Is There a Diet for Gout?

older man on a bicycle

Did you know that as we age, our chances of developing gout increase as well? While both men and women can have gout, men are more likely to develop gout than women.  

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs because of high levels of uric acid in the blood. This causes severe joint pain and swelling (usually in the big toe) and may also increase the risk of kidney stones.
The amount of uric acid in your blood depends on a few factors:

1. The amount of uric acid that is naturally made in your body.

2. The amount your body gets rid of through the kidneys.

3. The amount of high-purine foods you eat.  This is because uric acid is formed when your body breaks down purine.

In people without gout, the kidneys remove uric acid through urine. In a person with gout, the body either makes too much uric acid or the kidneys cannot get rid of uric acid properly. Uric acid then builds up in the blood and forms crystals, which get deposited in the joints. This causes painful inflammation (sometimes called an “attack”).

Your food choices can help your body get rid of uric acid and lower the amount of uric acid it makes. Gout can be controlled with medication, nutritious food choices, and maintaining a healthy weight that’s right for you.

Risk factors for gout

The following are some of the risk factors that increase the chances of developing gout: 

  • Genetics

  • Having a higher body weight

  • High alcohol intake

  • Some medications (for example: high doses of aspirin, diuretics)

  • Some cancers and blood diseases

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • High blood pressure

Are there foods I should avoid if I have gout?

Some people report that their gout attacks are triggered by high intakes of:

  • Red meat and organ meats

  • Seafood

  • High fructose corn syrup (found in sugar sweetened beverages like soda)

Meat and seafood are high in purines and this is thought to trigger gout attacks in some people. Fructose can lead to increases in uric acid in your body. 
Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you make choices that may lower your risk of developing gout or having another gout attack.

Here are some healthy eating tips:
1. Eat a variety of healthy foods each day including:

  • Plenty of vegetables and fruit

  • Whole grains

  • Protein foods

2. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often like beans, tofu, nuts and seeds. Read more about plant-based protein choices here.
3. Limit processed foods like sugary drinks, baked goods, desserts, fast food and processed meats.
4. Make water your drink of choice.

How much alcohol can I drink if I have gout?

Alcohol, especially beer, may increase uric acid levels in the body and increase the chance of another gouty attack. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. If you have gout, you may choose not to drink alcohol at all. If you consume alcohol, limit the amount you drink to:

  • 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. 

  • 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day on most days. 

Keep in mind that one drink is:

  • 341 mL (12 oz.) bottle of 5% beer,

  • 142 mL (5 oz.) glass of 12% wine, or

  • 43 mL (1.5 oz.) shot of spirits

Note: these guidelines do not apply to those who should avoid alcohol, including women who are pregnant and people who live with a medical condition such as liver disease.

If you are unsure about alcohol use, talk to your healthcare provider.

Will eating cherries prevent a gout attack?

You may have heard that eating cherries is a good strategy to prevent gout. Cherries are a delicious and nutritious choice, but there is not enough research to recommend that they should specifically be used to reduce the risk of gout attacks.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can give you specific advice on what to eat if you have gout, including how to reduce purine intake from food if needed. Dietitians give personalized nutrition advice based on your medical history, lifestyle, culture and preferences. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

No individual foods or nutrients have been found to cause gout or make it better. Your best bet is to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day and limit alcohol.  If you find that eating large amounts of certain foods like red meat, organ meats and seafood trigger a gout attack, you may benefit from reducing your intake of those foods.

You may also be interested in:

Alcohol and Nutrition
Healthy Snack Ideas for Adults
What Can I Expect When I Go and See a Dietitian?

This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – December 7, 2022

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