Phosphorus

What it does:

  • Helps generate energy in every cell of your body.
  • Acts as the main regulator of energy metabolism in your body's organs.
  • Is a major component ofbones and teeth, second only to calcium.
  • Serves as part of DNA and RNA, which are your body's master plan for cell growth and repair.

If you don't get enough: A deficiency is quite rare, except for small, premature babies who consume only breast milk, or for people who take an antacid with aluminum hydroxide for a long time. In those rare cases, the symptoms include bone loss, weakness, loss of appetite, and pain.

If you consume excess amounts: An excess amount may lower the level of calcium in the blood—a problem if calcium intake is low. As a result, bone loss may increase. Besides that, consuming too much phosphorus doesn't appear to be a problem in the United States. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for phosphorus is 4,000 milligrams a day for people ages nine through seventy; after age seventy, it's 3,000 milligrams of phosphorus daily. For pregnancy, the level drops slightly, to 3,500 milligrams of phosphorus daily.

How much you need: The RDA for phosphorus is 1,250 milligrams daily for ages nine through eighteen, then decreases to 700 milligrams daily for adults of all ages. Scientific evidence shows that people need less than previously thought.

Where it's mostly found: Almost all foods contain phosphorus. Protein-rich foods—milk, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs—contain the most. Legumes (dry beans) and nuts are good sources as well. Even bread and other baked foods have some. You'll also find phosphorus in colas and pepper-type soft drinks.

Food Phosphorus (mg)

Perch, cooked (3 oz.) 220 Lean ground beef, cooked (3 oz.) 195

Cheddar cheese (1 oz.) 145

Kidney beans, cooked (V2 cup) 125

Tofu 0/2 cup) 120

Peanut butter (2 tbsp.) 115

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