High levels of uric acid can cause gout, a painful form of arthritis. The accumulation of uric acid in the blood creates crystals around a small joint. Uric acid is the final metabolite of purine metabolism. In other words, uric acid is produced when your body processed purine. Therefore, purine content in foods plays an important role in managing gout. In general, a low-purine diet is recommended for people with gout. However, purine is not the only component of the diet that may cause a gout attack!
The Basics of a Gout Diet
- Limit alcohol: Alcohol, especially beer, should be avoided during a gout attack, as it interferes with the clearing of uric acid from your body. When you are not having an attack, limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink three times a week.
- Avoid foods with high purine content (containing 150 to 1000 mg purine per 100 grams of food):
- Fish roe, like caviar and tobiko from Japanese restaurants
- Other small fish processed and concentrated, such as Asian fish sauce
- Beef kidneys
- Meat-based soup broth
- Meat extracts (e.g Oxo, Bovril)
- Game meats
- Yeast extracts
- Be mindful of foods with moderate purine content (50 to 150 mg purine per 100 grams of food):
- Most animal meat contains purine. Therefore, limit your intake of beef, pork, poultry, seafood, and fish to no more than 6 ounces a day.
- Some vegetables also contain purine, such as asparagus, avocado, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms and green peas. Watch your portions.
- Lentils, dried peas, and beans including soy beans
- Oatmeal, wheat bran, and wheat germ
Within this category, plant-based foods in general have lower purine than animal foods. For instance, a pork chop contains 145 mg of purine, while tofu contains 68 mg. Therefore, replacing animal protein with plant-based protein is generally a safer option.
- Avoid drinks with high fructose corn syrup: HFCS not only packs pounds on your body – it may also stimulate your body to produce more uric acid. A 2010 study actually found that women who drink beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup daily have a higher risk of developing gout than those who only drink it occasionally. Common foods containing high fructose corn syrup include cola, bread, salad dressing, and some ice creams.
- Drink 2 to 3 L of fluid daily: Adequate fluid intake helps dilute urinary uric acid.
Unfortunately, no dietary supplements are proven effective to prevent or alleviate the onset of acute gout attacks. The most effective treatment for gout attack is medication.
Foods that May Help Prevent Gout Onset
- Low-fat dairy: Dairy products are not only safe protein sources for people with gout – they may actually help prevent gout onset. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Mar 11, 2004 revealed that high intake of low-fat dairy products indeed reduces the risk of gout by 50%. It is unknown why low-fat dairy products offer a protective effect.
- Tart cherries: Dietitian Leslie Bonci revealed that tart cherries can lower uric acid levels. Anthocyanins, a type of antioxidants found in tart cherries, are anti-inflammatory, which is good news for people with gout. So include some dried or frozen tart cherries in your diet.
The Bottom Line
In addition to avoiding high-purine foods, maintaining a healthy body weight is important for gout patients. Obesity can cause increased uric acid production by the body. Follow a well-balanced diet to lose excess body weight; do not follow a high-protein, low-carb weight loss diet, as this can worsen gout conditions.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.