What about phosphorus?

The past few weeks have been very busy ones for me.  I have been working on a new project about hidden phosphates in foods. Healthy kidneys help regulate the amount of phosphorus in your blood, and if you have impaired kidney function your healthcare team may recommend you limit your phosphate intake. High phosphorus levels in the blood can lead to bone and cardiovascular problems in kidney patients.

Almost all foods contain some phosphorus so it is impossible to eliminate it altogether but your dietitian will likely recommend you limit milk, whole grains, lentils, nuts, seeds, chocolates and foods with phosphate additives.

Phosphate additives are added to foods for many reasons including as a leavening agent, a preservative, and a flavour enhancer.  The phosphates from food additives are especially dangerous since our bodies absorb them much more efficiently than the phosphates that occur naturally in things like milk, lentils and whole grains.

Unfortunately there is no easy list of foods containing phosphate additives so you have to read the labels.  Look for words that say “phosphate” or “phosphoric” such as sodium phosphate, sodium tripolyphosphate, or phosphoric acid.

Typically you will find phosphates added to:

  • Processed cheeses, spreadable cheeses or slices
  • Colas
  • “Seasoned” meats, poultry and seafood including most processed and deli meats.  Read labels carefully since these meats may appear in your fresh meat counters at local grocery stores.
  • Bakery products such as biscuits, muffins and snack cakes

If you have or are at risk for kidney disease I recommend you avoid or cut back on these processed foods

Label reading is the key – I spend a lot of time at the grocery store reading food labels – maybe too much. Recently my 7 year old daughter Lily came home from school and told me that her teacher had brought in a treat (processed cheese spread and crackers).  Lily advised her that this was not a healthy food because it is high in sodium and phosphates.  When I asked my daughter how her teacher responded she said she just shook her head and told her to go back to her desk.  I was pretty proud of my health conscious seven year old until she announced that this kind of cheese is “wonderful”!

Choose unprocessed or homemade foods more often! Try these low-phosphorus tea biscuits:

Buttermilk Biscuits
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Mix dry ingredients together.  Cut in butter until pea-sized.  Add buttermilk to bring dough together.   Roll dough out and cut into biscuits. Bake at 350F for approximately 10 minutes or golden.

Recipe Developed by Chef Leslie Cairns.

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