Certain types of food that are high in naturally occurring chemicals called purines are considered to be foods that cause gout. Among the foods that carry the highest risk of causing gout are some types of seafood, such as herring, mussels and sardines, as well as yeast and organ meats such as liver and kidneys. Alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and sugary drinks also can cause gout. Vegetables that are rich in purines were once thought to be among the foods that cause gout, but research has indicated that this might not be true. Dairy products also can contain purines, but their consumption has not been proved to increase the risk of gout — and some research has suggested that low-fat dairy products reduce the risk.
Gout is a kind of arthritis that occurs when sharp crystal shards of uric acid collect between the joints, causing painful inflammation. Uric acid usually is a neutral but unnecessary chemical that the kidneys filter out of the blood through the urine. People who have gout typically get it because either their body produces too much uric acid or because their body does not do a good job of eliminating it.
Although uric acid exists naturally in the body, the amount of it in the body can be increased by certain foods that contain a lot of purines. The kidneys normally break down purines into uric acid and then eliminate the acid from the body. People who have gout or who are at risk of getting gout are encouraged to avoid many types of foods that are high in purines. Anyone who has gout or who is at risk for gout should see a medical professional for advice.
In general, foods that are high in fat and/or cholesterol are also high in purines. As a result, a good diet for someone who has gout or who is at risk for getting it is one that is low in fat and cholesterol. Specifically, it's been suggested that less than 30 percent of one's daily calories should come from fat.
Proteins also can have high concentrations of purines. Generally, red meat and seafood should be reduced in the diet, if not avoided altogether, because they can be foods that cause gout. Large amounts of high-protein, fatty white meats, such as poultry and pork, can aggravate gout as well. Organ meats, including sweetbreads, are especially bad for people who are suffering from gout. Even foods that are related to meat, such as chicken broth, beef broth, caviar and bouillon, might cause high levels of uric acid.
Low-Risk or Beneficial Foods
Dairy products and vegetables can also be high in purines, but research suggests that they likely are not foods that cause gout. Healthcare professionals, however, still recommend eating only moderate amounts of purine-rich vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms and asparagus. The discovery that these vegetables might not contribute to gout has led some researchers to question the role that purines play in causing gout. Low-fat dairy products are recommended for people who have gout or who are at risk of developing gout.
Other Ways to Combat Gout
Ingesting purines is not the only way to build up an unusually high concentration of uric acid, a condition that is called hyperuricemia. Poor kidney function also contributes to gout, because the kidneys filter out uric acid. Drinking plenty of water and eating tofu, olive oil and nuts seems to help the kidneys eliminate uric acid from the body. A doctor might also recommend anti-inflammatory medication and a weight-loss plan.