How Does the Element Phosphorus Help People?

Phosphorus keeps your bones strong.
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Phosphorus is vital to your health. This mineral helps keep your skeleton strong and plays several roles in everyday functions. Phosphorus is a type of macromineral, meaning you need large amounts each day. Because phosphorus is readily available in many foods, you're probably getting all that you need to meet your recommendation.

Bone Health

Phosphorus -- second only to calcium -- makes up a significant structural component of your bones. The majority of phosphorus in your body, roughly 85 percent, supports strong bones and teeth, the Linus Pauling Institute explains. Poor phosphorus intakes lead to soft bones, a condition known as osteomalacia, as well as severe bone and joint pain. Another role of phosphorus is helping your body absorb and utilize vitamin D, which in turn, allows your body to absorb calcium for optimal bone strength.

Cell and Tissue Repair

The remaining 15 percent of phosphorus in your system supports biological functions. Phosphorus helps make new cells and repair existing cell walls in addition to building and fixing tissues throughout your body. One function of phosphorus is making nucleic acids, or DNA and RNA, found in the mitochondria of all cells. Nucleic acids store and transmit genetic information to and from your brain. Adequate phosphorus intake is important for building muscle tissue, which is an especially important function after an intense weight-bearing workout. Phosphorus reduces muscle pain and can prevent muscle weakness when you meet your recommended amount.


Phosphorus helps your digestive system work properly. It allows your kidneys to filter out excessive toxins and waste through urine. Phosphorus also plays a role in digestion by activating enzymes that pull energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat from the foods you eat. Your system uses the energy it needs right away and then stores the rest for later use with the help of phosphorus.


Adults, both men and women, over age 19 need 700 milligrams of phosphorus each day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. In women, your recommendation stays the same, even if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Virtually all foods of plant or animal origin have phosphorus, since it is essential for living organisms.

Food Sources

You can get about half of your daily recommendation from 1 cup of yogurt, or around one-third of your needs from 8 ounces of milk. Three ounces of halibut or salmon each provide approximately 250 milligrams of phosphorus, while the same serving size of beef or turkey each have nearly 175 milligrams. Nuts, legumes, whole grains and enriched breads are also rich in phosphorus.

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