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Hidden Phosphorus in Meats

Surprise! Some meats have phosphorus added.

Studies show that, for people on dialysis like you, it is important  to eat more protein than other people typically need in order to repair and build body muscle and tissues. To ensure you are getting enough protein, your dietitian may tell you to eat fresh meat, poultry, fish and eggs. In addition to protein, these foods contain nutrients including phosphorus. Too much phosphorus can cause damage to your heart and bones, which is why your dialysis team reminds you to take phosphorus binding medication when you eat meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as well as with other foods that contain phosphorus.

What is “hidden phosphorus”?

These days, food companies may be putting phosphorus into meats in order to make them more tender and flavorful, have a longer shelf life, and keep the color longer. This adds to the amount of phosphorus you eat and can lead to phosphorus levels above the target range. High phosphorus levels in your body can weaken your bones and your heart.

Can I find this information on the food label?

Food companies do not need to list the phosphorus on the ingredient label or the “Nutrition Facts” food label. There may be NO CLUES. Look for the following terms printed on package labeling, which can be an indication of added phosphorus:

  • “This product enhanced with up to a 10% solution containing water salt, and sodium phosphate
  • “Ice Glazed”
  • “In a natural broth solution”
  • A form of “phosphate” or “phosphorus” in the ingredient label
What can I do to have my phosphorus in my target range?

For Strong Bones and a Healthy Heart:

  • Eat high protein foods! Foods usually free from additives: whole eggs, fresh fish, fresh whole chicken and chicken parts with the bone in.
  • Talk with the person at the meat counter when you are buying meat or poultry. He or she may be able to help you make additive-free choices. Your dietitian may be able to suggest the best local places to buy fresh meats.

Remember to follow the basics:

  • Take your phosphorus binding medication as you have been told by your doctor and dietitian. This medication binds much of the phosphorus you eat before it can go to your blood. Talk with your dietitian about the medication you are prescribed and any questions you have about taking it.
  • Complete every dialysis treatment as prescribed by your doctor. Dialysis helps to remove some phosphorus.
  • Limit or avoid high phosphorus foods other than meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
Jessica Seymour is a registered dietitian with Fresenius Medical Care Kinston and Fresenius Medical Care Vernon, which are both located in Kinston, NC

More Resources

  • Phosphorus Resources

    Phosphorus - It Adds Up!

    Learn about hidden phosphorus in meats in this article from a renal dietitian.

    View PDF

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