Tuna and Gout: Pros, Cons, and Tips

Nutritional value and purine content in tuna

Tuna and other cold water fish are generally not a good choice for gout patients because of their relatively high amounts of purines (chemical compounds that create the uric acid that triggers gout attacks). If you consume too much tuna (or too much purine in general), it can result in the overproduction of uric acid and elevated blood uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) and a decrease in your kidney’s excretion efficiency. 

Purines

Purines are natural substances found in every cell in your body and in almost all foods. Certain foods contain higher levels of purines than others, and people with gout or at risk of gout should avoid or consume these foods in moderation. Excess purines cause uric acid to accumulate in the blood, and this causes gout and increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and metabolic syndrome.

In fresh tuna (whole fish), there is approximately 157.4 mg of total purines per 100 g. In typical canned tuna, the purine content is lower at 116.9 mg per 100 g. For context, the daily intake of dietary purines recommended in Japan for preventing gout and hyperuricemia is less than 400 mg.

You can still eat tuna in moderation and reap the heart health benefits of this notoriously low carb, low-fat protein source, even if you have gout. Preventing a flare up can come down to making some modifications to how you cook your tuna and how many times it appears in your menu. The Arthritis Foundation suggests that due to impact on uric acid levels and consequential influence on gout attacks, cold water fish like tuna, salmon and trout and also mussels, scallops, squid, shrimp, oysters, crab, and lobsters should only be eaten once in a while.

Tuna Roll

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Canned Tuna

The American Diabetes Association has listed fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as DHA and EPA), including albacore tuna, as one of their top 10 superfoods.

Canned tuna is also a source of extremely high lean protein, and provides calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, folate, iron, selenium, and choline. Tuna is not a significant source of sugar or carbohydrates.

Health benefits of eating tuna include preventing anemia, reducing the risk of dementia, and supporting healthy blood sugar levels. Like other canned foods, tuna can be high in sodium, so check the label for low sodium or salt-free options.

Canned Tuna: Nutrition Facts

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nutritional value of 1 can (165 g) of light tuna packed in water (without salt) and drained is as follows:

  • Calories: 191
  • Fat: 1.4g
  • Sodium: 83mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 42g
  • Calcium: 24mg
  • Iron: 1.67mg
  • Magnesium: 56.8mg
  • Phosphorous: 373mg
  • Potassium: 408mg
  • Sodium: 648mg

Canned tuna contains high purine content, however, and purine intake has been shown to have the biggest dietary impact on uric acid levels in the body. If you want to eat tuna, be careful about the amount and type of tuna you eat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends choosing canned, light tuna varieties, including skipjack. You can safely consume two to three servings per week. Keep in mind that a serving size is a 4 ounce portion, or about the size of your palm.

Good tuna choices, which you should still keep to consuming only one serving per week, are albacore, white tuna, and yellowfin tuna, canned and fresh or frozen.

Fresh Tuna

While fresh tuna provides essential vitamins and minerals, so do other foods that have lower purine contents and may be more suitable for people with gout or hyperuricemia. Examples of better seafood choices include anchovy, Atlantic mackerel, catfish, and clam. 

Common varieties of fresh tuna like fresh albacore, yellowfin, and white tuna are good choices, but should be consumed only once per week, according to recommendation from the FDA.

Fresh tuna contains a higher amount of purines than canned tuna.

Fresh Tuna: Nutrition Facts

Variety: Yellowfin tuna. 3-oz serving size, information is according to the USDA.

  • Calories: 92
  • Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 38mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Calcium: 3.4mg
  • Iron: 0.654mg
  • Magnesium: 28.9mg
  • Phosphorous: 236mg
  • Potassium: 375mg
  • Sodium: 38.2mg

Cooking Tips

The method you choose to cook tuna affects its total purine content. One three-year follow-up study has shown that eating raw and roasted fish, including sashimi and sushi, was associated with a higher risk of hyperuricemia in Japanese adults, but the same was not true for fried or boiled fish.

When preparing fresh or canned tuna, people with gout should choose plant-based oils that are rich in anti-inflammatory properties, such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and hemp seed oil.

People with gout are also advised to avoid deep fried foods and maintain a lower carb diet, so when cooking tuna, avoid battering and keep it to a light sear or quick pan-fry.

Finally, boiling has been shown to actually reduce the total purine content in seafood. Try this gout-friendly cooking method and remember to discard the water afterwards. Purines from your protein can be released into the water, so it’s not ideal for individuals with gout to consume.

A Word From Verywell

You can still eat tuna even if you have gout or hyperuricemia, but you need to limit your intake, choose lower-purine varieties, and stick to gout-friendly preparation methods. This means eating tuna only one to a few times a week, depending on species, choosing canned tuna and varieties like skipjack over others, and boil tuna instead of eating raw or roasted tuna.

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Article Sources
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