If you’ve been diagnosed with gout, chances are you’ve already experienced some degree of joint pain — possibly even severe — and you’re more than willing to do what it takes to avoid future attacks. A form of arthritis that causes redness and inflammation, gout occurs when uric acid levels climb too high in the blood and cause painful crystals to form around joints — often those in the feet and ankles, although every joint is susceptible. Uric acid is a byproduct of purine and can build up in the blood when too much purine is consumed or produced by the body.
With millions of Americans suffering from gout, many pharmaceutical companies have developed prescription medications to help, but one simple way to help prevent gout flare-ups is to eat a healthy diet that avoids foods and beverages that contain significant amounts of purine. If you’re not sure which items you should leave off your grocery list, here’s a look at some of the most common offenders to skip on your diet.
Red and Organ Meats
In the culinary world, foods high in purine are the enemy if you suffer from periodic attacks of gout. One of the most popular offenders on the high-purine list is the full complement of red meats, including beef, veal, pork and lamb. Additionally, although game meats like venison are normally classified as healthier red meats, they aren’t recommended if you want to minimize your risk of a gout attack.
Red meats aren’t a good choice for those with gout, but organ meats are even higher in purines and should definitely be avoided. That means you should skip eating delicacies like liver, kidneys, tongue, brains and sweetbreads if you want to prevent a gout flare-up.
It isn’t just food that can cause problems with gout. Several beverages can cause uric acid levels to rise, and alcohol is one of the biggest offenders. Unfortunately, the excretion of uric acid also slows down when you drink alcohol, which makes the rise in uric acid even more of a problem. Medical experts recommend skipping alcohol completely. At the very least, you should limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. Wine has the least impact on uric acid, while beer has the highest.
Shellfish and Fish
If you like shellfish like crab, lobster, shrimp and oysters, you may want to think twice before indulging in your favorite dishes if you have gout. Many types of shellfish have moderate to high levels of purine. Some types of fish have high levels as well, but the health benefits of many of these fish may outweigh the potential for a negative effect. Oily (or fatty) fish like sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, trout, tuna, salmon and swordfish provide valuable omega-3 fatty acids that promote better heart and brain health. It may be beneficial to leave these foods in your diet unless you are plagued with frequent gout attacks.
Carbonated sodas come with a long list of health warnings and should technically be avoided by anyone who cares about their health, but they are particularly bad for those who suffer from gout. Sodas contain high fructose corn syrup, which has been directly linked to a buildup of uric acid in the blood. If you just can’t resist drinking a soda now and then, at least try to make it a diet soda. However, water is always the best option, as it also prevents dehydration, which is another potential trigger for gout.
Sweet Foods and Juices
Like carbonated sodas, sweet foods and juices often contain high levels of purines, especially if they’re sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, but natural sugar can be a culprit as well. Of course, sweets like candy, baked goods and sugar-coated cereals are also bad for your health and dental health in many other ways. Frequent consumption can lead to obesity, which contributes to a broad spectrum of diseases, including gout.
Healthy Foods to Eat Instead
Now that you have a clear picture of some key foods and drinks you should avoid to minimize your risk of suffering a gout attack, you might want to take a look at some healthy choices you can make to fill the void. Complex carbohydrates — fruits, vegetables and whole grains — rich in vitamins and minerals pair nicely with poultry and vegetable protein sources like beans, lentils, tofu and non-fat dairy products. Vitamin C has been proven to reduce uric acid levels, which makes citrus fruits a particularly good dietary choice. Some preliminary studies have also indicated that cherries help prevent gout as well.
For daily beverages, water should always be your number one go-to drink every day. Additionally, if you don’t have other health conditions that require you to limit your caffeine intake, drinking several cups of coffee every day could significantly lower your risk of developing gout.