Tomatoes and Gout: Pros and Cons

Low-purine food or gout trigger?

Tomatoes have traditionally been considered a gout-friendly, nutrient-rich food, but some research suggests that tomatoes can increase uric acid levels, which can trigger gout. The research is based on self-reporting and more needs to be done to determine if tomatoes are a trigger for gout.

Tomatoes do offer many health benefits and are a low-calorie, tasty food that is recommended for most people, but it's always helpful to learn all the facts before making a decision about your diet.

woman slicing tomatoes


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What Causes Gout?

Gout is a form of arthritis that can be quite painful. A chemical called purine, which is present in your body and some foods, is broken down by the body and forms uric acid. When high uric acid levels are in the blood, they can cause crystals to form around the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Diet contributes little to overall purine and uric acid levels in the body, but reducing purine-containing foods may help control flare-ups for some people.

Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts

Tomatoes are a healthy, low-calorie food that is enjoyable raw or cooked. Raw chopped or sliced tomatoes contain only 32 calories per cup while providing 27% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. Vitamin C protects your cells from damage and boosts your immune system and skin health. They also contain vitamin K, vital for blood clotting and healthy bones, and fiber for improved digestion.

Tomatoes contain antioxidants like lycopene, beta-carotene, and quercetin, which have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Tomato: Nutrition Facts
Calories: 22
Carbohydrates: 4.6 grams
Dietary fiber: 1.5 grams
Total sugars: 3.2 grams
Protein: 1.1 grams
Vitamin C: 19%
Iron: 2%
Calcium: 1%
Potassium 6%
Phosphorus 2%
Magnesium 3%
Zinc 2%
Nutrient content of one medium, whole tomato (USDA)

Tomatoes and Gout

Tomatoes have been considered a healthy food, acceptable for those with gout until reports from those with gout claimed the food triggers symptoms. Some research suggests an association between eating tomatoes and higher levels of uric acid, which is known to trigger gout.

However, the science is not conclusive. Factors such as genetics appear to play a much larger role in gout triggers than tomatoes or other foods. The foods that can trigger one person’s gout may not affect another person the same way, which is why the research on food triggers can be challenging to determine.

In the past, people with gout were told to avoid foods high in purines, which the body breaks down, forming uric acid. However, not much of the uric acid found in the blood comes from food. Even if you lower your consumption of uric acid-forming foods, you probably won’t notice a significant difference in your symptoms because diet only accounts for about 10% of the uric acid in your blood. The best thing you can do to help control gout attacks is to maintain a healthy body weight.

Pros

Tomatoes are a nutritious food that can provide benefits to those with gout. For instance, some research shows that eating tomatoes before a meal can lower your body weight, body fat percentage, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and even the level of uric acid in your blood.

Tomatoes, especially in the form of tomato juice, are also vitamin C and lycopene-rich, helping reduce inflammation. Tomato juice is often fortified with additional vitamin C. Since it is a concentrated form of tomatoes, it contains a more significant amount of lycopene than you would otherwise get from eating the food raw. Drinking tomato juice has been shown to boost levels of antioxidants while lowering cholesterol.

Since gout is an inflammatory condition, lowering inflammation in the body with lycopene-rich tomatoes could reduce symptoms.

Cons

High levels of uric acid in the blood are a risk for those with gout. Since diet can play a role in increased blood levels of uric acid, it is worth paying attention to the foods that trigger you. Tomatoes are one food that many people with gout identify as being a trigger for gout flare-ups.

Tomatoes contain two potential gout triggers: glutamate and phenolic acid. Although both are only present in small amounts, since some people report tomatoes as triggering their gout symptoms, tomatoes may be worth avoiding if you believe they contribute to flare-ups.

If you believe tomatoes are a culprit, it’s worth being aware of products that contain concentrated levels of tomatoes, such as ketchup, BBQ and pasta sauces, and vegetable juices.

Are Tomatoes Recommended For Gout?

Many sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Harvard Health recommend a diet high in colored vegetables and fruits, including nightshades like tomatoes. These foods contain nutrients like carotenoids called beta-cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin, lycopene, and Vitamin C, all of which could help reduce inflammation and improve joint function.

How Can You Tell if Tomatoes Are a Trigger for You?

The best way to tell if tomatoes are a trigger for you is to eliminate all tomato products from your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve. Keeping a detailed record of what you eat for a while can help you pinpoint which foods might be triggering you.

Keep a food journal, record the following details each day:

  • How you slept the night before
  • What you eat for each meal and snack, including all beverages and condiments
  • How much water you drink
  • Your mood throughout the day
  • What physical activity and exercise you do
  • All medications and supplements you take
  • Your areas and levels of pain in your body throughout the day
  • Your energy or fatigue level throughout the day

See if any patterns emerge that could be connected to your diet or something else. Showing this record to your doctor could also help uncover underlying triggers.

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