Why is phosphorus important for our bodies?

Nutrition Blog

Did you know that we need a mineral in our body that can glow in the dark? Yes, phosphorus is an important mineral that is needed by our bodies. It is found in high amounts in our skeleton and teeth, but is also present in most other cells in our body. It also acts as a buffer to keep our body’s pH constant. Phosphorus is essential for us to be healthy and alive. It forms part of the structure called adenotriphosphate, which is the form in which our bodies use energy – the proverbial petrol that runs our organic body’s engine. Without phosphorus, we won’t have any power and will eventually die.

Phosphorous in food

In foods, phosphorus forms a compound with oxygen and is known as phosphate. So, unfortunately, we can’t glow in the dark if we eat foods rich in phosphate, but we will have stronger bones and lots of energy – which does make us all superheroes in a way!

In order for phosphate to make healthy bones, we also need calcium and vitamin D. A good source of both calcium and phosphate is milk products. Phosphorous is also found in cereals, meat, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish, fruits and vegetables. So if you follow a balanced diet, your risk of developing a phosphate deficiency is quite low. Deficiencies usually only occur among alcoholics, or people with diabetes or liver disease.

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Who is at risk for phosphate overload?

On the other end of the spectrum, people who have problems with their kidneys may develop a phosphate overload and are given calcium carbonate to bind it in the body so that it can be excreted safely. They should avoid fizzy cola drinks, beer, and milk products, which are especially high in phosphate and should be careful of taking multivitamin-mineral supplements or any other medication without talking to their doctor or nutritionist first. However, it is still important for them to consume other food sources of phosphorous every day, because without it their bodies won’t function.

Drinking too much fizzy cool drinks high in phosphoric acid can also make your bones brittle, cause cavities in your teeth, and increase your risk for osteoporosis as you get older. Children should also avoid drinking fizzy cool drinks, since it impairs the development of their skeleton and teeth. Milk or other dairy products are always a better choice, especially among those of us who are already suffering from osteoporosis or low bone mineral density.

How can I increase my phosphorous intake?

If you are following an unbalanced diet, taking a multivitamin-mineral supplement may be prudent. Look for an adult supplement that contains approximately 550-775 mg phosphate and 700 to 100 mg of calcium. This is equivalent to about two glasses of milk a day or two small containers of yoghurt.

There are also lactose-free dairy products on the market for lactose intolerant individuals. Those of us who are allergic to cow’s milk can opt for soy yoghurt or milk. If you are taking calcium supplements on their own, always take them with fruit juice, since coffee, tea or cola drinks will hamper the absorption.

So, next time you see something glow in the dark, ask yourself if you remembered to have enough phosphorus that day. Go on, take that drink of milk!

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