Avoiding certain foods high in purine and managing weight may help prevent the painful symptoms of gout and stop it from developing in the first place. Understanding how food affects gout and what to eat can help someone manage their symptoms.

Gout is a form of arthritis that can happen when too much uric acid in the body causes crystals to form in the joints, resulting in pain and inflammation.

Diet plays an important role in gout as certain foods can cause excess uric acid, or hyperuricemia.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that eating a healthy diet and avoiding becoming overweight can help someone manage their symptoms.

This article looks at how a person can eat to manage and prevent gout, including which foods to eat and which foods to avoid.

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When planning a diet for gout, someone should aim to limit or avoid the following types of foods.

Foods high in purines

The body produces purine compounds, and people also ingest them from food.

Purines can increase the risk of urate crystals forming in the joints and tissues, so avoiding them in food can help manage the condition.

Arthritis Foundation advises which foods and drinks contain high or moderate amounts of purines:

  • all types of alcoholic drinks
  • some fish, including sardines, anchovies, trout, herring, and haddock
  • shellfish and seafood, such as mussels, scallops, crab, lobster, oysters, and shrimp
  • high purine meats, such as bacon, turkey, veal, sausage, and venison
  • moderate purine meats, such as beef, chicken, pork, duck, and ham
  • organ meats, such as liver, kidneys, and sweetbreads

Sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods

Some research suggests that consuming sugar can cause excess uric acid, with sugary drinks and processed foods being the main sources of fructose in the Western diet.

People should avoid or limit the following foods and drinks to help prevent gout flare-ups:

  • sugar-sweetened sodas and juice drinks
  • processed foods containing added sugars

Foods with a high glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) measures how specific foods affect blood sugar levels.

Some carbohydrate foods with a higher GI score can spike blood sugar and contribute to weight gain — a risk factor for gout.

A 2017 study found that eating lower GI foods lowered uric acid, which may help prevent gout flares.

People can help to manage gout by avoiding or limiting the following high GI foods:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and rice
  • cakes, biscuits, cookies, pancakes, and sweet treats
  • higher GI vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, bananas, and watermelon
  • low-fiber, high-sugar breakfast cereals, such as puffed rice, cornflakes, and frosted flakes

People with gout should eat a balanced and varied diet to get adequate nutrients to stay healthy and manage their weight. Eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods and takeaways is a sensible starting point, and adding in the following foods can help.

Plant-based whole foods

Some plant-based foods contain purines, but evidence suggests that plant-based diets don’t increase uric acid in most individuals and may even be beneficial.

The Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, which emphasizes a higher intake of plant foods and low-fat dairy and less red meat, lowered uric acid in a 2017 trial.

Eating plenty of plant-based whole foods and limiting processed foods can also help someone manage their weight and risk of developing or flaring gout. People should try to include the following as part of a balanced diet:

  • fruits, especially those with more fiber and less sugar such as berries, cherries, and apples
  • vegetables of different colors, especially non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peas, zucchini, cauliflower, and eggplant
  • lentils, beans, and legumes
  • nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds
  • whole grains such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, barley, and oats
  • low-fat dairy products and eggs
  • soy products, including tofu, tempeh, and edamame

Cherries

According to a 2019 review, cherries may reduce the inflammatory response to uric acid crystals. One older study from 2013 showed a 35% lower risk of gout attacks in gout patients who consumed cherries for two days.

People who wish to try cherries for gout can consume them as fresh, canned, or frozen to use in sauces, compotes, and breakfast toppings.

Alternatively, someone can try drinking tart Montmorency cherry juice or taking a supplemental extract.

The following is an example meal plan with meal options for someone with gout.

People can also ask for help planning meals from a registered dietitian or nutritionist.

MealDay 1Day 2Day 3
BreakfastOatmeal made with non-fat milk or plant-based milk, topped with cherry compote.Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with nuts and blueberries.Avocado, eggs, or scrambled tofu on a wholegrain breakfast muffin.
LunchHummus and salad in a wholemeal wrap.Pea, red onion, and mushroom frittata or omelet with a green salad.Quinoa salad with broccoli, salmon, peppers, tomatoes, edamame beans, and scallions.
DinnerTofu curry with brown rice and steamed greens.Baked sweet potato topped with bean chili and a green side salad.Chicken or lean beef meatballs with wholegrain spaghetti and a tomato sauce with a green salad.

Purines in animal products such as processed meats, including sausage, bacon, and cold cuts, certain fish, and seafood can lead to higher uric acid in the body. This may trigger gout, causing urate crystals to form in the joints and tissues. However, people aiming to prevent gout can still eat lower purine fish 2–3 times per week and even eat higher purine meats and foods in moderation.

People with gout should also avoid consuming alcohol during flare-ups.

Although plant-based foods also contain purines, a predominantly plant-based diet may benefit people with gout providing it is based on whole foods and avoids too many processed foods.

Being mindful of excess added sugar consumption and maintaining a moderate weight are also sensible strategies to prevent and manage gout.