Gout Diet: Foods To Eat and What To Avoid

Gout is a painful condition that no one wants to deal with. 

Fortunately, there are natural ways to lower your risk of gout. 

One of the most important aspects of preventing gout starts with your diet.

Keep reading to learn which foods you should avoid that can cause gout, and what foods you should include in your diet.

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis, an inflammatory condition that causes painful swelling in your joints. This specific type of arthritis typically affects one joint at a time, most often the big toe joint.

Gout is caused by a buildup of uric acid in your bloodstream. If your body can’t filter out the excess uric acid, it causes tiny crystal-like substances to form in and around your joint, which is why it’s so painful.

While lifestyle factors can increase the likelihood of gout, you’re more likely to experience gout if it runs in your family. 

You might also be more likely to get gout if you have one or more of the following health conditions:

The most common gout symptoms are:

  • Intense joint pain. Gout usually affects the big toe but can occur in other joints like your ankles, knees, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Gout pain is generally at its worst for the first 4-12 hours of a gout “attack” or flare-up.
  • Lingering discomfort. After the worst of the gout attack subsides, you may have some joint discomfort lasting from a few days to several weeks. Future gout attacks may be more painful and last longer.
  • Inflammation/redness of the impacted joint.
  • Limited range of motion in affected joints over time.

What are the goals of a gout diet?

The goals of a gout diet are to help reduce the amount of uric acid in your bloodstream. A gout diet should also be anti-inflammatory to help reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis.

If you’re overweight or obese, a gout diet might also help you lose weight if it’s healthier than you usually eat. For instance, a gout diet is lower in added sugar, which can help cut extra calories from your diet and might promote weight loss.

Losing weight might help reduce your gout flare-ups, and it can help put less stress on affected joints.

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Foods to avoid that cause gout

The most common foods and drinks that are known to cause gout are below. While you don’t necessarily need to avoid all of these foods and drinks, it’s a good idea to try to limit your portion size and how often you include them in your gout diet.

High-purine foods and drinks

Purines are a type of compound in foods. Your body converts purines to uric acid, which can lead to a gout flare-up. Reducing the amount of high-purine foods you eat can help lower your blood uric acid levels.

High-purine foods include:

  • Some fish, seafood, and shellfish, such as anchovies, sardines, herring, mussels, codfish, scallops, trout, and haddock 
  • Red meat; processed red meats like bacon; turkey
  • Game meats like goose, veal, and venison
  • Gravy and meat sauces
  • Yeast and yeast extract
  • Glandular and organ meats like kidney, liver, tripe, and others are especially high in purines and should be avoided if you suffer from gout.

Moderate-purine foods can still cause a gout flare-up if you eat enough. Some moderate-purine foods include:

  • Chicken, duck, pork, and ham 
  • Crab, lobster, oysters, and shrimp
  • Oatmeal

Alcohol

Alcohol can make it harder for your kidneys to eliminate extra uric acid from your body. While drinking moderate amounts of certain types of alcohol (like wine) might not drastically increase your gout risk, be sure to avoid alcohol during gout flare-ups, especially beer, which is strongly associated with gout attacks.

Sugar-sweetened beverages

Sugary drinks are known to trigger gout attacks. Table sugar (sucrose) is half fructose, which is broken down into uric acid. Many drinks are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which is even higher in fructose, which may lead to increased gout flare-ups.

Most sugar-sweetened beverages contain high-fructose corn syrup because it is less expensive than using real sugar. Some examples of sugar-sweetened beverages include:

  • Soda (colas and caffeine-free soda like lemon-lime)
  • Sweetened iced teas
  • Sweetened coffee drinks
  • Fruit-flavored drinks 
  • Energy drinks

Natural fruit juice doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup or table sugar, but it is naturally high in fructose. Drinking small amounts of fruit juice is likely okay. But try to be aware of how much you drink regularly.

Foods to eat with gout

Whole grains

Complex carbohydrates like whole-grain bread, rice, and pasta are rich in fiber and other nutrients. Whole grains aren’t associated with an increased risk of gout.

Fruits & vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients. Aim to include fruits and vegetables with every meal as part of a gout diet.

