You are currently viewing Phosphates: what they are, what foods are they in and why we should moderate their consumption

Phosphates, like many other nutrients, are necessary for the proper functioning of our body. Phosphates in particular are basically made up of phosphorus, an essential element that, among other functions, is part of DNA and helps with the distribution of energy.

The problem with phosphates is that they are used by the food industry as an additive in many processed products., which can raise consumption well above what is necessary and become a harmful substance for our body.

What are phosphates and in what foods are they found?

Phosphates are particles that contain phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium. Phosphorus is essential for the proper functioning of our body, as it is necessary to maintain good bone health, prevent some gastrointestinal problems, filter waste, maintain memory and concentration, to store and distribute energy and even to ensure the structure of DNA.

To get the phosphates we need, it is enough to eat a balanced diet, with foods that contain it, such as legumes, nuts, dairy products, some vegetables such as mushrooms and artichokes, meat, fish, etc. With a balanced diet, it is enough to get the 700 milligrams that our body needs per day to function properly.

But the problem with phosphates is that they are not only present in a balanced diet, but it is a common additive in the food industry, which we find, for example, in processed meats, pastries, prepared cereals or soft drinks. These artificial phosphates are used mainly as binder, preservative, flavoring, to prevent meats from losing water, etc. If we consume these foods on a regular basis, the amount of phosphates that we introduce into our body multiply the amount we need several times.

In fact, the average phosphate consumption in the West is estimated to be around 3-4 grams. This prolonged consumption can cause several long-term health problems.

What are the consequences of consuming it in excess?

If we consume too much phosphates in products prepared by the industry, our health can suffer for several reasons. The first of them is that, in addition to the artificial phosphates they are included in a greater quantity than we need, these phosphates are simpler and are better absorbed. Thus, while only between 40 and 60% of the phosphorus in natural foods is absorbed correctly, artificial phosphates do so in 90%. This causes it to accumulate in our body.

The negative consequences of this excess of phosphates in our body there can be several:

Refrigerated food in a supermarket fridge.

• Increased blood pressure

• A higher probability of suffering renal disease, whose prevalence has not stopped increasing in Spain in recent years. Much of this increase is attributed to excess consumption of processed foods. Older people and those who already suffer from some type of kidney disease are more vulnerable to excess phosphates.

• More possibilities of heart disease.

• An increased risk of overweight.

• Acceleration of aging process.

• It makes us more sedentary. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas and the American Heart Association and published in the scientific journal Circulation ensures that an excess of phosphates takes away the desire to exercise, with all the health problems that lead a sedentary life entails.

What can we do to avoid them?

In principle, the processed foods we eat are safe in terms of the amount of phosphates they contain, so, once again, the problem is in excess. Processed foods that contain artificial phosphates (sugary drinks, processed meats, prepared cereals, pastries, kebab meat …) are, in themselves, unhealthy, therefore, To preserve our health, it is better to avoid them, regardless of the amount of phosphates they contain. In addition, 85% of, for example, precooked products use some form of phosphates.

Having said that, If we want to make sure that the processed foods we buy do not contain them -or they do so in small quantities-, we must look at the labeling and look for the additive substances that are phosphates, which are many and varied. Some of them are polyphosphates (E452), orthophosphoric acid (E338), sodium or potassium tripolyphosphate, hexametaphosphate or pyrophosphate, among others.

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