Low Purine Diet

Hands with gout
A low purine diet can help control symptoms of gout.
Expert Fact Checked

A low purine diet may help control the symptoms of gout and prevent kidney stones. If your doctor prescribes this type of diet, you may wonder what you can and cannot eat. Avoiding certain foods may make a difference.


All foods contain purines, and so does your body. Purines are a naturally occurring substance that are part of the natural chemical makeup of your genes. Every living substance contains these purines; however, some foods have particularly high levels of purines in them.

During cell metabolism, purines break down into uric acid, which serves multiple valuable purposes in your body. For instance, uric acid protects blood vessels and has antioxidant properties. Your kidneys help to filter out excessive uric acid, keeping your blood levels of it within an appropriate range.

Gout and Kidney Stones

In some cases, your body may not rid itself of excessive uric acid effectively. When this happens, blood levels continue to rise. As your blood becomes unbalanced, the uric acid begins to form crystals, which get trapped and become extremely painful. While sometimes these uric acid crystals result in kidney stones, most often, the result is gout. Both are very painful conditions resulting from the crystal deposits in the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Kidney stones present as severe back and urinary tract pain, which occurs when the stone leaves the kidney and begins to travel down the ureter. Gout presents most frequently in the feet, hands, wrists, and other joints. During a gout attack, the joint becomes red, swollen, and extremely painful.

Many factors may cause gout, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, medication, and certain medical conditions such as metabolic syndrome and renal failure.

Low Purine Diet

Doctors often prescribe a low purine diet to patients with gout and uric acid kidney stones. Eating a low-purine diet may help lessen occurrences of gout or reduce the incidence kidney stones of by giving your body less uric acid to excrete. Interestingly, a study printed in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by Hyon K. Choi, M.D. et al. at the Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital concluded that purines from animal products, dairy products, and plant sources all behaved differently in the body. According to the study, animal purines increase the risk and incidence of gout, plant-based purines don't affect it at all or have a minimal effect, and dairy purines actually reduced the risk and incidence of the disease.

While the typical American diet contains between 600 and 1,000 mg of purines, people on low-purine diets need to reduce that number to about 100 to 150 mg. Since some foods contain well over 1,000 mg of purines for a 3.5 ounce serving, these foods are best avoided. Low purine diets recommend avoiding the following foods:

  • Sardines
  • Sweetbreads
  • Organ meats
  • Anchovies
  • Sardines
  • Gravy

You also need to avoid or minimize other foods that contain moderately high levels of purines, including:

  • Bacon
  • Meats including beef, lamb, pork, and veal
  • Shellfish including crab, lobster, and oysters
  • Poultry including chicken, duck, turkey, and goose
  • Fish including cod, tuna, snapper, halibut, and salmon
  • Game meats such as venison and rabbit
  • Legumes including kidney beans, Lima beans, and navy beans
  • Vegetables including mushrooms and asparagus
  • Oatmeal

If your doctor suggests you avoid purines, ask for a list detailing what you can and cannot eat. By following this type of a diet, you may avoid the pain of gout and kidney stones.

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Low Purine Diet