ritz crackers, pretzelsPotato chips; nuts and seeds; nachos with cheese
Spring rolls with shrimp or vegetablesEgg rolls; falafel
Brownies, cheesecake
Chocolate (chips, bars, candies, drinks, desserts)
Fruit juices*Beer

*Avoid grapefruit juice.

Last updated: November 30th 2017