Certain foods, such as meats and shellfish (e.g. oysters and shrimp), have a higher purine content than others. Since consuming purines leads to the production of uric acid that can lead to gout, people who are prone to gout should maintain a low purine diet.
A low purine diet adheres to these guidelines:
Limit meat and seafood consumption. Experts recommend that people with gout limit purine intake by eating no more than 4 to 6 ounces of meat, poultry or seafood per day. Plant-based proteins (e.g. nuts and legumes) should be incorporated into meal planning and high-protein diets should be avoided.
Consume low-fat dairy products. People who consume low-fat dairy products such as skim milk and yogurt can decrease their levels of uric acid and thereby decrease their risk of gout attacks.15 Experts recommend 16 to 24 ounces of daily low-fat dairy consumption.16 High-fat dairy products do not have the same protective effect.
Eat plenty of plant-based proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Replacing some meat and seafood with legume consumption (fresh, canned or frozen, not dried) will decrease purine intake. Gout sufferers also will benefit from avoiding foods made with sugar and corn syrup. Instead, complex carbohydrates, such as fruit and whole-grain products, are better. Many people believe eating cherries or drinking cherry juice will help fend off gout, and there is some scientific evidence to support this.17,18
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Avoid foods high in purines. Foods that are high in purines should be avoided altogether. These foods include:
- Seafood, particularly scallops and other shellfish, anchovies, sardines, herring, and mackerel
- Meats, especially organ meats or "sweetmeats," such as liver, brains, and beef kidneys, as well game meats, such as venison, which are typically fattier than farm-raised meats
- Foods and drinks made with high fructose corn syrup, such as sodas19
Some otherwise healthy foods are also high in purines and should be eaten in moderation:
- Certain vegetables, including asparagus, spinach and mushrooms
- Dried beans and peas
Eating a low purine diet and taking other preventative steps, such as drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight, can go a long way towards preventing gout, as well as other types of arthritis and heart disease.
- Choi HK, Liu S, Curhan G. Intake of purine-rich foods, protein, and dairy products and relationship to serum levels of uric acid: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;52(1):283-9.
- Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Gout diet. August 10, 2011. www.mayoclinic.com.
- Schlesinger N. Dietary factors and hyperuricaemia. Curr Pharm Des. 2005;11(32):4133-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 16375734.