Phosphate Additives and the Kidney Diet

Phosphorus is a mineral needed to maintain healthy bones. Functioning kidneys remove extra phosphorus from your blood and prevent high levels of phosphorus that could cause damage to your body.  If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), your kidneys may not properly remove phosphorus from your blood. Monitoring the amount of phosphorus in your diet is an important part of managing CKD.  

Phosphate Additives vs. Organic Phosphorus

Inorganic phosphorus, or phosphate additives, is used by the food industry to extend the shelf life of food, to make foods creamier and easier to melt, and to keep powders from clumping. Common foods with phosphate additives include fast food, canned or bottled drinks, spreadable cheeses and processed foods.

Phosphate additives are more easily absorbed than phosphorus from organic sources, where phosphorus is found naturally (e.g., unprocessed meats, nuts and beans). Usually about 40-60 percent of the phosphorus in organic food is absorbed by your body, whereas up to 100 percent of the phosphorus in additives is absorbed by your body.1

High phosphorus levels in your blood can lead to:

  • Itching, red eyes2
  • Calcium-phosphorus deposits in the heart, skin, lungs, blood vessels and other organs2
  • Bone disease2
  • Increased risk of death2

Knowing the amount of phosphorus you're consuming and the source it's coming from may help you monitor a low-phosphorus diet.

Read Your Food Labels

Check your food labels for these most common phosphate additives:

  • Phosphoric Acid                            
  • Pyrophosphates
  • Polyphosphates
  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Sodium phosphate

Phosphorus By the Numbers

The typical daily target for a low-phosphorus kidney diet is 800 mg to 1,000 mg of phosphorus.1 Check the Nutrition Facts on your food labels to get an idea of how much phosphorus you're consuming for your day.

  • Less than 5% Daily Value = 0-50 mg phosphorus = Enjoy2
  • 5-15% Daily Value = 51-150 mg phosphorus = Limit2
  • Greater that 15% Daily Value = 150 mg phosphorus = Avoid2

Talk to Your Dietitian

To learn more about managing your phosphorus levels and kidney disease, consult your dietitian and kidney care team. Find kidney-friendly, low-phosphorus recipes at

1.Understanding Sources of Dietary Phosphorus in the Treatment of Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease by Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, Lisa Gutekunst, Rajnish Mehrotra, Csaba P. Kovesdy, Rachelle Bross, Christian S. Shinaberger, Nazanin Noori, Raimund Hirschberg, Debbie Benner, Allen R. Nissenson, Joel D. Kopple. CJASN March 2010 vol. 5 no. 3 519-530.

2.Organic and Inorganic Dietary Phosphorus and Its Management in Chronic Kidney Disease by Nazanin Noori,1,2 John J Sims,3 Joel D Kopple,1,2,4 Anuja Shah,1,2 Sara Colman, 5 Christian S Shinaberger,1,4 Rachelle Bross,1,2 Rajnish Mehrotra,1,2 Csaba P Kovesdy,6,7 Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.