A gout diet may help decrease uric acid levels in the blood. A gout diet isn’t a cure. But it may lower the risk of recurring gout attacks and slow the progression of joint damage.
Gout is a type of arthritis that is associated with elevated levels of uric acid in the blood. High levels of uric acid can cause crystals to form in the joints, causing pain and swelling. Uric acid is a normal waste product formed from the breakdown of food, particularly compounds called purines. It is believed that lowering uric acid levels through small changes in your gout diet may help reduce the chance of future gout attacks.
Fortunately, gout can be controlled with medications, a gout-friendly diet and lifestyle changes.
People with gout who follow a gout diet generally still need medication to manage pain and to lower levels of uric acid.
No specific eating plan will completely prevent flare-ups, but a good gout diet will help you:
Reach a healthy weight
Set and stick to good eating habits
Limit foods with purines
Add foods that can help control uric acid levels
What you eat is a crucial part of gout treatment. That’s because some foods, such as meats in general, alcoholic drinks and seafood, are rich in purines, which can cause uric acid to build up in the body, making gout worse. Along side that, there are some foods that may help with treatment, specially those with diuretic proprieties, such as fruits and vegetables.
Gout, also called gouty arthritis, is a disease that happens due to an alteration in purine metabolism, which results in an increase of uric acid levels in the blood and leads to the formation of crystals that destroy the tissues in the joints, causing arthritis. These crystals usually accumulate in regions like the toes, ankles, and knees, causing inflammation and pain.
How Does Diet Affect Gout?
If you have gout, certain foods may trigger an attack by raising your uric acid levels.
Trigger foods are commonly high in purines, a substance found naturally in foods. When you digest purines, your body makes uric acid as a waste product.
This is not a concern for healthy people, as they efficiently remove excess uric acid from the body.
However, people with gout can’t efficiently remove excess uric acid. Thus, a high-purine diet may let uric acid accumulate and cause a gout attack.
Fortunately, research shows that restricting high-purine foods and taking the appropriate medication can prevent gout attacks.
Foods that commonly trigger gout attacks include organ meats, red meats, seafood, alcohol and beer. They contain a moderate-to-high amount of purines.
However, there is one exception to this rule. Research shows that high-purine vegetables do not trigger gout attacks (13).
And interestingly, fructose and sugar-sweetened beverages can increase the risk of gout and gout attacks, even though they’re not purine-rich.
Instead, they may raise uric acid levels by accelerating several cellular processes
For instance, a study including over 125,000 participants found that people who consumed the most fructose had a 62% higher risk of developing gout.
On the other hand, research shows that low-fat dairy products, soy products and vitamin C supplements may help prevent gout attacks by reducing blood uric acid levels.
Full-fat and high-fat dairy products don’t seem to affect uric acid levels.
Gout Diet: What Foods Are Allowed & What To Avoid
Best Foods for a Gout Diet
You’ll want to go for low-purine options like:
- Low-fat and nondairy fat products, such as yogurt and skim milk
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, peanut butter, and grains
- Fat and oil
- Potatoes, rice, bread, and pasta
- Eggs (in moderation)
- Meats like fish, chicken, and red meat are fine in moderation (around 4 to 6 ounces per day).
- Vegetables: You may see veggies like spinach and asparagus on the high-purine list, but studies show they don’t raise your risk of gout or gout attacks.
Gout is a chronic, or long term, condition. Developing lifelong healthful eating habits can help a person manage their symptoms.
A healthful gout diet for people with gout should include all the food groups.
Foods that can help reduce uric acid levels include:
- low fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese
- plant oils, such as olive oil or avocado
- pulses, including beans, peas, and lentils
- all vegetables, including mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach
- fruits, especially those with high fiber and low sugar content, such as berries and citrus
- whole grains
- lean meat, such as chicken
Overall, a plant based diet is more likely to be beneficial than a high fat diet with a focus on meat to help stabilize uric acid levels.
It can also help boost heart health due to the increased consumption of fiber, fruit, vegetable, and monounsaturated fats. This is important, as studies have shownthat people with gout may also have a higher risk of developing heart problems.
A systematic review, published in 2016, found evidence that coffee may reduce the risk of a gout flareup.
A doctor may also recommend vitamin C supplements of 500–1,000 milligrams (mg) a day.
Vitamin C supplements are available for purchase online. However, people should not take supplements unless their doctor advises them to do so.
Eat Plenty of Fruits
As plant-based foods, fruits are healthy for your body. You should aim to eat at least five fruits and vegetables every day. Even fruits that are high in fructose can be enjoyed in moderation without provoking gout flares. Although some studies have shown that fruit juice can provoke gout attacks, this has not been supported by all research.
Foods to Avoid if You Have Gout
Skip foods and drinks that are high in purines to help lower your chances of an attack.
You should stay away from these types of food:
- Beer and grain liquors (like vodka and whiskey)
- Red meat, lamb, and pork
- Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, and glandular meats like the thymus or pancreas (you may hear them called sweetbreads)
- Seafood, especially shellfish like shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies, and sardines
- High-fructose products like soda and some juices, cereal, ice cream, candy, and fast food
In 2004, researchers found that some purines, which are present in animal and plant foods, may worsen the symptoms of gout because the body converts them into uric acid.
The study indicates that consuming animal based foods that are high in purines might increase the risk of developing gout.
However, eating plant based foods that contain purines does not appear to have the same effect. The researchers add that consuming dairy products may reduce the chances of developing gout.
The following foods contain purines. People with gout should significantly limit or avoid them.
red meat and organ meat, such as liver or kidneys, which are high in saturated fat
seafood, such as lobster, shrimp, sardines, anchovies, tuna, trout, mackerel, and haddock
sugary drinks and foods that are high in fructose
processed foods and refined carbohydrates
alcohol, especially beer and hard liquor
Some people fast to relieve gout. However, the Arthritis Foundation note that fasting may trigger symptoms of gout if a fasting person becomes dehydrated. People with gout should take special precautions when fasting to maintain they drink enough fluids.
A 2014 study compared people who fasted and those who did not fast during Ramadan, which restricts food and fluid during daylight hours. The study did not find that people who fasted experienced more episodes of gout or higher uric acid levels than non-fasting participants.
Avoid Sweets and Sodas
Unlike fruit with its natural sugar, artificial sugars are widely recognized as gout flare dangers. Consuming too many sugary sodas has been found to provoke attacks, but no association has been found with artificially sweetened sodas. Other foods loaded with high-fructose corn syrup can also bring on gout pain.
Avoid Some Fish
Some fish are considered high-purine foods. In particular, large saltwater fish like tuna, swordfish, and marlin may have enough purines to provoke gout flares. However, the omega-3 content found in many fish has been found to potentially relieve the effects of fish purine. The dosage may be more than found naturally, and may require quality fish oil supplements.
What Can You Drink if You Have Gout?
Foods aren’t the only thing that can affect uric acid. What you drink matters, too.
It’s a good idea to drink lots of fluids — 8 to 16 cups a day. At least half of what you drink should be water. Vitamin C (think orange juice) also can help lower uric acid, but studies also show that the high fructose in OJ may boost uric acid levels, so drink it in moderation. Caffeinated coffee can cut uric acid, too, as long as you don’t overdo it.
Stay away from sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice. You also may need to limit or avoid alcohol as well. Talk with your doctor to find out what’s right for you.
While a healthy gout diet can help control how much uric acid is in your system, you may still need medicine to prevent future attacks. Talk with your doctor about all your treatment options.