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Lean protein

It’s fine to eat some lean meat in moderation (4-6 ounces daily is a reasonable portion size), especially chicken, which is lower in purines than turkey. Lean fish like tilapia is also a good choice, as are eggs, plain yogurt, and soy products like tofu and edamame.

Salmon

Salmon contains some purines but is also very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat, and they can help reduce inflammation related to arthritis.

Omega-3 fat intake was associated with a lower risk of repeat gout flare-ups, according to a study.

Vitamin C-rich foods

Some research suggests that vitamin C can help reduce gout risk. Foods naturally rich in vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, kiwi, lemon, grapefruit)
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower
  • White potatoes

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Water

Replacing sugary drinks with water can help cut your added sugar intake while helping your body flush uric acid out of your body in your urine. Aim to drink enough water so your urine is light in color and doesn’t have a strong odor.

If you have a difficult time drinking enough water, try adding sliced fruit to give it some natural flavor. Unsweetened tea with lemon is another way to make drinking water more enjoyable.

Nuts & seeds

Nuts and seeds aren’t high in purines, and they are rich in protein and fiber. Eating more protein and fiber can help make you feel full, which is one aspect of a weight loss diet. (Remember that losing weight might help ease arthritis and gout symptoms.)

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Low-fat dairy

Dairy products aren’t associated with gout flare-ups because they aren’t high in purines. Milk, cheese, and unsweetened yogurt are good sources of protein and contain beneficial nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Healthy fats

Salmon, nuts, and seeds are all healthy fats, but there are other sources you can include in a gout diet. Avocados and vegetable oils (olive oil, avocado oil, canola, flaxseed oil, etc.) are all great sources of heart-healthy fat. Many of them are also high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.

Cherries

According to studies, eating cherries might help reduce your gout risk. However, more high-quality studies need to be done to evaluate how effective cherries are at reducing gout flares.

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How long does gout last?

Once you get gout, you’re more likely to have a future flare-up. Once you have a gout flare-up, expect it to last for around 5-7 days.

Gout flare-ups may be shorter if you treat them (around three days), whereas untreated gout attacks can last longer, up to two weeks for some people.

What is the fastest way to get rid of gout?

Treating gout consists of both home treatment remedies and medication. Some of the best ways to get rid of gout fast are:

Apply ice

Ice helps ease inflammation, which is the cause of pain in gout flare-ups. Apply ice (a gel ice pack or bag of frozen peas will also work well) to the inflamed joint for 20-30 minutes at a time. Be sure to apply ice several times per day, especially early in the gout attack.

Take medication your healthcare provider recommends

Over-the-counter pain relievers can ease gout pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) ibuprofen and naproxen are recommended for gout, while aspirin is not recommended.

Your healthcare provider might prescribe a stronger pain medication for gout flare-ups. If that’s the case, take that as directed by your healthcare provider when you have a gout flare-up. 

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Drink plenty of fluids

Drinking water can help your body flush the excess uric acid from your body and hopefully shorten the duration of your gout attack.

Elevate the impacted joint

Gout usually impacts your big toe joint. Elevating the swollen joint can help ease swelling and reduce pain. 

If you’re experiencing gout in your big toe, you can cut the toe off of your socks if you want to stay warm without having clothing rub against your painful toe joint.

How to prevent gout

Healthy lifestyle habits

We already covered one of the most important aspects of gout prevention: eating a healthy gout diet. Reducing your purine intake can help lower uric acid levels, which is the best way to prevent gout.

Try to be physically active regularly, which can help promote a healthy weight.

Consider medications that lower uric acid levels

Your healthcare provider might recommend a medication like allopurinol and febuxostat for gout prevention, which helps reduce uric acid levels in your body. Another type of medication called probenecid is used to help your body better remove uric acid.

Conclusion

A gout diet should be low in added sugars, high-purine foods, and alcohol. You might be able to eat small portions of high-purine foods and keep your gout at bay, but be sure to include plenty of lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and water in a healthy diet for gout prevention.

Explore More

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Sources

  1. Zhang M, Zhang Y, Terkeltaub R, Chen C, Neogi T. Effect of Dietary and Supplemental Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Risk of Recurrent Gout Flares. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2019. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30908893/
  2. Chen PE, Liu CY, Chien WH, Chien CW, Tung TH. Effectiveness of Cherries in Reducing Uric Acid and Gout: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6914931/

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