Gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis that can cause pain, tenderness, flushing, and inflammation. Making certain dietary changes can help manage the symptoms and prevent flares.

There is evidence to suggest that consuming certain types of foods may trigger an episode of gout. The sections below look at some of these foods in more detail.

Purines

Purines, which are present in animal and plant foods, may worsen the symptoms of gout because the body converts them into uric acid.

Therefore, some research suggests that consuming animal-based foods that are high in purines might increase the risk of developing gout.

However, eating plant-based foods that contain purines does not appear to have the same effect. Additionally, dairy products, foods high in vitamin C, soy products, and certain plant oils may actually reduce the risk of developing gout.

In addition to animal-based foods such as meat and seafood, other sources of purines that can increase uric acid levels include alcohol and foods high in fructose, which is a type of simple sugar present in fruit and honey.

The following foods contain purines:

  • red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb
  • organ meats, including liver and kidneys
  • seafood, such as mussels, scallops, anchovies, sardines, trout, and tuna
  • alcohol, especially beer

People with gout should try to limit or avoid these foods.

Fructose

When people eat foods high in fructose, it can lead to a depletion of adenosine triphosphate. This, in turn, can lead to the overproduction of uric acid.

For this reason, people with gout should limit foods that naturally contain a lot of fructose. This does not mean excluding fruit or honey from a person’s diet but eating it in small amounts in moderation.

However, a person should try to avoid consuming sugary soda drinks and processed foods that contain high fructose corn syrup as an additive.

Carbohydrates

Since carbohydrates also contain sugar and may increase a person’s blood sugar, they can play a role in the development of insulin resistance. This has a strong association with a high uric acid level.

Every food that contains carbohydrates has a glycemic index (GI) score. This measures how much the food increases a person’s blood sugar.

Research suggests that people with gout may wish to limit their diet to foods with low GI scores.

Some high-GI carbohydrate foods to limit include:

  • most breakfast cereals
  • fruits such as pineapple, bananas, watermelon, grapes, and mango, as well as fruit juices
  • starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, winter squash, and parsnips
  • rice
  • most white breads
  • snacks such as cookies, donuts, chips, pretzels, cakes, and pop tarts

Other foods to limit that can contain carbohydrates and have a high GI score include sugary beverages and sugary sauces.

In general, a person may wish to avoid any foods made with white flour.

Fasting

Some people choose to fast occasionally. This may be for religious reasons or for health reasons, such as to lose weight.

Although weight loss can be beneficial for reducing gout symptoms, the Arthritis Foundation notes that fasting may trigger gout symptoms if a fasting person becomes dehydrated.

People with gout should take special precautions when fasting to make sure that they drink enough fluids.

One 2014 study compared people who fasted and those who did not fast during Ramadan, which restricts food and fluids during daylight hours. The study did not find that people who fasted experienced more episodes of gout or higher uric acid levels than non-fasting participants.

Gout is a chronic, or long-term, condition. Developing lifelong healthy eating habits can help a person manage their symptoms.

A healthy diet for a person with gout should include all the food groups and be rich in nutrient-dense, minimally processed ingredients. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

Diets that include the following foods may contribute to lower uric acid levels:

  • dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
  • plant oils, such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and canola oil
  • pulses, including beans, peas, and lentils
  • vegetables, including mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli
  • fruits, especially those with high fiber and low sugar content, such as cherries, citrus fruits, and berries
  • whole grains, including quinoa, barley, buckwheat, oats, and brown rice
  • nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, and macadamia nuts
  • soy products, including tofu, tempeh, and edamame
  • lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, and eggs
  • water
  • coffee

Overall, a plant-based diet is more likely to be beneficial than a high fat diet with a focus on meat. This can help stabilize uric acid levels.

It can also help boost heart health due to the increased consumption of fiber, fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This is important, as studies suggest that people with gout may also have a higher risk of developing heart problems.

A systematic review from 2016 also found evidence to suggest that coffee may reduce the risk of a gout flare.

The following is an example of a healthy menu that may be suitable for a person with gout. However, people should speak with a doctor for advice about dietary changes.

Breakfast

  • loaded oatmeal with coffee and a glass of water

For loaded oatmeal, combine:

  • oats made with milk
  • berries and cherries
  • almonds and walnuts

Lunch

  • a loaded salad with leafy greens, vegetables, one to two boiled eggs, fruit, avocado, flaxseed, and a dressing of olive oil and vinegar
  • 1 cup of black bean soup
  • one to two glasses of water

Dinner

  • half a cup of skinless chicken breast
  • half a cup of brown rice, barley, or another type of whole grain
  • 1–2 cups of broccoli
  • half a cup of kefir
  • one to two glasses of water

Although medications may still be necessary to treat gout, making dietary changes using the tips above can be an effective way to manage the symptoms and prevent future flares.

In particular, consuming a balanced, low purine diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products may be especially beneficial.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, following a meal plan based on the Mediterranean diet could also reduce uric acid levels and support overall health.

Ideally, a healthy meal plan for gout should:

  • limit foods high in purines
  • include a variety of foods that can control uric acid levels
  • help a person reach or maintain a moderate weight

A person can also talk with a doctor for additional guidance with creating a meal plan tailored to their specific needs.

Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when there is too much uric acid in the blood. High uric acid levels can cause monosodium urate crystals to form in the joints.

Severe pain, tenderness, flushing, and inflammation can result.

Gout most commonly affects men, but it can also affect women after the age of 60 years.

Gout flares can begin suddenly, often at night, and may last for 1–2 weeks. Symptoms tend to be most painful during the first 24 hours.

Gout often affects the big toe, and even the weight of a blanket can cause severe pain. Without treatment, gout can spread to other joints in the body, affecting both the upper and lower limbs.

Treatment options

Some treatment options for gout include pain relief medications — including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and steroids — and drugs to reduce uric acid levels, such as allopurinol.

The Arthritis Foundation emphasizes how important it is for people with gout to manage their weight.

Obesity is a risk factor for developing gout. If a person with gout has excess weight, losing a few pounds can help them:

  • decrease uric acid levels in the body
  • reduce pressure on painful joints
  • lower the risk of heart disease
  • build strength and flexibility

To achieve this, the person should ask a doctor about a suitable diet to help them manage their weight and an exercise plan.

Anyone who smokes should also ask a doctor to help them with a plan to quit.

The Mediterranean diet contains plants, grains, and healthy fats. It may help people manage their weight while encouraging them to eat healthily.

Gout is a painful condition that can worsen with certain foods.

Combining medical treatment with a healthy, low purine diet can help manage the symptoms by reducing the levels of uric acid in the body.