Phosphorus – the new “f-word”?

Recently we had a “take your children to work” day at the hospital. The daughter of my manager came in and spent time learning about some of the professionals who work in a dialysis unit, including the dietitian. Her mom came in the next day and told me how, over dinner, her daughter had told the family all about the renal diet – potassium, sodium, protein and the other one – “the f word”. I have to admit this made me laugh out loud because I spend a lot of my time talking about phosphorus and the importance of limiting it in the renal diet.

I actually think the new “f-word” should be fast food. A recent study in the US looking at patients with chronic kidney disease found that those who had the lowest income had the highest phosphorus. The authors believe this has to do with the intake of convenience and fast foods and the amount of phosphorus in them. Most fast food restaurants do not provide the phosphorus content of their products but will give you a detailed ingredients list of their products.

I thought it would be useful to use this information to be able to provide my patients with lists of foods that did NOT have phosphate additives in our local fast food restaurants however the list was so short it was almost comical! One very popular fast food restaurant even puts phosphate in their French fries. Almost every chicken product I looked up had additives. Surprisingly in most cases, a burger (without cheese) proved to be the safest bet.

The best choice is always to choose fresh and unprocessed foods but if you’re in a pinch and must eat “fast food” try to familiarize yourself with the nutrition info first! While there might not always be a good choice, there is usually a better choice!

For a fast and easy side dish try this pasta recipe. It’s an excellent low potassium alternative to pasta with tomato sauce and can be served with chicken, pork or beef. Try it with grilled chicken breast!

Pasta Alio e Olio (serves 4)
1 lb spaghetti / linguini
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
cracked black pepper
1 tsp dry chili flakes
1 green onion
1/2 cup fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil etc)

Cook pasta according to directions. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté garlic, chili flakes, and onion in olive oil for one minute. Add cooked pasta and fresh herbs. Toss together and serve immediately.

Recipe developed by Chef Leslie Cairns

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