Phosphorus and Why You Should Care

Nearly every food contains some phosphorus. Fascinating to a geo chemist, maybe, but not to the average Joe or Josephine. But did you know generally foods high in protein are also high in phosphorus? Hmmm. Still not igniting an interest?

Ok. How about this? Those two bean shaped organs you carry around on your back side - your kidneys - help regulate the level of phosphorus in your blood by removing extra phosphorus among other things. And, if you are like most people, that is a lot of extra filtering and work because most of us consume too much phosphorus because of our food choices. Kidneys that are working too hard can lead to undesirable consequences. So on behalf of your kidneys, maybe you should rethink your phosphorus levels or at the very least, give those kidneys a boost.

Phosphorus's Good Points

Don't misunderstand, phosphorus is a good guy. It does all this:

  • Plays an essential role in how the body stores and uses energy
  • Reduces muscle pain after a grueling workout
  • Helps with growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and production of the genetic building blocks, DNA and RNA
  • Balances the bodies use of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium, and zinc

But, most people get plenty of phosphorus in their diets - usually too much - primarily because of a high protein intake.

Waste Not, Want Not

A high protein diet that may increase your phosphorus levels could be making your kidneys overworked.  If too much protein is consumed, the kidneys get overloaded with waste resulting in high blood pressure, joint problems, and fluid retention.  All ugly.  On the other hand, keeping your protein levels lower helps limit the amount of waste that builds up in your blood, keeping the workload down on your kidneys. Much better.

Further, if your kidneys aren't working properly or getting overloaded, the resulting high phosphorus levels in your blood also leads to calcium decreases, which can lead to bone disease or kidney stones.  Not to mention, other issues like potential cardiovascular disease.  Bad news.

Don't Get Stoned

Those who consume diets with high protein and therefore may have low calcium are also susceptible to kidney stones.  Ouch!  Here is where that phosphorus plays a role again.  The high protein intake can cause excess phosphorous in our system, which leads to lower calcium.  It all loops back.

However, most likely, the leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water. Stones are commonly found in those that drink less than the recommended eight to ten glasses of water a day. When there is not enough water to dilute the uric acid in our bodies, the pH level within the kidneys drops and becomes more acidic. An excessively acidic environment in the kidneys causes those nasty and painful stones to form.

Kidney Support

The caveman or paleo diets are popular and many feel great on them, but they endorse high protein intake. Perhaps it would be a good idea then if you follow that diet plan to also choose some foods that keep those hard working kidneys in tip top shape.  There are plenty of foods that can do just that and support and strengthen your kidneys.  Throw some of these vegetables in your smoothie a few times a week, roast some of these root vegetables for dinner and toss a few of these in your salads often:

  • Celery
  • Parsley
  • Arugula
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Squash
  • Parsnips
  • Rutabaga
  • Artichokes

And these detoxifying vegetables that are so good for everything lend a supportive role to your kidneys too:

  • Bok choy
  • Watercress
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Horse radish
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Bitter greens like dandelion, chickweed, chicory and escarole

And, don't forget these foods as well:

  • Black sesame seeds - These are beautiful sprinkled on everything.
  • Egg whites - These are a complete protein but contain less phosphorous than other protein rich foods.  Click on the link here to know why you should keep the eggs pastured, if you can.  
  • Water and lots of it

Get Bored

Here is a great Kidney Pinterest boarwith loads of information and links on kidney health.  Lots of recipes can be found there, too.

photo credit: <a href="">Darren Cullen</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>