When the body breaks down purine, a chemical naturally found in the body and certain foods, it produces uric acid. This substance is relatively harmless and gets removed from the body together with urine.
The problem is that, sometimes, the body has trouble getting rid of uric acid. This leads to a buildup of uric acid in the blood, eventually resulting in the formation of crystals around joints.
This condition is called gout.
Usually occurring in the fingers and toes, as well as the wrists and knees, gout causes pain and inflammation in the affected body parts.
The primary treatment for gout is medication, specifically those formulated to deal with the symptoms and complications. Meanwhile, to avoid frequent flare-ups, doctors often prescribe a low-purine diet. Again, uric acid is formed when purine is broken down in the body; simply put, you’ll get fewer gout attacks if you consume less purine.
Here are some foods that you need to eat more of, as well as some foods you want to avoid, if you have gout:
Eat These Foods
There are plenty of low-purine foods that you can enjoy. These include the following:
Fruits and Vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables have little to no purine content. There are some vegetables that are high in purine like spinach and asparagus, but these haven’t been proven to affect or worsen gout symptoms. What’s more, avoiding these vegetables means you’re missing out on a lot of nutrients. If you’re really worried, then consume spinach and asparagus in moderation.
If you love cereal in the morning, then you’re in luck because most grains are gout-friendly. The only thing you need to avoid is oats. In addition, bread, pasta, and rice are also low in purine. For health reasons, choose whole grains as much as possible and avoid products sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Milk and Eggs
While it still needs further study, some initial research has revealed that skim milk can help the body get rid of uric acid. Another benefit of milk for patients with gout is that it reduces the effects of uric acid crystals in the joints. Specifically, it minimizes inflammatory response.
Meanwhile, eggs are naturally low in purine and also rich in protein. As such, they’re a great alternative for red meat and certain seafood, which most doctors will recommend staying away from if you have gout.
Aside from being low in purine, coffee also has another benefit for those with gout: it slows the body’s breakdown of purine, which means there’s less uric acid escaping into the blood. In addition, coffee is a diuretic that helps you get rid of uric acid via urine much faster.
Other foods you can eat without too much worry include legumes (e.g., beans, tofu), nuts, as well as plant-based oils like coconut, canola, and olive. Researchers are also looking into cherry, specifically its potential for managing gout thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Avoid These Foods
The bottomline of a gout diet is to avoid high-purine foods as much as possible. Some are perfectly fine to eat on occasion and in moderation (such as meat); for the most part, however, it’s better to avoid them to avoid flare-ups.
Some of the most notorious gout triggers include the following:
Sugary Beverages and Treats
Fructose—which is used to sweeten different types of beverages, snacks, and candies—breaks down into uric acid. Be especially wary of high-fructose corn syrup, which may crop up in the most unexpected places. Make sure to check the labels of prepackaged food to make sure you don’t accidentally eat something with this sweetener and preservative.
If red meats like beef, lamb, and pork are high in purine, then organ meats are even more so. Avoid liver, kidneys, tripe, and the like to avoid gout attacks.
While turkey is lean meat, it still has a high purine content. Avoid it as much as you can; if you must eat meat, consider chicken instead. Do note that chicken is moderately high in purine, so make sure to eat it in moderation.
If you have gout and beer is your alcoholic drink of choice, it’s best to find another option because beer is high in purine. In particular, brewer’s yeast has high purine content. Not all alcoholic drinks are high in purines, however, so you may enjoy a drink or two every so often.
That said, alcohol prevents your kidneys from getting rid of uric acid so the crystals also accumulate faster. As such, it’s best to keep in mind the reminder in many alcoholic beverage advertisements: drink moderately and responsibly.
You also need to avoid some types of seafood like mussels, scallops, and tuna. All of these have high purine content. In addition, because plenty of meats are high in purine, you should make it a point to minimize or eliminate gravy and various meat sauces from your diet.
With proper knowledge and preparation, you’ll be able to enjoy eating without worrying whether you’ll experience a gout flare-up or not.