The Top 10 Gout Foods to Avoid

Quincy AdamGout Lifestyle

Gout, an extremely painful form of arthritis, can be made worse by the foods you eat. If you have this disease, your doctor will probably recommend you avoid certain foods, especially those high in purines.

When the body digests purine, uric acid is formed. Too much uric acid in the blood can cause attacks. Eating these gout foods can increase the level of uric acid in your bloodstream, as well as make it more difficult for your body to dispose of the excess through urination.

There is a lot of information available online that you can use to educate yourself on specific foods and purine levels. In the meantime, the top 10 gout foods to avoid include:

1. Sweetbreads (pancreas/thymus)

– Organ meats are incredibly high in purine, averaging over 300 mg per serving. Sweetbreads can contain over 1000 mg. Organ meats, including sweetbreads, livers, kidneys, brains, and pate are gout foods that you should avoid.

2. Sardines

– While these fish are small, their purine content is extremely high, at over 400 mg in each 3.5 oz serving. Anchovies are also high in this substance. Fresh and canned show very little difference, and these small fish should be on your “avoid altogether” list. Be sure to check ingredients, as some sauces such as fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce may contain these ingredients, as well as Caesar salad dressing.

3. Alcohol, but especially beer

– Alcohol consumption is strongly linked to gout attacks. Beer is especially problematic, though spirits are also associated with an increased risk of gout.1 Beer is both high in purines and inhibits the natural excretion of uric acid from your body. It is one of the gout foods that you are universally recommended to avoid.

4. Tuna fish

– This popular canned fish also has high purine levels. A single serving of tuna packed in oil has nearly 300 mg. Other fish, both fresh and canned, may also can contain a high level of this substance, including trout, herring, and mackerel. In general, fish should be eaten with care because many varieties contain near or above the daily recommended limit for people on a gout diet.

5. Veal

– Though all red meat should be limited, as it is high in saturated fats and purines, veal contains more purine than beef. Veal should be eaten in very limited quantities to avoid making your gout worse.

6. Shrimp

– Shellfish is typically high in purines, with shrimp containing over 230 mg per serving. Oysters, lobster, and mussels are also gout foods that also have high levels and should be limited or avoided.

7. Lentils

– Several kinds of beans and lentils contain moderately high levels of purines. Lentils contain about 222 mg, while black-eyed peas contain 230 mg. There are other varieties of beans that contain a lower amount, such as garbanzo beans, that you can eat instead. Most plant purines are easier for your body to excrete, but adding more of this substance to your diet is probably still not a good idea.

8. Venison

– Game meats contain as much, or more, purine than the more commonly consumed beef, pork, and poultry. A serving of venison can contain over 120 mg, so you may quickly reach your daily limit.

9. Gravy

– When meat is cooked, purines are released into the pan drippings, from which you can make gravy. Gravy and concentrated meat extracts contain very concentrated levels of this substance, and are typically high in sodium which can make it harder for the body to eliminate the uric acid from your body. This combination puts gravy off the menu for those with gout.

10. Soda

– Beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, such as soda, have been shown to increase the risk of gout by 85%.2 Excess amounts of fructose raise the uric acid level in the blood. Soda and other sweetened soft drinks offer no nutritional benefit and should be avoided.

While there are no specific dietary guidelines published currently with respect to the limit of purines you should have each day if you have gout, a diet low in purines may help minimize your symptoms and risk of a gout attack. But talk with your doctor before starting any dietary plan. Avoiding these 10 gout foods, drinking plenty of water, and getting regular exercise are key steps to avoiding recurrent flare-ups of this painful condition.

1 Choi HK, Atkinson K, Karlson EW, Willett W, Curhan G. “Alcohol intake and risk of incident gout in men: a prospective study.” Lancet. 2004 Apr 17;363(9417):1277–1281. Accessed April 14, 2015.
2 Choi HK, Curhan G. “Soft drinks, fructose consumption, and the risk of gout in men: prospective cohort study.” Bmj. 2008 Feb 9;336(7639):309–312. Accessed April 14, 2015.