Gout is a painful form of inflammatory arthritis that creates hot, swollen, and tender joints. It is most often felt in the joints of the foot, especially the big toe. Gout occurs when there are high levels of uric acid in the blood, which form into crystals and gather in joints, causing pain. Certain genetic factors can predispose people to gout, but the leading cause of gout is lifestyle choices, like diet. Though a gout-friendly diet cannot cure the disease, it can help reduce the level of uric acid in the bloodstream and lower the occurrence of painful attacks.
To reduce the level of uric acid in the bloodstream, one must limit the amount of purines they consume. As these purines get broken down by the liver, it produces uric acid. So, by restricting purine intake from food, a person can prevent a uric acid buildup. Meat from organs, like kidneys and liver, are higher in purines than other cuts of meat, so they should be avoided. Consider replacing them with different cuts of meat like flank or chuck.
Experts suggest that plant-based foods are an important part of a gout diet. Purines in plant-based foods are not processed the same way as those in meat, as they do not increase uric acid levels. Plant-based foods also contain lots of complex carbohydrates which help prevent gout and contribute to a healthy diet. Incorporating more bean stews and chilis into your diet is a good place to start.
No matter the cut, red meat is naturally higher in purine than white meat. While people on a gout diet can still eat red meats, experts suggest people keep serving sizes small. Instead, try to consume more fish, which is higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and unsaturated fats.
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High sugar consumption increases the risk of a gout attack. Experts recommend avoiding foods high in sweeteners and sugar, including desserts, candy, sweetened cereals, and baked goods. They also recommend avoiding drinks that are high in sugar, like sodas and fruit juice. If you are someone that relies on having something more flavorful than water to drink, try making your own herbal iced teas at home.
Those on a gout diet should drink lots of water — up to 12 cups a day if they're experiencing a flare-up — as this can significantly reduce the concentration of uric acid in the bloodstream. Water also helps to facilitate the processes of breaking down uric acid in the body.
Both distilled alcohol and beer increase the frequency of gout flare-ups. Research indicates that moderate wine intake does not increase the risk of attacks, although some experts suggest limiting wine anyway. In general, it is best that people following a gout diet limit all alcohol intake.
Fresh fruit is an important part of any gout-friendly diet. Many fruits are naturally high in vitamin C, which helps lower uric acid levels. Try to make sure you are eating whole fruit, rather than just drinking the juice, since it is typically higher in sugar and lower in fiber than the alternative. Also, those who experience gout may benefit from including cherries in their diet since there is some evidence that cherries can help prevent flare-ups.
Obesity is one of the biggest factors in developing gout because of how it affects the kidneys' function. Normally, the kidneys naturally process out uric acid from the blood. But the more a person weighs, the harder their kidneys have to work. For people who are both overweight and have gout, adopting a diet that helps them gradually lose weight over time will help improve their kidney function.
A person can still eat well on a gout diet. Here is an example of what one day on this diet could look like:
Everyone has different nutritional needs. While the advice provided in this article is a good guide for most, some individuals will have specific needs that are not covered here. On average, make sure you are consuming enough calories a day to maintain a healthy weight. The average woman should consume 2,000 calories a day, and the average man, 2,500. People considering switching to a gout-friendly diet should always follow the recommendations of their doctor or consult with a dietician before doing do.
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