Phosphorus is a mineral that helps to build strong bones and teeth and helps to release energy from food. Phosphorus is abundant in most diets and deficiencies are highly unlikely. The RNI for adult women and men is 550mg of phosphorus per day.

Too much can be harmful. Taking high doses of phosphorus supplements for a short time can cause diarrhoea or stomach pain. Taking high doses for a long time can reduce the amount of calcium in the body, making bones more prone to fracture.

Phosphoric acid is used as a preservative in a variety of fizzy drinks such as Coca‑Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Dr Pepper. Phosphoric acid contains a small amount of the mineral phosphorus. Research shows that cola drinks may cause bone loss in older women. The phosphoric acid (and sugar) in cola may be to blame, or it may be that cola is drunk in place of healthier calcium-containing drinks such as calcium-fortified soya milk (Tucker et al., 2006). 

Food (100g) Phosphorus (mg)
RNI: 550mg/day
Wholemeal bread, toasted 237
Garlic, raw 170
Broad beans, frozen, boiled 150
Brown rice, boiled  120
Kidney beans, canned 130
Red lentils, boiled 100
Apricots, ready-to-eat 82
Chickpeas, canned 81
Parsnip, boiled 76
Broccoli, boiled 57
Asparagus, boiled 50
Blackcurrants 43
Green or brown lentils, dried, boiled 40
Avocado 39

Table 8.0 The phosphorus content of selected foods.

Source: FSA, 2002

Table 8.0 shows that a wide range of wholegrain foods, pulses, vegetables and fruits (especially dried fruits) contain phosphorus. You can get all the phosphorus you need from a varied plant-based diet that does not include meat.