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Foods That Contain Phosphates

author image Michelle Kerns
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.
Foods That Contain Phosphates
A close-up of sunflower seeds in the shell. Photo Credit shane030716/iStock/Getty Images

Your body needs phosphates -- compounds that contain the mineral phosphorus -- to build strong bones and teeth, to help synthesize DNA and RNA and to keep the kidneys functioning properly. Healthy adults should have approximately 700 milligrams of phosphorus each day. However, if you consume too many phosphates -- especially as an additive in processed foods -- you may increase your risk of heart disease and exacerbate kidney disease symptoms. It's best to obtain your phosphorus from a balanced diet that includes a variety of naturally phosphate-rich foods.

Pick Fresh Over Processed Meats

Fresh fish, lean beef and poultry are good natural sources of phosphorus. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon has 252 milligrams of phosphorus, supplying an adult with 36 percent of his recommended daily allowance. Cooked chicken has 155 milligrams -- 22 percent of an adult's RDA -- in a 3-ounce serving. Only 40 to 60 percent of the phosphorus in these meats can be absorbed in your digestive tract. Phosphates added to processed items like ham and lunch meat to enhance their color and prevent spoilage are easily absorbed and can quickly elevate your blood phosphates to unhealthy levels.

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Skip the Cola and Punch

Cola drinks, carbonated soft drinks, commercial brands of iced tea and flavored water, bottled coffee beverages and fruit punch or fruit-flavored drinks typically contain phosphate additives to improve their flavor and texture and to prevent the drinks' components from separating. A 12-ounce serving of carbonated cola contains 41 milligrams of added phosphates, most of which are directly absorbed by your body. To avoid these sources of phosphates, check the ingredient label for phosphoric acid, monocalcium phosphate or tricalcium phosphate; choose unsweetened, unprocessed beverages more often.

Choose Natural Snacks

Commercial baked goods like cookies and cakes aren't only high in unhealthy trans fats, they tend to contain large amounts of phosphate additives. Instead of these snacks, reach for heart-healthy seeds and nuts. A 1-ounce serving of toasted, unsalted sunflower seed kernels has 328 milligrams of phosphorus, or nearly 47 percent of an adult's RDA. Pumpkin seeds, almonds and peanuts are also rich in phosphorus. In these plant-based foods, the phosphorus is bound in a form known as phytate, reducing the amount humans can absorb.

Fill Up on Dairy

A 1-cup serving of plain, nonfat yogurt contains 385 milligrams of phosphates, which supplies 55 percent of an adult's required intake per day. Each cup of nonfat milk has 247 milligrams of phosphorus, while part-skim mozzarella contains 131 milligrams per ounce and Swiss cheese provides 161 milligrams in every ounce. As long as you avoid additive-enhanced dairy products like flavored yogurt or coffee drinks, the dairy you consume can help you get the phosphorus your body needs without pushing you over the recommended limit.

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