Gout: Avoiding Foods That Increase Uric Acid

Foods that increase uric acid can contribute to gout flare-ups, often making the symptoms of this common type of arthritis worse. That's because gout develops when a person has too much uric acid in the body, resulting from a metabolic process that converts purines into uric acid.

Purines are produced naturally but also are found in many foods. Managing uric acid levels is key to reducing the risk of developing gout or flare-ups, so it's important to limit high-purine foods, like red meat, found in the diet.

In this article, you'll learn more about gout and whether you're at risk. It presents a list of foods that increase uric acid, as well as ideas on grains, fruits, and other foods you can eat to keep uric acid levels lower.

Foods That Increase Uric Acid

Verywell / Laura Porter

Factors That Increase Uric Acid

Increased uric acid in the bloodstream, called hyperuricemia, leads to gout. That's because the uric acid levels lead to the formation of urate crystals in your joints, causing this chronic joint condition.

The crystals cause symptoms of high uric acid build-up that include inflammation, swelling, and severe pain in the joints, often in the big toe.

Your body filters uric acid through the kidneys. It then comes out, or is excreted, in your urine. It may build up in your body, though, and you can have too much uric acid if:

  • You eat a diet high in purines
  • Your body overproduces them naturally
  • You can't excrete uric acid fast enough

Gout flares come on suddenly and the pain is often excruciating.

What Is Gout?

Gout is caused by high purine levels in the body that cause uric acid crystals to form in the joints. This causes gout flares. Flares involve sudden, severe pain and inflammation.

Who's at Risk for Gout?

Gout has several risk factors. Some you can't control, like age and genetics. You may be able to modify others, including the foods that increase uric acid levels in your diet.

Risk factors include:

  • Diet: A diet high in purines, fructose (fruit sugar), and alcohol increase your risk of gout.
  • Obesity: Research suggests gout is more common in people who are overweight or have obesity.
  • Sex and Age: Under age 50, biological males tend to have higher uric acid levels and more frequent gout. Menopause in biological women increases their later risk as well.
  • Medical conditions: Kidney disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure (hypertension) all contribute to an increased risk of gout.
  • Family history: Having relatives with gout means you're more likely to develop it.
  • Race and ethnicity: According to a 2022 study of U.S. adults, gout was 1.8 times more prevalent in Black women than White women, and 1.3 times more prevalent in Black men than their White counterparts.

Conditions that affect renal (kidney) function are a common cause of gout. Chronic kidney disease, a condition that is more common in Black (16%) than White (13%) or Asian (13%) adults, may lead to a greater risk of gout.

Diet and Increased Uric Acid

Increased uric acid levels are linked to diet through extensive research that has established the relationship between foods and the uric acid in your body.

One study found that a plant-rich diet, such as the DASH diet, can lower the acidity of your urine. There may be several reasons why a plant-based diet improves your body's ability to excrete uric acid, including the insulin response to lower levels of carbohydrates.

Some studies suggest that vitamin C protects against gout because vitamin C-rich foods (citrus, peppers, strawberries, and broccoli) or supplements help your body to get rid of uric acid. However, more research is needed to determine how vitamin C affects gout.

Is Lemon Good for Uric Acid?

A 2015 study found that drinking freshly squeezed lemon water changes the pH level of blood and urine, reducing the amount of uric acid. However, the authors note that more research is needed.

Experts recommend a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and cereals.

Do Eat
  • Grains

  • Fruit and most vegetables

  • Low-fat dairy

  • Eggs

  • Tofu

Don't Eat
  • Alcohol

  • Red meat

  • Organ meat

  • Gravy

  • High-purine seafood

Avoiding Foods That Increase Uric Acid

Limiting purine-rich foods in your diet can help to reduce gout flares. But diet alone can’t usually prevent gout flares. That's because multiple factors go into flares, including:

  • Purine production: How much your body naturally produces
  • Taking diuretics: Drugs that make the kidneys produce more urine
  • Problems excreting uric acid: How efficiently your body gets rid of it

The type of food also makes a difference in the risk of gout flares. Foods linked to high uric acid levels and more frequent flares include:

  • Processed foods
  • Animal products, including red meat
  • High-purine seafood, like shrimp

Plant-based purines are less likely to raise your uric acid levels.

Pay attention to how different foods affect you. People have different limits and different foods that trigger their gout flares.

High-Purine Foods

High-purine foods should be avoided or eaten sparingly with gout. These include:

  • Alcohol: All types
  • Red meat: Beef, pork, lamb, venison, and other wild mammals
  • Seafood and shellfish: Shrimp, mussels, anchovies, sardines, and lobster
  • Organ meats: Liver, kidney, heart, tongue, tripe, etc.

You should also avoid meat-based gravies.

Moderate-Purine Foods

These foods should be eaten in moderation:

  • Oatmeal
  • Wheat bran
  • Mushrooms
  • Green peas
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Kidney beans
  • Dried peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils

Choosing Low-Purine Foods

Foods low in purine are safe for a gout diet. These are foods to place at the center of a low-purine diet:

  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables (other than those listed above)
  • All fruits
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Eggs
  • Tofu

Summary

The development of gout and gout flares is tied to increased uric acid levels that can lead to crystal formation in the joints. That causes sudden, severe pain and inflammation. Uric acid crystals follow from high purine levels, often linked to the foods in your diet.

Your risk of gout is determined by several factors, including age, diet, obesity, kidney function, and genetics. However, diet is an important way to lower your risk.

A diet low in purines can help you to manage your risk of gout and gout flares.

A Word From Verywell

If you have gout or are at high risk, talk to your healthcare provider about how to prevent uric acid crystals from forming. Diet alone may not be enough. It may help to see a nutritionist who can work with you to design a diet that's right for you.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic kidney disease in the United States, 2021.

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  6. Belanger MJ, Wee CC, Mukamal KJ, Miller ER, Sacks FM, Appel LJ, et al. Effects of dietary macronutrients on serum urate: results from the OmniHeart trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021;113(6):1593-1599. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa424

  7. Brzezińska O, Styrzyński F, Makowska J, Walczak K. Role of vitamin c in prophylaxis and treatment of gout-a literature review. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):701. doi:10.3390/nu13020701

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Additional Reading

By Ashley Braun, MPH, RD
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and public health professional with over 5 years of experience educating people on health related topics using evidence-based information. Her experience includes educating on a wide range of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, HIV, neurological conditions, and more.